Learn War No More - Micah 3:1-4:5

If only God were worshipped, there would not be dissensions and wars. For men would know that they are the sons of one God.” – Lactantius.[1]



“No one will make them afraid.” More beautiful words have rarely been uttered. There will be worship instead of war and wickedness, bounty rather than bribery and bloodshed, peace in place of perversion.
There is nothing pleasant surrounding the prospect of judgment or impending doom. But at this time, the proclamation of justice against civil authorities and spiritual leaders of the nation[2] would have been welcome news. Micah posits to deliver the words of Yahweh, making accusations against the rich who have acted oppressively by coveting, seizing fields, houses and inheritance (2:2); tearing the skin off (3:2); eating the flesh and breaking the bones (3:3) of the people. This is “the sin of abusing one’s fellow man.”[3] Unfortunately, it was not the only time when the leadership of Israel was convicted of this charge.[4]
Yahweh in this oracle is portrayed in an “old tradition of the theophany of the divine warrior,”[5] having been roused to action due to the injustice, cruelty, and abominations done by a select group.[6] Finally, because of God’s action, peace and salvation would come to the troubled remnant of Israel.
Commentators have suggested these visions and others similar (Isa 2; 60) reflect the culmination of the ages, or eschaton where all wars will cease. David Leiter observed that such outlining is often perceived as having “little or no practical implications for our current age. . . . The vision indeed had contemporary implications for Israel and if taken seriously can also have implications for our world today.”[7] Yet, there are social critiques within this oracle that are able to be applied to various situations in the present, as well as hope for peace in the future.
In consideration of the warrior imagery, Scott Holland noted that we are more comfortable with a God who fits our own ideology and are sometimes willing to substitute divine “otherness” for our own system of ethics. “We tend to make God in our image and thus in the process make ourselves like God.”[8] If a religious group becomes violent about their religion, it is possibly because their violent perspective has created a god to meet that desire. I conclude – from a meta-narrative perspective – that ultimate redemption and reconciliation is the final objective.  However, the way God goes about that is not always clear. [9]
Ultimately, we must leave vengeance up to God, “precisely because God has the prerogative to give and take life that we do not have.”[10]  These words of Scott Holland have stuck with me since I first read them: “Could it be that because Yahweh is a warrior, we can be a people of peace?”[11] Willard Swartley, also citing this statement, eloquently explained that attributing violence to God is an inaccurate and wrong accusation from a Scriptural perspective. It undermines God’s moral character and redemptive intentions as well as confuses the perversion of human violence with God’s divine prerogative to establish justice. It can also depend on how "violence" is defined. If it entails a violation of a norm, Swartley would argue that for Christians the terms should not apply to God, who is the transcendent source of norms. Nevertheless, judgment characterizes the sovereign and holy God, who punishes humanity for their sins expressly to end human violence.[12]
Micah’s promise of restoration and deliverance is one of hope, and relevant to all those who long for peace and justice to be the order of the day.[13] Embedded within the purpose of prophetic oracles is the call for repentance. If repentance occurs, right relationship with God is restored, divine judgment can be averted and peace will be the result.[14]    



[1] The Divine Institutes, 5.8.66 (ANF 7.143).
[2] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 10 vols. (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2011), 10:305
[3] Ralph L. Smith, Word Biblical Commentary: Micah-Malachi, vol. 32 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 5.
[4] E.g. Isa 3:12-15; 56:11-12; Ezek 13; 22:24-31; 34; Jer 10:21; 12:10-11; 23:1-5; 50:6-7; Zech 10:2-3.
[5] John J. Collins, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible: Second Edition (Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 2014), 340.
[6] 2:1–2, 8–9; 3:2–3, 9–11; 7:2–6.
[7] David A. Leiter, Neglected Voices: Peace in the Old Testament (Scottsdale, PA.: Herald Press, 2007), 72.
[8] Scott Holland “The Gospel of Peace and the Violence of God,” Seeking Cultures of Peace: A Peace Church Conversation, ed. Fernando Enns, Scott Holland, and Ann Riggs (Telford, PA.: Cascadia Publishing House, 2004), 141.
[9] N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope (London: SPCK, 2007), 206.
[10] Holland 2004, 141.
[11] Ibid., 144.
[12] Willard M. Swartley, Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 395.
[13] Elelwani B. Farisani, “Micah” The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures From Africa and the African Diaspora, ed. Hugh R. Page, Jr. (Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 2010), 192.
[14] Leiter 2007, 93-4.

