Friday, August 27, 2010

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Win

In Judges 16:1-3, we read of how the enemies of Samson thought they had him trapped in a city, planning to kill him at daylight, but Samson just tore out the gates of the city during the night and made his escape, carrying the gates with him to the top of a local mountain.

Hold that thought.

Several hundred years later, Yahshua is at the city of Caesarea Philippi with his young disciples, who were probably embarrassed to be at such an ungodly center of smut, wondering what in the world their rabbi was thinking to bring them here. This city was to Pan-worship as the Vatican is to Roman Catholicism. It was the capital city, the center, of cult worship to the goat-god Pan.

Just outside the city, and perhaps where Yahshua was standing, was a stone slab at the entrance to a cave. From this cave flowed the headwaters of the Jordan River. (In the 19th century, an earthquake shifted the river so it no longer flows from the cave).

Pan (from who's name we get the word "pandemonium") was a fertility god who every Autumn went into this cave which served as the gateway to the underworld, where he would spend the Winter. When Springtime arrived, Pan emerged from this gateway of hell to consort with his wife, Ashtarte ("Easter"), and in copulating with her, his sperm fell to the earth as rain, making the land fertile. His followers worshiped this goat-god on this stone slab in an annual fertility orgy involving all sorts of deviations, including human-goat sex.

Hold that thought.

The word "church" seems to have its origins in one of two sources. One is the Greek word "kuriokon" ("house of the lord" - never used in the N.T., although the root, "kuriokos" - "of the lord" - is used twice: the Supper of the Lord in 1 Cor 11:20, and the Day of the Lord in Rev 1:10). The other source is the even-older Celtic dialects that eventually gave us "kirk" ("church") and "circle". In many ancient pagan religions, particularly in Europe, the gathering places were in a circular form (think Stonehenge).

In either case, both words refer to a place, not to people, but the word used in the New Testament, "ekklesia" ("called out", "assembly", "congregation"), refers to people, not a place.

When the Bible was translated into English in the 13-16th centuries, the European idea of a pagan church/circle meeting place became confused with the Biblical idea of an assembly, and our English Bibles inherited the non-Biblical term "church".

That means that when we read Matthew 16:18 in most of our English Bibles, we get a concept of a place or thing which Yahshua intended to build, rather than a congregation.

Hold that thought.

Or better yet, put all three of these thoughts together.

Yahshua is standing with his disciples near, perhaps even on, the stone slab of a pagan, hellish religion, just outside the "gate" to the realm of evil in which humanity is destined to be trapped without a savior. He's speaking to a group of kids who were well-familiar with the story of Samson, who had broken through the gates of the city, in which he would be destined to death if he had not escaped.

In this context, Yahshua stands on or near this stone slab and makes an announcement to Peter that these gates of hell will not prevent his people from being called out of their death-trap, nor prevent his people from going into the depths of hell and defeating the evil therein.

Here's what he says:
On this stone slab, I will edify the people I call out; and the gates of hell will not be strong enough to withstand their attack.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mmm, Watermelon Juice in the Lord's Supper....

All my life, my religious culture has insisted that we rely on the Bible as our only infallible source for how to live Godly lives. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is an example of the textual support for this idea:
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Whereas this sounds good in theory, I've recently been made more and more aware that we don't do a very good job of living up to this ideal.

For example, from where do we get the idea that we're supposed to use grape juice as the drink in the Lord's Supper?

Looking throughout the Bible for hints concerning the drink used at the Passover (which is the context for the establishment of the Lord's Supper), there's no clue offered until the Gospel accounts, at which time the only clue found is that it is "the fruit of the vine".

With only this information (and that it represents the blood of Christ, given in sacrifice), doesn't it make sense that tomato juice (blood-like, from the vine) would be the best option for the drink at the Lord's Supper?

Or if you just want a fruit of the vine, and don't care about the color, we could use cantaloupe juice, or watermelon juice, or blueberry juice, or passionfruit juice, or any number of other vine fruit juices.

But we don't; we use grape juice (either fermented or not).

The point is: We use grape juice, not because it's taught in the Bible, but because it's a tradition we have inherited from some source outside of the Bible. I think extraBiblical history makes a strong case for using grape juice. But I'm just pointing out that going to extraBiblical history is not relying solely on the the Bible.

"So what," you ask?

If someone wants to use watermelon juice in the Lord's Supper, we can make no objection if we really use the Bible as our sole source of authority in such matters. To make a law that the juice must be grape juice is to teach as doctrine the commandment of men.

We do this a lot. We need to be careful.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Taking Text out of Context

It's easy to do. We get an idea in our head, search the Bible concordance to find references that might apply, and voila! There's the magic verse that proves our case!

Except, a lot of the time, we've taken the verse out of context, making it say something that it does not say, putting meaning into the text that God did not put there, instead of getting meaning out of the text.

For example, many of my brethren are convinced that drinking any alcohol is a sin (no matter that alcohol consumption is never directly condemned in the Bible, Yahshua declared all foods clean, and Paul stated that "everything is permissible" but not necessarily "good"). (The Bible does, however, condemn drunkeness, and it makes clear that alcohol is dangerous and the wise person will leave it alone.)

As support of their position, they will sometimes point to Habakkuk 2:15:
15 “ Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor,
Pressing him to your bottle,
Even to make him drunk,
That's pretty slam-dunk, I'd say. Based on this one verse alone, it's clear that Yahshua would not turn water into alcoholic wine at the marriage feast of his neighbors.

Except, the verse is taken out of context. Let's finish the verse with its last line:
That you may look on his nakedness!
Wow! Okay, that changes the entire tone of the passage. It's not about giving alcohol to your neighbor; it's about trying to get your neighbor drunk so that you can take advantage of him.

And when we look at the rest of the chapter, we see this latter interpretation meshes well with the surrounding context.

Starting at verse 4, the condemnation is against he who is proud, whose soul is not upright in him.

Then in verse 5 he gets bravery from a bottle, gets proud and cocky, and goes and attacks those around him, trying to become world dictator.

In verse 6, those he attacks complain that he's taking what is not his.

Verse 8 speaks of his violence and plundering.

Verses 9-10 mention how he cheats to get ahead.

Verse 12 condemns him who uses evil and bloodshed to build an empire.

In verse 15 is our passage under consideration: woe to him who gets his neighbor drunk so that he can take advantage of that neighbor.

In verses 16 and 17 God warns that He will turn the tables on the perpetrator in verse 15, making the perp drunk so that he will then be exposed, making the violence that he has done come back on him.

I'm in agreement that alcohol consumption should be avoided; I believe it's stupid. (I also believe soft-drink consumption (and Twinkie-consumption, etc) should be avoided; I believe it's stupid also; just not so car-crashing immediately stupid). But Habakkuk 2:15 is not a condemnation of social drinking; it's a condemnation of using and abusing others.