Since we decided to do a series De-Sanitizing the Parables of Jesus we had Chris L’s de-sanitizing the parable of the Good Samaritan answering the question: “Who is my neighbor?” and Jerry’s introduction to parables in the Hebrew context. I decided to look at the parable of the mustard seed because… well it is short :)

Jesus and His Stories

In Matthew 13 Jesus tells a series of parables and after the first one his disciples interrupts Him asking why he tells these stories. Jesus’ answer gives us a view into his audience minds and expectations.

From verse 11 we read

He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:
‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; 17 for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Somehow the majority of Jesus’ audience spiritual eyes where blinded, even the righteous ones. When Jesus spoke plain words they did not understand the plain meaning of it. Why this spiritual blindness? I think if we investigate who these people were and what their expectations of the Kingdom of God were we might get an idea why they heard but did not understand.

These people were Jews and the Jews expected the Kingdom of God to come by certain means and liberate them, the Jews, from the yoke of the Roman empire. Some of them expected the Kingdom to come by force (the Zealots), others expected it would come by political means (the Sadducees) and then there were those who expected God would liberate them if they got their act together and acted according to the Mosaic law (the Pharisees).

Besides all of their different views all of them expected the Messiah to come with much fanfare and kingly splendor. So for them to hear that the Messiah came from a lowly town, born out of wedlock and He then speaking of walking the extra mile, turning the other cheek, paying taxes to the Romans, mixing with the low life of the time… Jesus and the Kingdom he spoke of was not what they expected.

I’m convinced that these expectations they had clouded their understanding so that they could not comprehend what Jesus spoke of. Consequently Jesus told stories that brought them images of what the Kingdom of God is really like. Images have a powerful way of circumventing our expectations and opening the mind to other possibilities.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

In Matthew 13 Jesus tells a series of parables that He begins with “the kingdom of heaven is like…”. So the focus of these parables is to explain the nature of the kingdom of heaven or as noted in other passages the kingdom of God. The parable of the mustard seed is recorded in three gospels. Matthew, Mark and Luke and in all three it is covered by only one sentence. It seems that in the Gospels Jesus had this ability to communicate something profound in very few words and this parable is one such example.

Matthew 13:31
31 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

Mark 4:30-32
30 Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? 31 It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; 32 but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”

Luke 13:18-19
18 Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”

A Few Things About Mustard and Birds

The Mustard seed, like the parable says, is a relatively small seed. The mustard plant is a shrub that grows easily and spreads fast and it can take over a garden in a short period of time just like weeds. In Jewish culture a well kept garden was desirable and allowing mustard to grow in your garden was prohibited by Jewish law in fact it was considered a weed. The mustard shrub could grow to the size of a small tree but is bushy and not what we would call aesthetically nice to look at.

Just a few verses before Jesus was talking about birds of the air and using that image to describe unwanted influences. Birds of the air would most likely have been viewed as a nuisance by an agricultural society like the Jews of the time. Birds would be something you would want to keep away from your fields and gardens. The use of straw men keeping the unwanted away comes to mind.

Why Mustard and Birds?

Jesus was provocative in using these images to describe the nature of the Kingdom. He could have used the image of a lofty cedar tree (which also has a small seed) and of eagles that nest there. Why did Jesus use the images of a weed and birds that made nuisances of themselves to describe the Kingdom of God?

My dad loved his Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible and I thought it a good idea to see what Mr. Henry thought of the parable as told in Luke 13:

Here is, I. The gospel’s progress foretold in two parables, which we had before, Mt. 13:31-33. The kingdom of the Messiah is the kingdom of God, for it advances his glory; this kingdom was yet a mystery, and people were generally in the dark, and under mistakes, about it. Now, when we would describe a thing to those that are strangers to it, we choose to do it by similitudes. “Such a person you know not, but I will tell you whom he is like;” so Christ undertakes here to show what the kingdom of God is like (v. 18): “Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? v. 20. It will be quite another thing from what you expect, and will operate, and gain its point, in quite another manner.” 1. “You expect it will appear great, and will arrive at its perfection all of a sudden; but you are mistaken, it is like a grain of mustard-seed, a little thing, takes up but little room, makes but a little figure, and promises but little; yet, when sown in soil proper to receive it, it waxes a great tree.”

Jesus was clearly demonstrating to his audience that the Kingdom of God was very unlike to what they thought it would be. The beginning of it small, like the seed of the mustard plant. No victory brought about by sword and violence, no glorious entrance of a political hero and no heralding of a moral prophet and judge to bring a nation back to obeying ancient laws but a small almost unnoticeable event – the death of a man hung between two criminals and a rumour that he didn’t stay dead*.

As for the expansion of this Kingdom – no disciplined military maneuvers, no political alliances and no getting on God’s good side by being the obeying older brother but unpredictable (John 3:5), sometimes in places where it is not wanted and the people involved in it not the beautiful and famous. The word subversive comes to mind to describe this Kingdom.

Then there are those despicable birds that take refuge in this mustard bush. Could it be that the ones that find this Kingdom attractive are those that the Jews looked down upon? The Samaritans, prostitutes, tax collectors and gentiles?

Our Expectation of the Kingdom of God and His Christ

I think that this parable must cause us to ask some serious questions to ourselves. It is always so easy to see how other people have the wrong idea about the Kingdom but what about us?
Will we be able to get beyond our expectations of what the Kingdom of God should be and who Christ should be to be acceptable to us?
Or will we stay stuck in our clouded mindsets where the Kingdom should come in a neat way and liberate us from our oppressors with the force of a super power’s army?
Should those who find shelter in this Kingdom be the acceptable ones or come already repentant?

May God’s Word become alive to us, transforming our lives to reflect His gory.

* Just to make it clear – I absolutely believe that Christ Jesus rose from the dead. I’m stating here what might have been the perception of the first people who heard the news.

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114 Comments(+Add)

1   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 10th, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Excellent thoughts, Gene!

I had completely missed out on the significance of birds, or that mustard was prohibited from a Jewish gan (though it makes sense).

2   Chris P.    http://approvedworkmanonterrafirma.blogspot.com/
June 11th, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Once again you are saying that the reader must be a scholar in 1st century judaism/culture etc to understand anything that Jesus said.
This puts the know it alls like you in control. My God you ARE catholics! Spiritless and void.

Second; this parable is to be understood in the context of all the parables of ch 13.
The birds are not the “unwanted” (Get of your pious throne. Talk about holier than thou)

The birds are things that do not belong. The seed growing into a tree is not natural. Mustard grows on a bush usually not more than a few feet high. Jesus knew this, so His point is the Kingdom is filled with things that do not belong and will later be shown for what they are and discarded e.g. denominations, false teachings, blogs like this one, and other assorted christian garbage.
These are the birds. The church that is visible is a mixture. The Reformation never truly got rid of Rome.
The sower and seed tell us that not all the seed falls on good ground. The leaven in the flour is not a good thing.
Tares grow among the wheat, planted by, gasp, the enemy!

A man buys the field only because he desires the treasure he discovered and reburied. (can you say foreknoweledge?) This treasure does not constitute the entire field, It is hidden there.
A man seeks pearls, but sells all the he has to purchase the greates pearl, and forgets about the other “valuable” objects .
Bad fish get tossed!

The minimalist, preterist slant of this site taints everything you present.

I know, I know. I am a gnostic, since I take the Lord at His word that the Spirit leads us into all Truth.

For the true church He says:

“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven,….”

For the rest who think that they are ok, He says:
Mat 13:13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

Mat 13:52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

3   Chris P.    http://approvedworkmanonterrafirma.blogspot.com/
June 11th, 2009 at 2:41 pm

The context of the text is the text.

4   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 11th, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Chris P.,
You would’ve made an excellent Pharisee…

Your desire to rid Jesus’ kingdom of things you think “don’t belong” is really quite sickening. Jesus had pretty harsh words for those who thought they knew who belonged and who didn’t. You’re treading on dangerous ground.