BibleWorks and Wise Words of Caution

BibleWorks has been my choice for textual study for a few years. Recently I acquired version 10, and as expected, I like it a lot, although I need to spend a few days just going through the excellent tutorial videos provided by their team.

As I was exploring the Module page on BibleWorks' site, I came across some brief comments at the bottom of the page titled "Some Thoughts About Electronic Libraries." 

Now, just so I'm clear, I am by no means against electronic libraries. For those who invest solely in them and have found them to be the best option in their study routine, that is great. I use electronic resources frequently, as they make research efficient through search capabilities. Resources that I use a lot, I may decide to acquire the digital edition, but I always choose the print edition over the electronic edition if I am purchasing one or the other. Personally, I prefer to have a book in my hands to read rather than an iPad or some other eReader.

However, I have also had reservations about investing my money into resources that I actually do not own. What I mean by that is, when buying an electronic resource, most of the time one is merely purchasing the rights to use or view it, such as commentaries, books, etc. This concerns me a little bit, but perhaps I have read Nineteen Eighty-Four too much.  

In this regard, my respect for BibleWorks has greatly increased. As a digital company whose mission is to "provide pastors, teachers, students, and missionaries with the tools they need to 'rightly divide the word of truth,'" it is impressive for them to caution customers with what they perceive to be weaknesses of technology and to think historically. We, as humans, can easily forget the past. We don't even have to turn the clock back one hundred years to make the point. We take many things for granted and can be prone to assuming that it will always be this way. Here are the points they make:

"We continue to encourage our users to think carefully before building large electronic libraries, for three reasons:

1. There is no guarantee computers will, in as few as ten years, be able to read today's electronic media. For example, read "Cerf sees a problem: Today's digital data could be gone tomorrow " from ComputerWorld (June 4, 2013), "At Libraries, Taking the (Really) Long View" from Inside Higher Ed (July 23, 2008), and "The Digital Ice Age" from Popular Mechanics (December 2006).

2. Even more significantly, almost all electronic libraries are in proprietary formats: there is no standard. Proprietary formats, and the software that reads them, come and go (remember DOS?). A recent article in Christian Computing, "Is It Time for a Second STEP?", noted the unlikelihood of a standard format emerging. When an electronic library's proprietary format is abandoned, one's investment in the library is lost.

3. Finally, in most cases one cannot purchase anything more than a license to use the content of an electronic book. Such a license is vulnerable to being revoked, as this April 2014 article from World magazine points out: http://www.worldmag.com/2014/04/liberty_as_secure_as_your_books

Books, on the other hand, are independent of computers. If you use certain reference works on a daily basis, it may make sense to purchase electronic editions, and, for this reason, we are providing (and will continue to provide) a limited collection of locked electronic resources for those who want them. But in our opinion it makes sense to buy print editions first, then electronic editions if you find you really need them."

I don't need extra reasons to like BibleWorks, but I certainly won't disregard them when they come along. Thank you, BibleWorks, for offering wise words of warning.

