Companions along the Way

Here’s an interesting post for those—like me—who sometimes find it difficult to hear what the Spirit is saying along the Way. 8 Books to Read When You’re Struggling to Read the Bible: How some writers can push you toward God.

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/8-books-read-when-youre-struggling-read-bible#dhIDIrqIDWARPKW6.99

Rowan Williams’ four essentials for being ‘Christian’

Jonathan Merritt of Religion News Service presented his interview of Rowan Williams recently. Among the items is this for our consideration and conversation:

RNS: You list the Bible as one of the essentials of “being Christian” but various people have diverse views about the Bible. Do you think every view of the Bible is equally “Christian” or is there some baseline?

RW: It’s always been true that Christians have had differences over reading the Bible. But it remains the text we have in common. And so long as one believes that the Bible is a gift from God and tells us what we need to know about God for our well-being here and hereafter, it’s still possible to think we have something seriously in common.

Things get difficult if you hold that the Bible is only a human product; but they also get difficult when the Bible is treated only as a set of timeless instructions from God, irrespective of the actual process by which the texts arose. The Bible needs to be read, prayerfully and discerningly, in the company of as many other believers as possible, so that we can learn some wisdom from each other as to what exactly God does want to tell us. Hearing the truth in Scripture means expecting the Holy Spirit to be at work both in the text and in the community that reads it.

via Rowan Williams’ four essentials for being ‘Christian’ | On Faith & Culture. with Jonathan Merritt

Look again/anew at Paul

2013-1014-paul-amongWhat’s the connection between St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians and the second-century Roman novelist Apuleius’s comedy The Golden Ass? More than you might think, says classicist Sarah Ruden in her book Paul Among the People (Image). Ruden, who specializes in ancient Greek and Roman literature, became interested in the preconceptions modern readers bring to Paul’s writing when she began studying the apostle herself. –

Read the interview in US Catholic

We shared the link to the interview on our Facebook Page. Now we share it here. Read the article. Share what you think. Keep the conversation going.

Wind Chimes: 12 August 2013

“Jesus said, ‘Recognize what is in your sight, and that which is hidden from you will become plain to you. For there is nothing hidden which will not become manifest.’” 

The Gospel of Thomas (c. 60-175 A.D.)
in A New New Testament

The Four Evangelists by Jordaens Lovre
Four Evangelists, Jordaens Louvre (c. 1625-1630)

Are you ready to be stretched a little? A lot? Is it possible that other ancient texts can lead to a deeper understanding of the ‘official’ biblical texts used by Christians of various denominations? A council of scholars and teachers came together under the leadership of Hal Taussig to produce A New New Testament:

Is the New Testament missing a few books? In a move that may seem heretical to some Christians, a group of scholars and religious leaders has added 10 new texts to the Christian canon.

The work, A New New Testament, was released nationwide in March in an attempt to add a different historical and spiritual context to the Christian scripture.

Some of the 10 additional texts—which have come to light over the past century—date back to the earliest days of Christianity and include some works that were rejected by the early church.

The 19-member council that compiled the texts consisted of biblical scholars, leaders in several Christian denominations—Episcopal, Roman Catholic, United Methodist, United Church of Christ and Lutheran—two rabbis and an expert in Eastern religions and yoga.

Read the Religion News Service introduction to this effort. The article (dated March 28, 2013) includes the names of those who helped in the project.

The article points out that “not surprisingly not everyone admires the project.” Read the article, read all (or parts) of A New New Testament and let us know what you think. Continue the conversation here.

DivLine360x12There’s a restless, searching, rhythm in the chimes today.
What do you hear?

Seven, ten, or thirteen? Scholars are still deciding.

We raised the question on Sunday.

The last 3 weeks we have read from “Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians” in our worship. In the discussion on Sunday (7/29/12) Stan and I raised the question about who authored the letter to the Ephesians. In part, our question arises from our reading of commentaries and essays by a variety of scholars including, most recently, the scholarship of Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan.

Quote . . .THREE PAULS

Mainstream scholarship as it has developed over the last two centuries has concluded that some of the thirteen letters attributed to Paul were not written by him. Rather, they fall into three categories.

First, a massive scholarly consensus: at least seven letters are “genuine” – that is, written by Paul himself. These seven include three longer ones (Romans, I and II Corinthians), and four shorter ones (I Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon). Written in the 50s of the first century, plus or minus a year or two, they are the earliest documents in the New Testament, earlier than the gospels (recall that Mark, the first gospel, was written around 70). Thus the genuine letters of Paul are the oldest witness we have to what was to become Christianity.