5   nc    
June 11th, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Must be a slow day at his circus church since he hasn’t been around to exercise his spiritual (ahem) gift of anger.

6   nc    
June 11th, 2009 at 2:52 pm

What an irony that one of the self-appointed magisterium starts bitching about people being “catholics”…

delicious.

7   Eugene    http://eugeneroberts.wordpress.com
June 11th, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Thank you Chris P. for the alternate view on this. I believe that the more angles we view God’s Word from the more we will be enlightened by it.
May God’s Word transform us as we wrestle with it.

8   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
June 11th, 2009 at 4:31 pm

While I admire Eugene’s politeness, I am left shaking my head in wonder at what Chris P is talking about. Seriously, what is he talking about?

Once again, it appears that he is saying unless you are him you have no right or ability to interpret the word of God. My God he is arrogant!

With all due respect to Eugene, I don’t appreciate Chris P’s alternate point of view at all. It is not even coherent.

9   Eugene    http://eugeneroberts.wordpress.com
June 11th, 2009 at 4:40 pm

What do the rest of you think – why did Jesus use the ‘birds of the air’ image here? Could it have something to do with bad influences within the Kingdom?

10   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 11th, 2009 at 4:52 pm

In the Mark version of the parable, it specifically mentions the birds nesting under the shade of the tree. That seems to be a pretty clear indication that the birds coming to the trees is a positive thing, not a negative.

I’ve actually never heard anyone ever give the exegesis Chris P. is putting forth.

11   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 11th, 2009 at 5:28 pm

I believe the birds reference is just a way to illustrate its growth and purpose derived from the smallest of seeds. I am disinlcined to appropriate any further metaphors to them other than how they are used to reveal factes of the mustard tree which is the core object of the story used to illustrate the power of faith.

12   nc    
June 11th, 2009 at 6:06 pm

RE: #10

Phil,

That’s because the “all Truth” we are supposed to be led into can only be found in the divine repository of holy anger that is Chris P.

His obscurity is his certification of validity.

You don’t know this by now?

;)

13   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 11th, 2009 at 8:41 pm

To be honest I think the birds imagery is just to show the transition of something that was once so small and insignificant has now matured so much so that it can sustain.

We can go a little overboard in analyzing things to mean more than was meant.

Remember, the crowd he was talking to was not the elite and educated. They were humble people that would have taken away the basic message: against all odds, the kingdom will spread – neither the gates of death or anything else will stop it.

The key to this parable – in my view – is the minuteness of the mustard seed becoming dominant.

14   Joe C    
June 11th, 2009 at 9:37 pm

I thought Chris P was joking. Maybe he was? Perhaps to get us to attack him mm?

I literally did not understand what he was saying. It’s like he criticized you for doing something and then did the same thing (birds = unwanted stuff). :boggled:

Anyways, great lesson Eugene

Joe C

15   Eugene    http://eugeneroberts.wordpress.com
June 12th, 2009 at 3:57 am

Thank you Joe C. It is good to have you back and I’m looking forward to new thought provoking posts by you.

16   Eugene    http://eugeneroberts.wordpress.com
June 12th, 2009 at 4:03 am

Rick, I haven’t considered the obvious reference to faith (like a mustard seed) which is an important aspect of the Kingdom’s growth. Thank you for reminding us of that.

17   Eugene    http://eugeneroberts.wordpress.com
June 12th, 2009 at 4:31 am

Paul C,
I think that elite and educated of Jesus’ time could have been the most blinded because of their expectations of what the kingdom of God would be like. This expectation would naturally have been taught to the common people causing Jesus the revert to telling stories using images they were familiar with. Contrary to their expectation Jesus didn’t use the images indicating a lofty and beautiful (in worldly terms) kingdom that would subdue its enemies by force but one that wins over its enemies by service and love that requires faith in Something and Someone other worldly.

As for over analyzing this… Perhaps. I think we need to ask why Jesus chose to use the images he did and what they meant to the people listening. I found its not to hard to find out. When we seek we find. Now if I can only remember who said that… ;)

18   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 8:49 am

Thank you Chris P. for the alternate view on this. I believe that the more angles we view God’s Word from the more we will be enlightened by it.
May God’s Word transform us as we wrestle with it.

Wisdom. Thanks for the lesson (truly).

Eugene, the reason I would point more to simplicity is specifically for in accordance with what you say regarding the elite. To them it was probably gibberish. But everyone (lowly and elite alike) had expectations of the kingdom – it was a matter of who was willing to hear what Christ said.

Yesterday I spent the entire day in Mennonite country (like Amish). These people are farmers, very simple, genuine, but uneducated – as we view education – past grade 8 (though not unintelligent). I am trying to imagine people of this mindset getting the deep, deep nuances and if that would even be intended.

To me it’s simple in this case: just like the little stone in Daniel 2 – cut out without hands – that eventually overtakes the earth while other kingdoms (the other herbs) are destroyed.

19   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 8:50 am

I like these lines a lot:

No victory brought about by sword and violence, no glorious entrance of a political hero and no heralding of a moral prophet and judge to bring a nation back to obeying ancient laws but a small almost unnoticeable event – the death of a man hung between two criminals and a rumour that he didn’t stay dead*.

Subversive is the right word.

20   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 9:12 am

Eugene, the reason I would point more to simplicity is specifically for in accordance with what you say regarding the elite. To them it was probably gibberish. But everyone (lowly and elite alike) had expectations of the kingdom – it was a matter of who was willing to hear what Christ said.

The fact that the people Jesus was talking to were poor doesn’t mean they were entirely ignorant. The Jews historically held education in very high regard, and specifically education about the Torah. That’s why when Jesus used a reference about the Scriptures, it is likely that even the poorest would understand him.

Another thing to remember is that there is evidence that many of his parables were variations on common Jewish folktales that were part and parcel to the Jewish culture. It would be something similar to our fairy tales, where once you started borrowing elements from them, people would know what you were doing. This would be especially true in a society where most of the communication was passed along orally rather than through text. There have been studies done of oral histories shared in these types of cultures, and in many cases there is less variation between these stories as they get passed from generation to generation than if the were written down. The stories become sort of collective memory, so if someone changes a detail everyone notices right away.

That may be one reason why Jesus spoke in parables – they were simple stories – yes, but they gave him a vehicle in which people would notice the changes to the story. In essence, it was sort of a microcosm of what He was doing to the Jewish story itself. He was immersing Himself in it, but He was fundamentally altering it to tell something new.

21   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 9:17 am

“There have been studies done of oral histories shared in these types of cultures, and in many cases there is less variation between these stories as they get passed from generation to generation than if the were written down. ”

I would love to know the research contructs used to come to this evaluation. Perhaps, as suggested by this study, God would have only had the Scriptures spread orally.

22   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 9:23 am

I would love to know the research contructs used to come to this evaluation. Perhaps, as suggested by this study, God would have only had the Scriptures spread orally.

Well considering that the Gospel of Mark wasn’t written until probably 65 AD or so, it’s likely that many of the stories of Jesus were passed down orally until someone took the time to write them down. It’s not as if the authors were sitting on the hillsides with notebooks.

23   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 9:24 am

Agreed. But I suggest the worst ink is better than the best memory. :cool:

24   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 9:27 am

I was wondering how you can compare the early oral stories with the present oral presentations?

25   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 9:31 am

I was wondering how you can compare the early oral stories with the present oral presentations?

I’m not sure what you’re asking here. Are you asking how they compare the variations in the oral histories that I mentioned before?

I think they follow the same general story through several different paths – maybe different family lines, and they compare the final products. So, no, they can’t compare the final product to the original, but they can compare the final products to each other. And those final products contain less variations than if it were a written story being copied over and over again being passed down.

26   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 9:33 am

“And those final products contain less variations than if it were a written story being copied over and over again being passed down.”

Not to follow that rabbit, but there are many “studies” that contradict that “study”. Some experiments I have conducted personally.