Let’s Be On Our Way – John 14:25-31

For it is not right that a worshipper of God should be injured by another worshipper of God.”
–Lactantius[1]
            Historically, it is no secret that diverse Christianities have had difficulties dwelling together peacefully. Strife among God’s people can be traced almost anywhere, anytime to anything imaginable under heaven.
C. S. Lewis famously remarked that the quickest way to a desired destination – if a wrong turn has been taken – is to get back to the right road. The individual making an about-turn first, though seemingly counter-productive, is the most progressive.[2]
Doctrinal dissension has arguably proven to be divisive and destructive throughout the history of the Church.[3] This text is a prime example of such a battleground. It is a theological lithosphere of christological, pneumatological and ultimately Trinitarian layers which shifted[4] early and shook Christianity to its core for centuries.[5] Not only is there what some see as a proto-Trinitarian formation,[6] there is also an unavoidable subordinationist Christology present.[7]
As it happened, to argue that Jesus was equal in divine majesty to God the Father required “considerable literary ingenuity”[8] to explain these texts. The result was a widened rift between the subordinationists and those in favor of the Nicene Creed. Gregory of Nyssa described, 
“If in this city you ask anyone for change, he will discuss with you whether the Son is begotten or unbegotten. If you ask about the quality of bread, you will receive the answer that, ‘the Father is greater, the Son is less.’ If you suggest that a bath is desirable, you will be told that ‘there was nothing before the Son was created.’”[9]
Having personally been involved in unavoidable, chaotic feuds merely for being open-minded theologically, I am more convinced than ever that relating to our brothers and sisters in Christ with peaceful and humane dialogue is the only way forward. One’s conviction on any given text is never grounds to degrade or deride a perceived theological opponent or, in consideration of Church history, use violence. “Loving one another,”[10] as so frequently and plainly taught within the Johannine corpus, should never be annexed for that which is speculative, and the subject of constant debate.
Regardless of one’s Christology, Jesus – as God’s executive agent and revealer[11] – has given a supreme example of perfect peace.[12]  Though conflict came to him, 
“Christ did not become what men were; he became what they were meant to be, and what they too, through accepting him, actually became.”[13]
Before actually leaving, Jesus prayed: “[that] they may be one, as we are one” (John 17:22 NRS). Believers in Jesus have the hope that he will indeed return, 
“He is the promise, but the Father is the fulfillment. What Jesus says here about his own death applies also to the death of individual Christians.”[14] 
Until that time, we have the responsibility of emulating his example to love each other, even if our theological, doctrinal or political views don’t always mesh. By grasping onto the theme of the Prince of Peace we can bring the shalom[15] of the age to come into our present, one selfless action at a time. Let’s make an about-turn and get-on. “Let us go from here.” Let’s keep conversing, but be of the same mind and in the same love through humility while we do.[16]



[1] A Treatise on the Anger of God, 13.99 (ANF 7.271).
[2] C. S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity,” The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics (New York, NY.: Harper One, 1952, 2002) 33.
[3] Swartley seems to imply that some are not as prone toward provocations of this nature: “Even among Mennonites, historically considered sectarian, one finds both high christology adhered to be some and a considerably lower christology adhered to by others.” Willard M. Swartley, Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 296 (fn. 48).
[4] Hans Küng, Christianity : Essence, History, and Future (New York, NY.: Continuum Publishing Co, 1996), 170-71.
[5] See Professor of Conflict Resolution Richard Rubenstein’s excellent book, When Jesus Became God: The Epic Fight over Christ’s Divinity in the Last Days of Rome (Orlando, FL.: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1999), 7-8.
[6] George R. Beasley-Murray, Word Biblical Commentary: John, vol. 36 (Dallas, TX.: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 261; Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 2003), 2:976.
[7] C. K. Barrett, “The Father is Great Than I,” Essays on John (London, SPCK, 1982), 19-36; Karl-Josef Kuschel, Born Before All Time? : The Dispute Over Christ’s Origin, trans. John Bowden (New York, NY.: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992), 388.
[8] Charles Freeman, A.D. 381: Heretics, Pagans, of the Monotheistic State (New York, NY.: Overlook Press, 2009), 60.
[9] Joseph H. Lynch, Early Christianity: A Brief History (New York, NY.: Oxford University Press, 2010), 166.
[10] John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17; 17:26; 21:15-17. Even the Johannine Epistles carry this theme: cf. 1 Joh 3:10-11, 14, 16, 18, 23; 4:7-8, 11-12, 16-21; 5:2; 2 Jo 1:5.
[11] Barrett 1982, 23.
[12] F. F. Bruce points out, “the world can only wish peace; Jesus gives it.” F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition and Notes (Grand Rapids, MI.: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 1983), 307 (Fn. 14).
[13] John A.T. Robinson, The Priority of John, ed. J. F. Coakley (Oak Park, IL.: Meyer-Stone Books, 1985), 378.
[14] Ernst  Haenchen, Robert W. Funk, and Ulrich Busse, John 2: A Commentary on the Gospel of John, Chapters 7-21 (Philadelphia, PA.: Fortress Press, 1984), 128. See (Keener 2003, 982).
[15]  “Peace was believed to be a feature of righteous royal rule and of the messianic age.” Marianne Meye Thompson, John: A Commentary (Louisville, KY.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 316
[16] Phil 2:1-3.

