In 2018, I enjoyed writing about love. All year!
But this year… I am going to write about scripture. Mostly the weird stuff and strange stories. Things that you might not know about. Things that might be controversial. You are welcomed to comment and even challenge me!
This should be fun! Please find the “Follow me” button somewhere on this page and follow along.
God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the Gods — Psalms 82:1
It is interesting how most translations come to this verse and show a bias toward what is considered conventional Christian theology. Conventional Christian theology says there is only one God. So even though the Hebrew word for God, Elohim, is used for both instances of God in this verse, the translators do all sorts of contorting to distinguish between God and, well, God. They do a bunch of things like using “gods” (with quotes and a lower case g), judges, or heavenly beings when the truth of the matter is that the Bible says that Elohim was talking to the Elohim.
Using the Hebrew, this is what it actually says:
Elohim presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the Elohim.
To make it more complicated, Elohim is a plural word like the word deer: “I saw a deer” and “I saw a bunch of deer.” Both sentences properly use the word deer instead of deers which would be incorrect and isn’t even a word. Elohims (with an s) isn’t a Hebrew word.
Well, a lot of translators don’t want to confuse Bible believing readers with what the scripture actually says so they fudge the translation to make it jive with conventional theology. But once we accept what scripture actually says, then we can start asking the questions – was the Psalmist being poetic? Sarcastic? Did this Psalmist believe there were many Elohims – many Gods and that they actually gathered occasionally for an industry association meeting? There are many scholarly theories. BUT the real crime would be to get hung up with the question and discredit the whole shebang. Because what God says to the Gods is utterly amazing:
“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. – Psalm 82:1-4
If that doesn’t speak into our world today, what does? So let’s get out there today and defend, uphold, rescue, and deliver! If we are attentive, we will find this work everywhere around us. Because if you aren’t defending, upholding, rescuing, and delivering the guy in the cube next to you, then you aren’t going to do it for the big societal issues either. And you don’t get a pass for being busy. Let’s get out there… Go!
When we were in Paris just before Christmas, we got to attend a special exhibit at the Cluny Museum on unicorns. The Cluny is a museum of all things medieval and my favorite museum in Paris.
On display were unicorn horns, unicorn poo (yes, I am serious – picture below), and all kinds of medieval unicorn art. The Old Testament mentions unicorns nine times so people believed they were real. Pliny the Elder wrote in his very serious Natural History Book way back in the first century: “the unicorn is the fiercest animal, and it is said that it is impossible to capture one alive. It has the body of a horse, the head of a stag, the feet of an elephant, the tail of a boar, and a single black horn three feet long in the middle of its forehead and its cry is a deep bellow.”
There are many theories about what animal scripture was actually speaking about, but many believed that the unicorn signified Christ. The fierce wildness of the animal showed the inability of hell to hold Christ. The single horn represented the unity of God and Christ.
The original King James translation of the Bible, which is actually a remarkably good translation, mentions unicorns nine times. In Hebrew, the word translated unicorn is re’em.
- Numbers 23:22 and 24:8: God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.
- Deuteronomy 33:17 His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth . . .
- Job 39:9 Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?
- Job 39:10 Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?
- Psalm 22:21 Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
- Psalm 29:6 He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.
- Psalm 92:10 But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.
- Isaiah 34:7 And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.
Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. (Isa 37:36)
This verse literally says that the dead woke up the next morning and found their own dead bodies. Different translators have handled it different ways . . . instead of “when they woke up,” the translators have changed it to “when the morning dawned.” Other translations say “when the surviving Assyrians woke up.” But the word “they” is only vague if you don’t think dead people can wake up to find their own dead bodies.
The translators didn’t think so. Hence, they scrambled to make sense of the verse. I don’t like it when the translators interpret in order to answer questions that the text doesn’t answer. I like reading the oddities. Sometimes they hold great mysteries. Sometimes they are just ancient grammar mistakes.
It makes me think… where do we interpret happenings in our own lives in a way that they make sense to us instead of facing the oddities?
Yep. It’s in the Bible! Pot is deadly. Or maybe what is in the pot is deadly . . .
When Elisha returned to Gilgal, there was a famine in the land. As the company of prophets was sitting before him, he said to his servant, “Put the large pot on, and make some stew for the company of prophets.” One of them went out into the field to gather herbs; he found a wild vine and gathered from it a lapful of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were. They served some for the men to eat. But while they were eating the stew, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” They could not eat it. He said, “Then bring some flour.” He threw it into the pot, and said, “Serve the people and let them eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot. (2Ki 4:38-41)
Someone a lot wiser than me explained the symbolism in this story to me once. You tell me if they are right.
The school of prophets are holding class and they get hungry. The story is about physical hunger, but the prophets are also spiritually hungry. It’s in a middle of a famine. I am told that if you get too hungry – famine kind of hungry – whether it is spiritual or physical hunger — sometimes you will eat (or believe) anything.