27   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 9:37 am

Not to follow that rabbit, but there are many “studies” that contradict that “study”. Some experiments I have conducted personally.

Well, I think the results would vary depending on the type of culture involved. If you took a bunch of Americans today and did it, I would expect the resulting end products would be much different. I’ve played that “telephone” game in youth group…

But if we’re talking about cultures where oral history is still a major part of their culture and they are used to remembering the details of a story, I could see that it would be much better.

28   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 9:39 am

Among the American Indian culture oral tradtion was primary. However the foundational story of the spirit in the sky remains similar while the particulars vary substantially among the tribes.

29   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 9:41 am

That’s why when Jesus used a reference about the Scriptures, it is likely that even the poorest would understand him.

No it’s not ‘likely’ – only those whom God touched would be able to hear. That’s the problem – we can eliminate the power of the Spirit to touch someone’s mind.

As Jesus said to Peter: “Flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father from heaven…”

Another thing to remember is that there is evidence that many of his parables were variations on common Jewish folktales that were part and parcel to the Jewish culture.

And that’s why the majority of them were rejected or misunderstood?

I would love to know the research contructs used to come to this evaluation. Perhaps, as suggested by this study, God would have only had the Scriptures spread orally.

Exactly.

30   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 9:43 am

*UPDATE* the rabbit is getting away.

31   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 9:45 am

And that’s why the majority of them were rejected or misunderstood?

Well if someone takes a story you’ve grown up with and start altering the fundamental elements, it’s understandable that you’d be a bit confused or perhaps even angry. Certainly there’s the whole spiritual aspect of it, but if were entirely spiritual revelation, then I suppose Jesus wouldn’t have needed to say anything at all.

32   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 9:49 am

*UPDATE* the rabbit is getting away.

How is talking about the origins of the Parables in a post from a series called “De-Sanitizing the Parables” following a rabbit trail? It’s actually pretty on-topic compared to a lot of the stuff is comment threads here.

33   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 9:51 am

Certainly there’s the whole spiritual aspect of it,

This is the MOST significant aspect of it, by far.

Whereas you guys have a tendency to reduce this, preferring the philosophical angle, it seems Jesus (and his disciples) relied most heavily on illumination.

“Let him who has ears to hear…”

That’s spiritual enlightenment – the gift of God.

That’s why we can have 100 people in a crowd and where 95 reject what was said or think it was useless (ie: Sower and the Seed) a scattered handful of 5 might have heard a life-changing message.

34   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 9:54 am

Any person can understand the open principle of most of the parables, but only the Holy Spirit can unlock the redemptive truth to a human heart.

35   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 9:56 am

This is the MOST significant aspect of it, by far.

Whereas you guys have a tendency to reduce this, preferring the philosophical angle, it seems Jesus (and his disciples) relied most heavily on illumination.

You’re coming very close to gnosticism with this statement. That’s what a gnostic would say – only those with a special enlightenment “get it”. Our intellect is a gift from God, and we need to have it fully engaged to fully be His disciple.

This may be shocking, but I actually do believe Jesus was fully human. I believe that He actually learned the Scriptures in the way other Jewish men of His day did – by studying them. I don’t believe God “zapped” them into His brain. I believe that He was fully immersed in His culture, and that He learned, worked, ate, drank, and hung out with these people. Certainly He was set apart, but he wasn’t a mystic living on the top of a mountain somewhere.

36   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:00 am

But I suggest the worst ink is better than the best memory.

Actually, this is quite wrong. (For tons of reference material on the following, you might check authors Neil Postman, Marshal McLuhan, or (more recently) Shane Hipps, along with specific commentaries on oral histories by Brad Young or Ron Moseley.

When it comes to accuracy in carrying down stories and information over long periods of time, oral histories have written ones beaten hands down. With oral histories, entire communities have the material memorized. The histories are studied communally far more than personally, and if someone gets even a word wrong, he/she can be (and is) corrected by other community members.

Written ones, though, propagate error when they are copied and copied and recopied. If a mistake is made in transcribing a new copy, unless it is quickly caught, it ends up getting copied as “correct” down the line.

The Dead Sea Scrolls helped demonstrate this, BtW. Some Jewish communities have passed all of Torah orally to this day. There was a good deal of question – particularly where the Hebrew disagreed with early Christian transcriptions of the Greek Septuagint in a few hundred places – whether the Jews had purposely altered the Hebrew Scriptures. After the discovery of the DSS’, it was found that the oral histories perfectly/nearly perfectly matched what was found at Qumran, whereas there were a large number of transcription errors that had crept in to the written history.

37   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:00 am

I do NOT believe Jesus, especially in His mtaure years, learned as do we. I believe He was God with all that knowledge simply because of who He was – God inside a human body. He was much more than a mystic, He was The Logos and was well aware of that fact.

He never just “hung around” people simply for the recreation, He and His mission were always present with Him. His eyes were set like a flint toward Jerusalem.

38   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:02 am

#36 – You should have warned God before He chose a weaker system.

39   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:04 am

Oops – hit submit too soon.

The key to oral histories is that they are not individual memories, but community memories.

The “Chinese Telephone Game” plays out entirely differently if you give the “key phrase” to three people, and have them pass it on to three more, and so on.

In fact, I’d bet if you took a somewhat long Bible verse and passed it via groups of three vs. handwritten and copied down a line that the results would be much better for the orally passed group…

What we have lost, primarily due to technology (writing followed by printing followed by digital retrieval), is that community memory, and the strengths brought on by community.

This is why the kingdom of God exists in communities, not in individual flesh and bone…

40   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 10:04 am

I believe He was God with all that knowledge simply because of who He was – God inside a human body.

Saying that Jesus was God inside a human body is very close to Docetism. So Rick, do you believe that Christ had two natures – divine and human – or just one?

41   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:06 am

You should have warned God before He chose a weaker system.

How did He choose a weaker system?

His people passed Torah orally for 2000+ years without any errors in his community of people.

In 2000+ years since AD33, we’ve introduced thousands of transcription and typographical errors via our own individualistic technologies.

42   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:09 am

#40 – I am not convinced of the two natures, even if the word Docetism indicates an unacceptable view. The Incarnation, however, is a great mytery according to Paul so I assume we all have it wrong in some way.

43   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:10 am

That’s what a gnostic would say – only those with a special enlightenment “get it”. Our intellect is a gift from God, and we need to have it fully engaged to fully be His disciple.

This may be shocking, but I actually do believe Jesus was fully human. I believe that He actually learned the Scriptures in the way other Jewish men of His day did – by studying them. I don’t believe God “zapped” them into His brain. I believe that He was fully immersed in His culture, and that He learned, worked, ate, drank, and hung out with these people. Certainly He was set apart, but he wasn’t a mystic living on the top of a mountain somewhere.

The Jewish culture he lived in prized memorization of Scripture over any other talent. Most of the people in Israel – Galilee, in particular, due to its ultra-orthodox nature, had all of Scripture memorized – both the Oral Torah and the written Torah. (In Judea, most memorization, apart from the scribes, was only of the Torah.)

It’s not surprising that Jesus would have had all of Scripture memorized. It would have been expected of him. Certainly he had a skill for teaching and the utilization of that Scripture (such as with examples of remez I’ve given in the past), but it does not diminish him in the least that the memorization of Scripture would not have been of miraculous origin.

44   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:12 am

“His people passed Torah orally for 2000+ years without any errors in his community of people.”

And by what evidence is that arrived at?

45   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:13 am

His eyes were set like a flint toward Jerusalem.

We have no indication of this, apart from our own romantic inclinations.

Were this the case, he would have begun his ministry prior to the age of 30. From all indications, though, he also had learned the skill of his father, who was a tekton (stone mason or artisan – not strictly a carpenter).

46   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 10:13 am

#40 – I am not convinced of the two natures, even if the word Docetism indicates an unacceptable view. The Incarnation, however, is a great mytery according to Paul so I assume we all have it wrong in some way.

