Showing posts from December, 2009

Christmas Week - Life, Death and Resurrection

Christmas Week: Life, Death and Resurrection Luke 2:43, Lost in the Temple: What if… it was easy to get lost in the crowd? • Jesus is old enough to travel with his parents now. • Families would travel in large groups, so it’s easy to imagine Jesus (like a teenager) was with some other members of the group. • There are lots of apocryphal stories about Jesus’ miracles as a young child. They’re not included in our Bible because people much closer to the time than we are didn’t believe them. Rediscovering them now doesn’t make them any more believable, and doesn’t prove that anyone deliberately hid them from us. Luke 3:21, 7:22, Matthew 14:8, John the Baptist: What if… baptism was an established Jewish ritual? The crowds gathered round John and were baptized into his following. There was nothing strange about baptism—ritual washing was common. What was surprising was the fact that Jesus was baptised and the way some of John’s followers decided to follow him instead. Meanwhile Salome

Fourth Week in Advent - the Birth

Fourth Week in Advent: The Birth Luke 2:1, Census: What if… the names are almost right? It’s rare for us to find complete records of any period of history, and likewise rare to find completely accurate records. The Bible’s account of the census sounds likely and plausible; the names sound right even if we can’t verify them completely yet. One day we may. Luke 2:4, Bethlehem: What if… it wasn’t a stable? Bethlehem was originally the home town of the Benjaminites, but the tribe of Benjamin shrinks during the Old Testament. Bethlehem of Judah, where David was born, could be the original Bethlehem absorbed into the larger lands of Judah, or a nearby town in Judah with the same name. (Jesus is born of David’s line, from the tribe of Judah.) Traditionally, it would be very offensive for relatives not to provide accommodation to visitors. It’s likely that houses had stables on the lower level for animals, so perhaps Jesus was born in the stable area of a crowded house. It could still

Third Week in Advent - The Promise

Third Week in Advent: The Promise Matthew 5:41, The Romans: What if… New Testament attitudes are verified in other historical sources? The Romans were the conquerors. The Jews in Judea were not well-respected, and a soldier could ask a man to give him his cloak, to carry his load, or to accept a slap without retaliation. Jews elsewhere actually fared better, and their monotheism was apparently fairly attractive to the Romans, hence the presence of many “God-fearing” non-Jews in the Acts of the Apostles. Luke 1:5, Zechariah: What if… Zechariah really was a priest? Zechariah comes from the family of Aaron—the Old Testament tells how Aaronic and Mosaic priesthoods argued, but Aaron’s family was the one that provided priests for the Temple, serving as Zechariah does in the story. Zechariah is struck dumb for questioning God, but Mary (and Abraham earlier) was allowed to question. Perhaps we shouldn’t try to set rules for how God will react, but rather just make sure we keep interact

Second Week in Advent - Old Testament Tales

What IF...Studies - Christmas Second Week in Advent: Old Testament Tales Genesis 42:16, 50:20 Joseph: What if… Joseph wasn’t quite so forgiving as we think? We’re all called to forgive, but sometimes it takes us a while to get from wanting the offender jailed to seeing God’s plan. Maybe it took Joseph a while too, and maybe God understands. Exodus 2:8, Moses: What if… Moses learned to read and write Egyptian? Moses was brought up Egyptian and would have learned to read and write in the Pharaoh’s court. If linguistic experts are right to suggest more than one person wrote the first books of the Bible, maybe tradition is also right in suggesting Moses wrote some of the source documents that they used. Exodus 14:21, The Red Sea: What if… the Red Sea could run dry? • The oldest Hebrew texts call it the Reed Sea, but the translation into Greek was made by Jewish Bible scholars long before Christ. Could the sea the Greeks called Red be the one the Israelites called Reed? The Red S