Second, an almost equally strong consensus: three letters were not written by Paul. These are I and II Timothy and Titus, commonly known as “the pastoral epistles” or simply “the pastorals.” Scholars estimate that they were written around the year 100, possibly a decade or two later. The reasons these are seen as “non-Pauline” include what looks like a later historical setting as well as a style of writing quite unlike the Paul of the seven genuine letters.

Thus the letters to Timothy and Titus were written in the name of Paul several decades after his death. In case some readers may think that writing in somebody else’s name was dishonest or fraudulent, we note that it was a common practice in the ancient world. It was a literary convention of the time, including within Judaism.

Third, letters about which there is no scholarly consensus, though a majority see them as not coming from Paul. Often called the “disputed” epistles, they include Ephesians, Colossians, and II Thessalonians. We are among those who see these as “post-Paul,” written a generation or so after his death, midway between the genuine letters and the later pastoral letters.

From Chapter 1 of their book The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon. Chapter 1 is online at: Paul: Appealing or Appalling?

In your reading and study have you formed an opinion? What role does the Holy Spirit play in the writing, preserving, handing on, and interpreting of these letters? What role does the Spirit play as you grapple with this kind of information? Let’s keep the conversation going.

What about Bible reading and “Newspaper” reading?

On Sunday (5/20/12) our discussion wandered into the area of reading the Bible and reading the newspaper (well, to be 21st century, reading or watching the news on the internet). I recalled, and others nodded their heads, that Karl Barth, a great theologian and teacher, commented on that dynamic.

Here is what Barth is reported to have said:

“[Barth] recalls that 40 years ago he advised young theologians ‘to take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.’” Time, May 31, 1963

The Time article goes on to give us more of Barth’s thoughts on journalists and their place in the world: “Newspapers, he says, are so important that ‘I always pray for the sick, the poor, journalists, authorities of the state and the church – in that order. Journalists form public opinion. They hold terribly important positions. Nevertheless, a theologian should never be formed by the world around him – either East or West. He should make his vocation to show both East and West that they can live without a clash. Where the peace of God is proclaimed, there is peace on earth is implicit. Have we forgotten the Christmas message?’” —Center for Barth Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary Accessed 3 May 2011

In invite you to share as we continue this conversation:

  • Do you  “read both” (Bible and “newspaper”)?
  • In what ways do you “interpret” the news “from your Bible”?
  • How would you rephrase Barth’s advice for the 21st century?

What would Jerome think? St. Jerome, that is.

Today (9/30) the church remembers Jerome, “Priest, and Monk of Jerusalem,” who died in 420 CE. Among his many accomplishments was the translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into the common (vulgar) language of Latin. The Vulgate version of the Bible remains a standard text in the Roman Catholic Church and has a respected place among contemporary biblical scholars and church historians. Thus, the question, “What would Jerome think?”

Yesterday (9/29) the Episcopal News Service posted an article about a new English translation of the Bible (from Hebrew and Greek). This newest Bible is the Common English Bible (CEB). What Jerome did in his study in the early 5th century was today accomplished by “120 scholars drawn from 24 denominations” at the cost of $3.5 million over the course of 4 years. In addition, “More than 500 readers in 77 groups later field-tested their work” according to the article. Read the entire post here: New Common English Bible translation draws on expertise of 17 Anglican, Episcopal scholars.

So what would Jerome think about the choices made? What do you think? How did some of your favorite verses fare in the new translation?

Probably most of us “know” that Genesis 1:1 begins like this “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth …” (KJV) The Common English translation? “When God began to create the heavens and the earth—”

One more example, a favorite of many, Psalm 23. The final verse, which is the most powerful to me when this Psalm is used in a Memorial Service (Ps 23:6): “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” (KJV) and “Yes, goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the LORD’s house as long as I live. ” (CEB) You can read the entire Psalm here: King James Version and Common English Bible

Thank you for being part of the Sunday Morning Forum (in real time or online). Like Jerome, we take seriously our study of the Word of God. Whether you like or appreciate the newest translation of the Bible, I do hope you appreciate how the Live Word of the Living God continues to demand our study and our best efforts to know and apply its God inspired wisdom. Leave a comment or two (below) to continue this conversation. What do you think about all this?

For further reflection and study

  • Common English Bible — official website of the Common English Bible. You will find many options to fully explore this new bible and to learn more about how it was produced.
  • Bible Gateway — a site with many different translations of the Bible including the Common English Bible; you can compare translations pretty easily.
  • Bible Study Tools — another site with an assembly of different versions of the Bible including the version we use in worship: the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.