I’m not meaning to ask you that to single you out as a heretic or anything, and yes, I agree it is a mystery. But I do find it somewhat funny that you have no problem condemning someone as a heretic for not holding certain beliefs about the atonement, something which no historic creed mentions, but you actively question something that has been in the creeds for over 1500 years.

All I’m saying is that you may want to hold off on your accusations of heresy…

47   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:21 am

Unless, of course, you are an orthodox heretic.

:)

48   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:23 am

And by what evidence is that arrived at?

Via anthropological comparison of the ‘versions’ from separated communities and community streams, as compared to the DSS’ and other ancient texts. When the Jews copied down the written Torah, there was an immense community checking system after each letter, because the written copy was only a teaching tool, not the community record. While Christian monks had processes to error-check, we have all too many examples of alterations – purposeful and accidental – to the text.

I believe it was McLuhen (though I could be wrong, in which case it was Postman) – neither of which were Christians by any stretch of the imagination – who used the accuracy of the Jewish oral history as one of the key touchstones in his criticism of our over-reliance on technology.

49   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:38 am

Without an actual recording of the original story you have no comparative template.

Phil – I give absolutely no credence to any “creed”. I also find discussions about the nature of the incarnation to be subordinate in importance to the path of salvation and the reason for the cross.

50   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:39 am

And to what practical or spiritual importance is the suggestion of oral over written in retained accuracy? All we have are written Scriptures.

51   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 10:42 am

Without an actual recording of the original story you have no comparative template.

You compare the different versions… If the versions you have in your hand have significant differences in them, you have to assume that they changed somewhere along the line. If they have little or no differences, than it’s safe to assume that they don’t vary that much from the original. It would be highly unlikely (really impossible) that different people working with the same story but in different locations with no contact with each other would introduce the same changes so that the end product would be the same.

52   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:44 am

Without an actual recording of the original story you have no comparative template.

As noted in the article to which I linked, they’ve always kept track of the # of letters and the # of words in the Torah, and compared those to the community Torah scroll. Additionally, the community scroll was brought to Jerusalem and compared to the official scroll periodically, as well.

With the Oral Torah, there were similar checks as well, done by section. These were later recorded in the Talmud (with all of the cross-checking), and similarly verified througout the centuries.

As a primarily oral culture, the Jews did not trust the technology of writing to ‘automatically’ be right (they knew, rightly, that the best ink was far worse than the memory of even a small community). There has been no change to the Torah over the past 2000 years – we can compare the modern version to the ones found in Qumran.

With the Christian texts, though? Thousands.

53   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 10:46 am

And to what practical or spiritual importance is the suggestion of oral over written in retained accuracy? All we have are written Scriptures.

I only brought it up in talking about the fact that Jesus’ parable weren’t likely made up out of thin air. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that they were variations on different stories shared throughout Jewish culture, and if He introduced changes in these stories, His audience would immediately take notice.

54   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:49 am

And to what practical or spiritual importance is the suggestion of oral over written in retained accuracy?

Well, for starters, when we assume that Jesus’ audiences were poor, stupid schlubs. Or that he might have had an expectation that those who heard him knew, lived, breathed and understood the text.

By denigrating Jesus’ audience, we faintly damn any cultural context that might require anything apart from modernist/literalist interpretation, justifying our own intellectual laziness to extend beyond our own social context.

55   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:53 am

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that they were variations on different stories shared throughout Jewish culture, and if He introduced changes in these stories, His audience would immediately take notice.

Yes. And this as well.

The Good Samaritan was a good example of this, as the common meme in Galilee was the triad of “a priest, a Levite and a Pharisee”, where the Pharisee was the good guy.

Or the Prodigal Son, where some of the contemporary similar stories had the returned son disowned, or subservient to the older brother, as a lesson about honoring and obeying Our Father in Heaven.

56   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 10:58 am

I have not denegrated the audience of Jesus, I’m not sure where you got that or how it relates to oral tradtions.

I will admit to intellectual laziness since I have found mine superior to most people’s psuedo-intellectualism. Making the simple into the complex is…well…dumb. :cool:

57   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 11:00 am

I have not denegrated the audience of Jesus, I’m not sure where you got that or how it relates to oral tradtions.

Going back to Paul C’s early characterizations in this thread, which brought about the discussion on the Torah literacy of Jesus’ audience…

58   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 11:11 am

As a primarily oral culture, the Jews did not trust the technology of writing to ‘automatically’ be right (they knew, rightly, that the best ink was far worse than the memory of even a small community).

Some of the comments here are simply attempts to pull together history and other references to make it say whatever you want – specifically Chris L is a master of this, and Phil is his disciple.

The message: I am one of the few people in the world who actually understand what the scriptures say, you can’t know it unless you spend untold hours pouring through history like I did and speaking with Dr. Noggins at my seminary school.

59   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 11:16 am

#58 – :lol:

60   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 11:20 am

Some of the comments here are simply attempts to pull together history and other references to make it say whatever you want – specifically Chris L is a master of this, and Phil is his disciple.

Oh, yes, Chris sends me gold stars in the mail once a week…

Seriously, I rarely ever communicate with Chris apart from this site, so if I’m his disciple, I’m not a very good one. I think that we have read some of the same books and maybe tapped into some of the same veins of scholarship, so if that in someway offends you, then so be it. By the way, there are other threads where I have strongly disagreed with Chris – go and look at some of our discussions on women in leadership, for example.

The message: I am one of the few people in the world who actually understand what the scriptures say, you can’t know it unless you spend untold hours pouring through history like I did and speaking with Dr. Noggins at my seminary school.

I’ve never taken any seminary classes, although I have considered the possibility of going. I mainly just read a lot in my spare time. I don’t consider anything I’m saying that unique, really. It’s amazing to me that it’s somehow a negative thing to try and study the context and culture Scripture to try and come to a clearer understanding. I’m certainly open to hearing competing theories, but when the only evidence I’m presented with is little more than name-calling, well I’m not persuaded.

I certainly don’t consider myself a Biblical scholar. I don’t know the original languages, and I’m sure what I don’t know dwarfs what I do know. I don’t know how trying to have a discussion about these things is in anyway negative.

61   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 11:23 am

I guess we are returning to the early Jewish understandings of sexuality and gender roles. This conference includes all women with a lesbian female Lutheran pastor as one of the speakers.

Doug Paggit is the sponser and Peter Rollins will be at the registration desk. Something has gone wrong in the oral/written translations, unless the early church fathers would have approved of such a conference. I guess what the early church fathers believed is only pertinent when you agree with them.

62   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 11:27 am

Oh and in the spirit of full disclosure, I used to work for a gay boss. I actually rode in his car with him to different meetings. Does that implicate me of anything?

63   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 11:29 am

Going back to Paul C’s early characterizations in this thread, which brought about the discussion on the Torah literacy of Jesus’ audience…

Where did I comment on their literacy? What I was saying was reflecting on what Jesus said:

“I thank you Father, that you have hid these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them unto babes.”

Why you prefer to complicate and hide the gospel with man’s wisdom, Christ hid it from the wise and revealed unto simpler minds.

The reason he chose fishermen: if he had chosen the ‘wise and prudent’, He’d still be here arguing with them 2000 yrs later, instead of the 3.5 yrs he spent with the simple and then went His way.

so if that in someway offends you, then so be it

No offense whatsoever Phil. It’s what I was referring to as the ‘ace card’ in yesterday’s discussion on the other thread. It’s more an observation.

Chris L has a way of arguing that automatically renders everything his opponent says as completely misunderstood and misplaced. Sometimes he makes good points, but other times he goes overboard.

Phil, I generally find your comments seasoned with grace and make allowances that you’re not 100% sure about everything.

64   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 11:30 am

Besides being an irrelevant strawman, that’s the least of your problems.