The Bloody City – A Reflection of Ezekiel 22

As I sit at my desk reading, writing and listening to the enchanting melodies of master guitarist Phil Keaggy,[1] I am transported into the ancient world of a Zadokite[2] priest. Ezekiel lived in Jerusalem and was active (594 – 571 B.C.E.)[3] before the first group of exiles were taken to Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C.E.[4] He was at the heart of Judean society and a proponent of Zionist covenantal theology, which was a tradition emphasizing them as Yahweh’s choice people, Jerusalem as the capital of a perpetual Davidic dynasty, and Zion (Jerusalem) –with the Solomonic Temple – as the divine habitation.[5] The exile considerably challenged this belief, as it called into question God’s promised protection of the holy city.[6]
Following the destruction of Jerusalem, the tone of Ezekiel’s proclamations changed. This is reflected in the book’s division into three distinct sections: chapters 1-24 are primarily oracles against Jerusalem and Judah and contain material preceding the Babylonian invasion.[7] Chapters 25-32 are directed against foreign entities, and the third – chapters 33-48 – contains oracles regarding Israel’s future salvation and restoration. Chapter 22 is also divided into three units: vv 1-16, 17-22 and 23-31.[8] The textual and historical tradition of Ezekiel has a long, complicated history of criticism and is far too extensive to address here.[9]
“The bloody city” rings loud and clear at the onset of these oracles in chapter 22. This is a phrase used to describe Nineveh in Nahum 3:1. The divine decision was been made to punish God’s chosen, but guilty city.[10] The list of wrongs is detailed throughout this chapter: v 6 rulers are shedding blood; vv 7, 25, 29 aliens suffer extortion, fathers and mothers are treated contemptuously, orphans and widows are wronged; vv 10-11 women are violated in horrific ways, adultery, fornication and incest are taking place; v 12 bribes are made for killing; v 26 priests have done violence; v 27 officials portrayed as wolves; v 28 prophets are declaring lies as though from Yahweh; v 29 the poor and needy are oppressed.[11]
It is also important to note that God warns people to adjust their course and honors repentance. Even in verse 30, with its military metaphor,[12] there is the hyperbolic sense of God looking for one for whom the city could be spared.[13] Regardless, the people’s actions have brought these consequences on themselves.[14]
Surveying this spectacle, I cannot help but shudder at the eerie familiarity it has to our own day. Jesus made pronouncements similar to that of Ezekiel when dealing with the corruption of his own time. Israel in our time still finds itself as the center of attention for unethical behavior. As a Christian who has some Jewish ancestry, I can appreciate that these issues are sensitive for many. Yet, there are still questions. When will God deal with corruption? Does God still protect Israel? Does Israel still oppress its own people and countrymen?
In a class lecture,[15] John Goldingay made this statement,
“God still protects the Jewish people. In our time we have to make a distinction between the state of Israel, which is a state like any other and the Jewish people, most of whom live outside the state of Israel. And declaring that God is committed to the Jewish people does not mean that you reckon that God is committed to the state of Israel, particularly over against the Palestinians. But it’s hard, I think, for Christians to make those distinctions.”
This is crucial because today there are Christian and messianic Zionist movements who have not been able to make a distinction. Some are of the mind that Israel – the state – can do no wrong. “We must bless Israel,” goes the mantra. This is not about Israel but rather an ideology that desires to nationalize God to fit political agendas.
Regardless of one’s eschatology and opinions of political policy, categorizing the State of Israel as though it is the legitimate recipient of God’s favor before all others is a gross mistake with detrimental ethical repercussions.
“For believing that God accompanies one’s army is always comforting, and a people can perhaps be braver the more inclined they are to view God as able and willing to come out in their defense.”[16]
The history of humanity, including Christianity, is strewn with a trail of blood where imperialistic aspirations have been religiously justified as though it were God’s own desires.[17]
“It is always easier to assume that God is with us more than he is with our enemies. In war, how can God be on the side of the foe? Whether it was the time of the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, or the Persian Empire (etc) those Israelites who heard or read the story . . . were all people who chafed under subjugation by a foreign power. Their natural tendency would be to presume that God was with them and not with their oppressors.”[18]