One of the students goes out and gathers food, but he gathers gourds that he doesn’t know anything about and brings them back to feed to the prophets. Spiritually speaking. . . he stumbles on some theology that he has never heard before and readily accepts it as right. He is so spiritual hungry that he will believe anything. The student-prophets accept it too. No one questions it and they all eat it up. But this food – this theology – is poison!
The students cry out to the Prophet Elisha. He grabs some flour. Spiritually speaking, the bread of life is made of flour. He throws the flour – the bread of life (the Jesus story) – into the pot. And suddenly the stew is edible. Spiritually speaking, he measures the new theology up against the teachings of Jesus and the theology suddenly takes on a right meaning.
For all of you who read this thinking my story was about the kind of pot you smoke . . . shame on you! 🙂 So… what do you think this story is really all about?
Last night I asked my son Brent – who is the original Bibliologist in our family (with three degrees in ministry, Christian education, and theology) turned software developer – “What is the weirdest story in the Bible?”
He immediately answered “the zombies in Matt 27.” He is right . . . this is a strange one.
Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. (Mat 27:50-53)
At the moment of Jesus’ death, there was an earthquake and a bunch of holy people were raised from the dead. The word translated raised means to “bring into being.” Yet, they stayed in their tombs for a few more days until Jesus was resurrected.
Weird enough! But why would they stay in their tombs – which had been opened in the earthquake? Was it because they had nothing to wear except decomposing burial clothes? If I find myself coming to life in a casket . . . I am out of there, naked or not.
But then, when Jesus is resurrected, they walk on into Jerusalem. Did they walk in a group? Did they dance like the Thriller zombies? Did they go home? If they had been dead a few generations, how would they even know who their living relatives were? Imagine your long ago buried great-great-grandma showing up at your door.
What happens to them? Do they live for some amount of time and then die again? Are they reburied in their old tombs? Still the questions gets weirder . . . Is it possible that they are still living among us? Now that is the way I want the story to end . . . I want them to still be here living and working among us. Look around . . . what about the guy one cube over?
Well, they are never mentioned again in scripture nor are they mentioned in the other three gospels. If all scripture is given for edification, what do you take away from this story?
It sounds right: Don’t Look Back. You’re Not Going that way.
Right? Good advice, but bet you didn’t know it is ancient advice.
Lot and his family have been living in a city that was ruled by rapists and violent gangs. But – let’s tell the truth – Lot was not a great guy either. To protect a couple of angels from one of the city’s gangs, he offered the gang his two virgin daughters to “do to them as you please” (Gen 19:8). Lot was not great. Lot wasn’t even okay. Lot was a faithless man.
Angels don’t need human protection. But Lot was willing to give up his daughters to a violent gang. Just so he could get a blessing from them? Who was more wicked? Lot or the violent gang?
Anyway… the angels, through supernatural means, end up protecting Lot and his family from the gang. Then they tell Lot…
Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed. (Gen 19:17)
Lot argues with the angels… it really isn’t his style to rush off like this. Besides he might not make it out in time anyway. But the angels moved him outside the city and kicked his butt down the road. With him are his two daughters and wife.
But… Lot’s wife, who has to be more than a little traumatized at having her daughters offered up to a violent gang the night before and was now fleeing town without her belongings, looks back as they are leaving the city. Upon doing so she is turned to a pillar of salt. A pillar of salt! That’s sci-fi.
Was this a punishment from God? Or did she do it purposely by choice? No one seems to grieve her death. She isn’t mentioned again in the story. She isn’t even given a name. What the heck kind of story is this anyway?
She looked back instead of looking where she was headed. Why? Perhaps because she was stuck with Lot, the scum of a man who would give up her daughters to a violent mob. Perhaps she wanted to revel in the death of the people who tried to hurt her family. Perhaps she was just curious.
I take away only questions from this story — stretching what details we have. But I wonder if Lot’s wife didn’t need to hear the following from a friend so she wouldn’t look back:
Maybe I have a friend who needs to hear these things. Maybe I need to hear them.
At any rate… “Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.” Can’t make this story fluffy like the bunny in the picture. Sorry… next blog will be funny and shorter. Promise! I got carried away.
What do you see in the story? You can read the original in Genesis 19.
We all know St. Francis loved animals! We also know he preached to birds and even a wolf! So… you can read the first three chapters of St. Francis and the Christian Life to your dog (cats are giving it a 5 star rating too!) for free. Just click here.
If you are considering using the book in a small group or Sunday school class, you can check out the lesson plans at the end of the book on Amazon – just click on “Look inside.”
Gosh do I need to practice forgiveness lately! Maybe you do too. Jesus taught that we are to love everyone – even our enemies. But to love someone who has hurt you, you first have to forgive them! And that is not easy.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:43
Below is a spiritual practice to try. Set aside some time, get to a quiet place where you can think, and bring some paper and a pen (or your laptop if that is your style). You may need to do this practice over several days. Take your time.