65   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 11:41 am

The reason he chose fishermen: if he had chosen the ‘wise and prudent’, He’d still be here arguing with them 2000 yrs later, instead of the 3.5 yrs he spent with the simple and then went His way.

Not all the disciples were fishermen – actually only four of them were explicitly described as such. Of the others, we know Matthew was a tax collector, and it’s likely that some of the others were from other social classes. Now, it is true that there wasn’t really a middle class as it we know it today, so they all may have been relatively poor. But whether it was correct to call them all “simple” is up for debate. By the way, when Jesus made that statement you refer to, it was in reference to the 72 he sent out, not necessarily His inner circle…

The Apostle Paul certainly was not a simple man. He wrote some of the most brilliant pieces of literature of the 1st century. Really his grasp of Greek was second to none in the ancient world.

Chris L has a way of arguing that automatically renders everything his opponent says as completely misunderstood and misplaced. Sometimes he makes good points, but other times he goes overboard.

I could easily say the same thing about you. Of course we all think our opinions are correct. If we didn’t I don’t think we would still hold them. I don’t think it’s wrong to argue rather forcefully. I don’t think any of us have gotten to the point where we will say “don’t bother me with the facts”.

66   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 11:52 am

Now, it is true that there wasn’t really a middle class as it we know it today, so they all may have been relatively poor.

Plus Galilee was a far cry from downtown Manhattan. I think you get the point Phil: ‘wise and prudent’ (at least in their own eyes) vs ‘babes’ (not the kind you’re thinking about :) )

By the way, when Jesus made that statement you refer to, it was in reference to the 72 he sent out, not necessarily His inner circle…

So what? His 12 were included in the 72. This only further serves to highlight my point.

The Apostle Paul certainly was not a simple man.

Which was probably why he was chosen AFTERWARDS… and then spent time cooling off at home instead of getting himself killed before he could save a single soul.

67   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 11:59 am

So what? His 12 were included in the 72. This only further serves to highlight my point.

Actually, no they weren’t. It says He “appointed 72 others”… But my point is that he refers to them as “little children”, which could refer to their child-like faith in Christ, not their intellectual capacity. Of course learning and worldly wisdom has the capacity to become an idol, but wisdom is also something we are told to seek after in Scripture.

Which was probably why he was chosen AFTERWARDS… and then spent time cooling off at home instead of getting himself killed before he could save a single soul.

What? Paul’s use of logic and rhetoric were brilliant. Again, it is possible to depend on these things too much, but it’s also possible to neglect the gifts that God has given us.

68   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Paul,
I think Chris L and Phil would agree that the gospel is accessible to the “simple.”
You speak of the Amish with less education as others being able to grasp the truths of God’s Word.
And we would all agree.

What I’m not understanding is why you seem to be so adamantly opposed to those who have resources at their disposal to further delve into the truths and context of the scripture doing so.

No one has said, “Unless you fully understand all of the context and subtly of these stories, you cannot be saved.”

They are merely trying to better understand the context and trying to help others so we can get more out of the text.

You accuse Chris L of arguing and making others feel that they just don’t get it if they don’t agree with him. To be honest, brother, that comes out a lot in your comments and I’m sure in mine.

The latest post by Chris on this site deals with this tendency.

69   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 12:09 pm

There’s a reason that Paul was chosen afterwards and not among the original lot. It was God’s plan and he fulfilled an amazing role that no one else could. But – like Moses – he had to be undone before he could be made (reference Phil 3).

Moses was a prince in Egypt and would have enjoyed all the learning, public speaking training, logics, etc. that Egypt had to offer. Before God could use him, he sent him 40 yrs into the wilderness so that he could only speak ’sheep’.

Then he was ready. Likewise with Paul. God bypassed the ’school of the prophets’ and chose Elisha. God selected Joshua to lead rather than one of the 70 elders. He chose lowly Gideon. He chose David. When David got elevated (Saul has killed his 1000s, and David his ten thousands!) God took him through a process for yrs. The list goes on even until this modern day.

It is the power of God, and it is marvelous in our eyes!

70   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 12:11 pm

What I’m not understanding is why you seem to be so adamantly opposed to those who have resources at their disposal to further delve into the truths and context of the scripture doing so.

No one has said, “Unless you fully understand all of the context and subtly of these stories, you cannot be saved.”

Exactly. I’m not saying that you have to have a certain degree or even the ability to read to know Christ. I think that’s the amazing thing about the Gospel – it can be understood by practically anyone. However, I also don’t think that being a Christian means you check your brain at the door. Some of the most brilliant scientists, doctors, writers, etc. the world has seen are Christians.

I believe the Gospel is available to all who believe Jesus is Lord. Certainly it may be possible that some might have some sort of intellectual barrier to accepting the message where they think of the Gospel as “too simple” for them to accept, but that’s not always the case. The response to this isn’t to say, “well, just get over it”. I think we need to be able to at provide a good intellectual defense of our faith when we need to.

71   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 12:13 pm

They are merely trying to better understand the context and trying to help others so we can get more out of the text.

In doing so, the actual message can sometimes be drowned out in complexity.

To be honest, brother, that comes out a lot in your comments and I’m sure in mine.

Guilty – and I appreciate you saying that. It’s true. Yes, Chris has a few good points. But on the one hand, certainty is required when it comes to core tenets, as Rick has rightly said throughout this thread and others.

Other areas might be debatable, but not everyone can be right.

The problem is that all this ‘re-imagining’ is an effort in futility a lot of the time. I think the Devil would more readily capitalize on ‘learning’ than he would even a damnable sin like ‘lust’ – or at least it’s just as possible.

72   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 12:15 pm

resources at their disposal to further delve into the truths and context of the scripture doing so.

Nowadays EVERYONE has these resources at their disposal – to the writing of books there is no end. A lot of these books will fade with the passage of time as just fads, but the simplicity of the gospel will continue to spread.

See comment #69. What you do in seminary, God might have to undo before He decides to use you.

73   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Moses was a prince in Egypt and would have enjoyed all the learning, public speaking training, logics, etc. that Egypt had to offer. Before God could use him, he sent him 40 yrs into the wilderness so that he could only speak ’sheep’.

That’s reading a lot into the text that isn’t there. We aren’t really told the reason why Moses had to wait the 40 years before he came back. It may have simply been that he was wanted for murder.

Then he was ready. Likewise with Paul. God bypassed the ’school of the prophets’ and chose Elisha. God selected Joshua to lead rather than one of the 70 elders. He chose lowly Gideon. He chose David. When David got elevated (Saul has killed his 1000s, and David his ten thousands!) God took him through a process for yrs. The list goes on even until this modern day.

God will certainly work through whomever He sees fit, but I think you’re straining to make your point here. I agree that a certain amount of humility does seem to be a requirement, but even then, Jesus chose someone like Peter as a disciple.

There’s also stories of people of other social classes coming the faith. Take Lydia for example. She was a very wealthy businesswoman in Philippi, and Paul trusted he enough to stay at her home while in Philippi.

74   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
June 12th, 2009 at 12:29 pm

The problem is that all this ‘re-imagining’ is an effort in futility a lot of the time. I think the Devil would more readily capitalize on ‘learning’ than he would even a damnable sin like ‘lust’ – or at least it’s just as possible.

Who is “re-imagining” anything? This is what I don’t understand. If anything, trying to get back some of the original understanding is peeling back the layers of crud that have been piled on over the years.

I guess Martin Luther could be accused of “re-imagining” things as well. I’m sure there were people who accused him of doing something like that. I’m in no way comparing any of us to him, but I just don’t understand the tendency to defend the status quo at all costs.

Personally, when I was doing campus ministry, I worried a lot more about the kids who never questioned anything their pastors told them than the ones who seemed to question everything. It seems the ones who never questioned anything were the ones who were more likely to have some atheist professor shatter their whole worldview with something they weren’t prepared for. At least the ones who had been asking questions had a framework in which they were used to operating in.

75   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 12:46 pm

No, Luther was un-re-imagining. :cool:

76   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Luther was un-re-imagining

Precisely. Rick – how do you become a master of succinctness like this? is there a course I can take?

That’s reading a lot into the text that isn’t there.

Not at all. And then, we’re confronted with an almost pattern-like process God takes His men through before he uses them. It’s not the same pattern and God knows how to process each of us. But here’s a hint: it’s not by filling our minds with religious information that will simply fade in the process of time.

Again, I’m not anti-education, but it seems to be elevated fairly high around here to the pinnacle of the temple.

77   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 1:53 pm

The message: I am one of the few people in the world who actually understand what the scriptures say, you can’t know it unless you spend untold hours pouring through history like I did and speaking with Dr. Noggins at my seminary school.

Rofl.

No, I just actually believe, as the early Jews did, as well, that studying Scripture meant actually digging and understanding and applying.

As for “Dr. Noggin”, I’m not sure who you’re referring to. My degree is in Chemical Engineering, and a specialization in project management and statistics. While I’ve taken some Bible College courses, I know there are a lot smarter folks out there than me, and rather than take the anti-intellectual approach, I just assume they might have something to teach me…

Phil: By the way, there are other threads where I have strongly disagreed with Chris – go and look at some of our discussions on women in leadership, for example.

Your gold stars will be withheld this week. I’m sending them to your wife…

I mainly just read a lot in my spare time. I don’t consider anything I’m saying that unique, really. It’s amazing to me that it’s somehow a negative thing to try and study the context and culture Scripture to try and come to a clearer understanding.

The same here.

I think the anti-intellectual bent in the church occurred in the anti-modernist era in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ironically, the church ended up embracing the underlying philosophy of modernism, but kept its disdain for scholarship. This was probably exacerbated by the 60’s, with the combination of questioning authority and the breakdown of clergy/laity distinctions (neither of which is necessarily a bad thing in toto).

I certainly don’t consider myself a Biblical scholar. I don’t know the original languages, and I’m sure what I don’t know dwarfs what I do know. I don’t know how trying to have a discussion about these things is in anyway negative.

Same here. I’m not sure I can claim any primary scholarship at all. I’m just a voracious reader with a primary interest in Christianity and Judaism as the first Christians understood it.

Oh and in the spirit of full disclosure, I used to work for a gay boss.

Also, in full disclosure, I’ve had female and/or gay bosses for at least ten years (on and off), as well, and I have learned some things from them.

The reason he chose fishermen: if he had chosen the ‘wise and prudent’, He’d still be here arguing with them 2000 yrs later, instead of the 3.5 yrs he spent with the simple and then went His way.

Really – what makes you think they were “simple”? Literacy (i.e. reading/writing) was not nearly as important as knowing Torah.

If you examine Jesus’ reasons for choosing fishermen, you’d be more likely to hone in on their willingness to take risks. The profession of fishing in the Galilee region was probably only practiced by 5-10 families during the first century, and it required a good deal of engineering ingenuity, as well, in terms of technique and equipment, if you were going to make a living at it. (The primary trade in Northern Galilee was stone masonry, particularly the making of millstones of various designs.) The primary reason people didn’t fish was because they were afraid of the water (the abyss), because that’s where the evil spirits lived. By choosing fishermen, Jesus was choosing young men (probably mid-teen-agers) who were unafraid of confronting local superstition, and who were devoted to Torah.

I think to argue that he chose them because they were ’simple’ completely misses the point. I would say that their age (teenagers), their highly-devout background (Galilee vs. Judea), and their comparative lack of fear were far more important to what Jesus was choosing them for.

As for the Apostle Paul, if he was a student of Gamaliel (which he claims he was), then he was the equivalent of an Albert Einstein in the first century – totally brilliant. It only makes sense that his primary mission field was the Gentiles (as he claims) – because he was a genius in the underpinnings of the faith and a master of philosophy. Peter, on the other hand, as an apostle primarily to the Jews didn’t require that depth, because his audience already understood who God was and was well-versed in His Scriptures – the ground was already laid for them to understand (and then accept or reject) who Jesus was and what his claims were. Even so, he had to be prepared to discuss/debate the Hebrew proofs pointing to Jesus as the Messiah, with a group well-familiar with them.

I think Chris L and Phil would agree that the gospel is accessible to the “simple.”

Most definitely.

You [Paul] speak of the Amish with less education as others being able to grasp the truths of God’s Word.

I agree, as well. (And actually, one of the authors I mentioned above – Shane Hipps – is a Mennonite pastor.)

Here’s an example I’ve heard used effectively by VanderLaan and others:

If I were to take you to my church building and have you look inside the Worship Center/Sanctuary from the West doorway, you would be able to see what it was, what the chairs looked like, the pulpit, etc. You would be able to discern what it looked like from that angle.

If I took you to the stage entrance, at the East end, you could look in and see all of the same things, but from a very different angle. You might notice that the “lectern” is actually a table, and you might be able to see some things that are not visible from the West entrance (the same way that you might not be able to see some things from the East entrance that are visible from the West).

In the same way, when we look at the Bible from a Western/Greek perspective, we see a number of things, and we can get the basics of what we need to know, along with many of the nuances. However, if we look at it from an Eastern/Hebrew perspective, we can see a number of things that – even if they are not essential to the overarching picture – cannot be seen (or well seen) from the Western/Greek perspective.

Same room. Different window. Same truth. Different perspective.

78   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Same room. Different window. Same truth. Different perspective.

Great analogy of the room.
I love hearing from other perspectives.
And I love sharing mine…if only I could get some people to listen, I could teach them SO much.

:)

79   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 2:04 pm

See comment #69. What you do in seminary, God might have to undo before He decides to use you.

Considering that what I was when I transferred from Bible College to Engineering, and for the 10-15 years after, was a fundamentalist, dispensational futurist, judgmental “pastorboy-jr.”, He’s been in the process of undoing what I “learned” the first 30+ years of my life for the last ten or so.

Who is “re-imagining” anything? This is what I don’t understand. If anything, trying to get back some of the original understanding is peeling back the layers of crud that have been piled on over the years.

Exactly. I have about as much trust in the original “theological scholarship” of the past five centuries as I do in the Tooth Fairy. Whether it’s Darby or Calvin, I’m far more comfortable examining the streams of thought/culture of the first century and how what Jesus said related to it – and then applying that to today.

80   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Your gold stars will be withheld this week. I’m sending them to your wife…

Nice one Chris :)

I think the anti-intellectual bent in the church occurred in the anti-modernist era in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

So much for the 1500 or so yrs that less than 1% of the church population could even read – for goodness sakes! No one is anti-intellectual in the sense that you capture it. I think your reliance on intellectualism in matters of the Spirit are completely overdone though. Again – I am not anti-intellectual, but realize that the Spirit is prominent (they are not on par, neither are they necessarily against one another, but can be).

Really – what makes you think they were “simple”?

Read the gospels. They weren’t the brain-trust of Israel to be sure. But it didn’t matter did it? In the eyes of the elite, they were ‘unlearned and ignorant’. Even Christ rejoiced that his teachings were hid from the Bible scholars and revealed to regular, everyday people who didn’t hold PhDs. That’s a paradox for you Phil.

If you examine Jesus’ reasons for choosing fishermen, you’d be more likely to hone in on their willingness to take risks. The profession of fishing in the Galilee region was probably only practiced by 5-10 families during the first century

Oh goodness – here we go again…

Chris – to me this is just beautiful and I have seen it in action… wonderful to behold. From Albert Einstein Paul himself.

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him.

This is the story of the Bible, from God’s selection of Israel to Christ’s incarnation and to our day today.

Unfortunately, heady/worldly wisdom has permeated the church, rendering Christianity largely philosophical in many circles.

81   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 2:19 pm

I have about as much trust in the original “theological scholarship” of the past five centuries as I do in the Tooth Fairy.

Yes, but when those Catholics were running the show unchecked – the light was truly shining. I think we should reverse the Reformation completely – what a waste of time! Who’s with me? :)

82   Joe C    
June 12th, 2009 at 2:24 pm

If you have the means to go deeper in the study of the Bible and it’s surrounding histories/contexts, then surely God has deeper wisdom and knowledge there to be found?

If we can, and we certainly can, then the question is, why won’t/don’t we?

It’s not like the knowledge of God found in Scripture stops at the most basic level. If it’s possible to learn more, then doesn’t it make sense that God has more there to be found? If you can’t go deeper, then that’s not against you or anything.

I think there are multiple layers of meaning and knowledge in the most simple Scriptural things. That isn’t to say the simple things are wrong at all. Sometimes KISS is the best policy.

83   Scotty    http://scottysplace-scotty.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 2:29 pm

I think the anti-intellectual bent in the church occurred in the anti-modernist era in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

My oldest brother was a pastor. I remember him telling me about the various functions he attended as a pastor, with other pastors. He would sit and listen to many of them would speak of their various degrees, where they went for their various educations and their list of titles.

He would sit quietly and it was only a matter of time when they/someone would ask where he went to college/schools and he would only say, “I went to the school of the Spirit”.

As I’ve read through all these comments something was chewing at me and for a while I couldn‘t quite put my finger on it.. I read no mention of the Holy Spirit.

Some of the best teachings I’ve received and learned where by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Not by any book, author, teacher etc. etc. It’s that same prompting I see very seldom expressed or spoken of, not just here but a LOT of places. It’s almost as if the Holy Spirit doesn’t exsist and is only a concept….

84   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Joe C – a fair comment. I am all for going into the scriptures. I think to NOT dig into the scriptures is to do yourself a disservice – especially in a day-and-age where there is so much religious deception.

What I have a problem with is that you can basically find a book or author or study to validate whatever you like. You get new books and new veneer philosophies out all the time about Christ, the early church and specific apostles/disciples. It’s nothing new.

But there is a simplicity in Christ – which I am trying to communicate, that is much more powerful and wonderful than all.

I would caution that the people who had the deepest grasp of the scriptures were the ones who advocated the crucifixion of our Christ. That doesn’t mean we reject scholarship, but we put it in its proper place.

I just fail to see that here, hence the reference to the ‘trump’ or ‘ace’ card Chris L/Phil always pull out.

85   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 2:30 pm
I have about as much trust in the original “theological scholarship” of the past five centuries as I do in the Tooth Fairy.

Yes, but when those Catholics were running the show unchecked – the light was truly shining. I think we should reverse the Reformation completely – what a waste of time! Who’s with me?

Let me correct myself.

I have about as much trust in the original “theological scholarship” of the past five eighteen centuries as I do in the Tooth Fairy.

86   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Scotty – just to be clear… Rick and I have been emphasizing the importance of the Spirit holding predominance in several comments above.

87   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 2:36 pm

I can see a plethera of perspectives on all sorts of doctrinal truths, and if you even look underneath the Calvinist/fundamentalist/conservative tent you will see they have significant differences among themselves.

But the third rail of doctrinal truth must be redemption and what jesus did and how a sinner can find eternal life. That must be guarded with great energy against all compromises.

88   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 2:38 pm

“I have about as much trust in the original “theological scholarship” of the past five eighteen centuries forty-eight hours as I do in the Tooth Fairy.”

:cool:

89   Scotty    http://scottysplace-scotty.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 2:39 pm

#86 Yes I know you and Rick have….

90   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Read the gospels. They weren’t the brain-trust of Israel to be sure. But it didn’t matter did it? In the eyes of the elite, they were ‘unlearned and ignorant’. Even Christ rejoiced that his teachings were hid from the Bible scholars and revealed to regular, everyday people who didn’t hold PhDs. That’s a paradox for you Phil.

Actually, just being from Galilee and/or Nazareth was (in today’s parlance) like claiming to be from Boone’s Notch, Kentucky. You could have a Ph.D., but the basic assumption is that you’re a backwoods-type with family trees that don’t branch (figuratively).

Jesus’ comments weren’t aimed at the Sanhedrin because of their scholarship (which, at 65 Sadduccees and only 5 Pharisees on the Sanhedrin, is not a sterling case for ’scholarship’…), it had to do with their positional power and claimed authority.

I think the anti-intellectual bent in the church occurred in the anti-modernist era in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

So much for the 1500 or so yrs that less than 1% of the church population could even read – for goodness sakes!

Even so, but the Dominicans were respected because of their scholarship.

The anti-intellectualism of today is similar to that of college sophomores. Once they’ve passed the Freshman Year, they have pretty much assumed that they know everything important there is to know, and anything “new” is looked at with a skunk-eye. (cue the ADM’s)

I’m just hoping that we can get past the sophomore-itis, into the Jr. and Sr. year, where we realize how much there is to know that we don’t know, and that we see discovery of things we didn’t know before as potentially helpful, rather than moaning every time someone looks at something more deeply than we have in the past…

91   Joe C    
June 12th, 2009 at 2:43 pm

#84 Paul C,

I would caution that the people who had the deepest grasp of the scriptures were the ones who advocated the crucifixion of our Christ. That doesn’t mean we reject scholarship, but we put it in its proper place.

I just fail to see that here, hence the reference to the ‘trump’ or ‘ace’ card Chris L/Phil always pull out.

While I agree with you, all I am saying is if we have the time, why not? I believe a careful, thoughtful, life-directing study of the Scriptures will with God’s Power, keep us from ending up as those 1st century “scholars” did.

At the same time, I don’t think Phil and Chris L try to pull trump cards. I think that they might be used to pulling a bunch of BS flags on a lot of incorrect statements ’round these parts of the interwebs. Perhaps it comes across to some as “we’re right” but to me it’s just another perspective they’re trying to speak about, and I for one appreciate it.

I think the ‘trumping’ is more often found in the extremist ODM sites.

And it’s the kind of trumping talked about in the “Those people!” post.

Peace,
Joe

92   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 2:44 pm

That doesn’t mean we reject scholarship, but we put it in its proper place.

Translation: We piss and moan every time it’s mentioned and bitch until it’s put back in the closet where it belongs.

93   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Am I supposed to consider myself “anti-intellectual”? I realize I have trouble keeping up with all you guys, but I can understand with some help. :)

94   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Scotty – just to be clear… Rick and I have been emphasizing the importance of the Spirit holding predominance in several comments above.

I didn’t realize that the Spirit was unable to work through discovery of past truths buried in antiquity (or in caves near Qumran, or Luxor, or Megiddo, or Corinth, or…)

I forgot that the Holy Spirit is only able to work ex nihilo. Forgive my ignorance.

95   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 2:48 pm

True story my pastor told me the other day:

Years ago, he walked into the Christian bookstore. His daughter worked for the store as a cashier, so he had a pretty good relationship with the owner.

The owner of the bookstore devoured every new book and was highly, highly intelligent. He could tell you the Greek and Hebrew origins of the texts, understand the entire history of the church, as well as Israel. It was amazing.

My pastor asked him, “Lance, tell me. If you were back in the days of John the Baptist, do you think you would have followed him or the Pharisee movement? Who would you feel more comfortable with?”

The man paused… then the light washed over him as he answered: “The Pharisees.”

He was honest. In all his attaining of knowledge, had he really gained anything? Or had he been led far off the course due to entertaining so many ‘perspectives’ (as Chris L puts it) and philosophies?

I would wager that the Devil is sanctioning more books and thoughts today than Christ. Oh wait… he’s bound.

96   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Let me offer this perspective. I contend the most profound paradox is when we realize that the deepest and most penetrating spiritual truths are seen through the prism of the unfathomably simple truths.

God – profound
God is love – deeper yet
God loves me – the deepest of all

97   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 2:53 pm

#91: Joe C – don’t get me wrong. I find some things helpful and enlightening too, believe me. But there is a bit a danger in over-intellectualizing everything, just as their is a danger in laziness. I advocate neither.

98   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Translation: We piss and moan every time it’s mentioned and bitch until it’s put back in the closet where it belongs.

No Chris L. Just when – as Scotty clearly stated – it is enthroned above illumination/revelation.

99   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 2:58 pm

The power of simplicity:

“It’s 2009, and the best cyberdefense against ‘clickjacking’ is to put a Post-it note over the web cam lens?” – Evgeny Morozov

100   Joe C    
June 12th, 2009 at 2:59 pm

I got you Paul C, we agree. :-)

101   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 3:01 pm

“…for they that seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me.”

They usually don’t add anything to me as well. Gather ten Greek scholars with Hebraic culture PHDs and you may come up with ten denominations and interpretations of the New Testament.

God only holds me accountable to one – mine. Soon the present ecclesiastical celebrities will give way to new ones. Who cares?

102   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Soon the present ecclesiastical celebrities will give way to new ones.

A lot of them are wells without water and clouds without rain. They are just waves rolling in, then they disappear over the course of time. Meanwhile, the truth of the gospel continues we know not how…

103   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 3:35 pm

My pastor asked him, “Lance, tell me. If you were back in the days of John the Baptist, do you think you would have followed him or the Pharisee movement? Who would you feel more comfortable with?”

The man paused… then the light washed over him as he answered: “The Pharisees.”

Well, considering that Jesus’ theology was more in line with the first century hasidim (which included the Pharisees) than the priests (which included the Essenes, the Sadducees and John the Baptist), Jesus would likely agree with the store owner.

Basically, the question was a stupid one, though, because the question is really just “would you be a follower of Moses or Elijah?” – because JtB was in the mold of Moses, and the Pharisees (and Jesus) in the mold of Elijah.

You’ve basically fallen for the assumption that all Pharisees were evil/misled, when that’s far from the case. It was the movement most theologically aligned with Jesus, and thus received the harshest criticism for missing the point of the kingdom. (See this article from last year).

I find some things helpful and enlightening too, believe me. But there is a bit a danger in over-intellectualizing everything, just as their is a danger in laziness. I advocate neither.

Then why exactly do become a broken record-player every time a “desensitizing” article is written, rather than just dealing with the topic in the OP? I see no “over-intellectualizing” in the OP – just warnings and whining about it in the comments.

Translation: We piss and moan every time it’s mentioned and bitch until it’s put back in the closet where it belongs.

No Chris L. Just when – as Scotty clearly stated – it is enthroned above illumination/revelation.

You’ve not demonstrated any mutual independence of of scholarship, illumination or revelation. You’ve just created a false dichotomy.

Meanwhile, the truth of the gospel continues we know not how…

Or at least those of us blind to Satan’s binding that prevents him from stopping the gospel know not how…

Or had he been led far off the course due to entertaining so many ‘perspectives’ (as Chris L puts it) and philosophies?

Well, considering that the Hebrew “perspective” was the original one, then the newest and most questionable “perspective” is the Western one you espouse…

104   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 12th, 2009 at 3:56 pm

You’ve basically fallen for the assumption that all Pharisees were evil/misled

Not at all Chris. In fact, I think you’ve called me a Pharisee on several occasions.

Basically, the question was a stupid one, though, because the question is really just “would you be a follower of Moses or Elijah?”

… He says as he misses the point entirely… The point is: “There was a man sent from God: his name was John.” But we can be so blinded to this because of our prejudices and religion. In the case of the store owner, he had been entangled in so many philosophies he no longer knew what he believed and admitted, humbly, he might be at risk of rejecting the very work of God, when all this time he thought what he was doing was pursuing God.

Kind of like climbing the ladder, only to realize it’s leaning against the wrong wall. It’s terrifying.

Then why exactly do become a broken record-player every time a “desensitizing” article is written, rather than just dealing with the topic in the OP?

The author of the OP gracefully asked for opinions on the OP. I thought it was good, but perhaps went a bit further than was intended. Maybe, maybe not… that led to further discussion.

I see no “over-intellectualizing” in the OP

You wouldn’t now, would you?

105   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Everyone uses the word “pharisee” in the western colloquial way. Dissecting it any further is to place yourself in the .000001% of professing believers, or in other words, an echo chamber.

106   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 4:49 pm

Well, then, I forgot we were defending stupidity.

Carry on… Ignorance is bliss…

107   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 12th, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Total blisssss…… :lol:

108   Joe C    
June 12th, 2009 at 9:03 pm

This thread ended disappointingly…. :-(

109   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 13th, 2009 at 12:48 am

Sorry, Joe…

It might not be over… Friday afternoon usually moves to “ghost town” mode around 4 or 5…

110   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 13th, 2009 at 1:54 am

This is one “Peter Rollins’” interpretation of the mustard seed parable:

“The parable of the mustard seed grasps this. It speaks of a seed becoming a tree that will provide a nest of birds. The traditional interpretation is that this tiny movement will become an institution that will house people. But then there is another interpretation which says that the birds of the air are symbols of evil. In this reading, the movement will grow into an institution that will house that which stands opposed to God. What if neither interpretation is true but rather they both are?”

Such illumination makes the issue of faith, which is the principle addressed by Jesus, so much clearer. I have found that philosophy would be without purpose if it did not seek to make the simple a profound conundrum.

Brilliant. :cool:

111   Joe C    
June 13th, 2009 at 1:20 pm

I have to believe that when it comes down to it with interpretation of parables, metaphors, and even precise statements, that God is able to communicate effectively what needs to be heard by us humans, despite ourselves and our bad ideas.

It’s like when talking about whether the Bible is true or not…either we believe God is able to communicate with humanity despite the best efforts to the contrary by history, time, evil machinations, etc. or He is unable. Since Jesus said His words will never pass away, I believe that despite any problems that have come up in the past 2000+ years, that God can still tell me what I need to know, through the Bible.

I think the same thing goes for confused interpretations.

112   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
June 13th, 2009 at 9:19 pm

I have found that philosophy would be without purpose if it did not seek to make the simple a profound conundrum.

We have a similar statement in high-tech sales: “If you can’t convince’em, confuse’em.” And a lot of the time people buy.

I think these scriptures aptly apply to how some, such as Rollins, and others as well, should be viewed:

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene.

Vain babbling.

I have to believe that when it comes down to it with interpretation of parables, metaphors, and even precise statements, that God is able to communicate effectively what needs to be heard by us humans, despite ourselves and our bad ideas.

This is idealism, but it is not truth. This is not what Jesus said: “Just try your best to figure it out and whatever fits for you, that’s what it means.”

Rather:

“The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”

We arrive back, not at scholarship and excellence, but God’s mercy in illuminating an otherwise darkened mind.

113   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
June 13th, 2009 at 10:23 pm

Paul – I have always thought the parsing over “kingdom of heaven” or “kingdom of God” or the other references about kingdom this or that are without substantive doctrinal merit.

We as born again believers are supposed to live like Jesus and spread His gospel. All the parables present a principle concerning God’s kingdom and they are both object lessons concering truth and templates for us to follow. But no parable can establish a doctrine purely on its own and without the support of epistle teachings.

The parables, without epistel revelation, can be manipulated to fit one’s own doctrinal preference.

114   Joe C    
June 14th, 2009 at 12:53 am

Paul C,

This is idealism, but it is not truth. This is not what Jesus said: “Just try your best to figure it out and whatever fits for you, that’s what it means.”

That’s not what I meant. I’m sorry I can’t explain myself better to you.

If we’re seeking God, and of a contrite and humble spirit, then despite our own interpretations and bad ideas, I believe God will get through to the believer what needs to be ‘got’ by them.

I’m simply saying I trust God to teach me what I need to know, when I need to know it. And I hope to actively pursue that principle in my life. I trust God not to lead me astray, and to keep me in check. I dunno, call it simple. Whatever.

I bet you don’t disagree though, hm?