[1] “Study helps for the book of Ezekiel should include a musical instrument—a guitar or recorder. Ezekiel is noted as a musician, one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument (33:32).” Millard Lind, Ezekiel, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1996), 13.
[2] John J. Collins, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible: Second Edition (Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 2014), 371.
[3] Walther Eichrodt, Ezekiel: A Commentary (Philadelphia, PA.: The Westminster Press, 1970), 1.
[4] Ezek 33:21; 40:1.
[5] Katheryn Pfisterer Darr, “The Book of Ezekiel,” New Interpreter’s Bible, A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, vol. VI,  Leander E. Keck, et al., eds. (Nashville, TN.: Abington Press, 1994), VI:1082-3.
[6] Michael Coogan, The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version, 4th ed. (New York, NY.: Oxford University Press, 2010), 1160.
[7] L. S. Tiemeyer, “Ezekiel, Book of,” Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship (Downers Grove, IL.: IVP Academic, 2012), 219.
[8] Leslie C. Allen, Word Biblical Commentary: Ezekiel 20-48, vol. 29 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1990), xx.
[9] G. W. Bromiley, “Ezekiel,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988; 2002), 2:250-52; David Noel Freedman, “Ezekiel, Book of,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 4 vols. (New York, NY.: Doubleday, 1996, c1992), 2:714-16.
[10] Eichrodt 1970, 308.
[11] This is my compilation, cf. Lind’s list, “Ezekiel has his own list of Ten Commandments”: (Lind 1996, 187).
[12] Darr 1994, 1315.
[13] Cf. Gen 18:20-33; Jer 5:1-5, although seemingly contradictory to Ezek 14:12-20.
[14] Cf. 9:10; 11:21; 16:43. Jesus, when dealing with the corruption of his own time made references similar to that of Ezekiel: Matt 23:37-39; Luk 13:33-35; 23:28-30. Upon contemplation of this, I recalled the poem by William Blake, “Prologue, Intended for a Dramatic Piece of King Edward the Fourth.”
[15] John Goldingay, class lecture, Chronicles and Esther Part 2 (27:49),” OT500: The Writings as an Introduction to the Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary, Fall 2010.
[16] Patricia M. McDonald, God and Violence: Biblical Resources for living in a small world (Scottdale, PA.: Herald Press, 2004), 77.
[17] David A. Leiter, Neglected Voices: Peace in the Old Testament (Scottsdale, PA.: Herald Press, 2007), 10.
[18] Douglas Stuart, Word Biblical Commentary: Hosea-Jonah, vol. 31 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 502.

With Us or Them?

I am currently working on a project that is related to the book of Jonah. Here is some commentary on Jonah's attitude in chapter 4 that struck me as being particularly relevant to our day:

"It is always easier to assume that God is with us more than he is with our enemies. In war, how can God be on the side of the foe? Whether it was the time of the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, or the Persian Empire (etc) those Israelites who heard or read the story of Jonah were all people who chafed under subjugation by a foreign power. Their natural tendency would be to presume that God was with them and not with their oppressors. But they could not confine God to serving their own interest! Jonah’s resentment at having his fears come true strikes at the complacency of the audience." 


Douglas Stuart, Word Biblical Commentary: Hosea-Jonah, vol. 31 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 502.

Before too long, I will be posting a more detailed look at this idea of nationalism and political hegemony as it relates to God being with "us," and against "them."

For All Nations - A Reflection of Mark 11:12-25

I sincerely apologize again for my negligence in posting new material on the blog. I have finished my school semester so I will try to post more frequently, as time allows.

           Mark has the theme of “son of God”[1] as its bookends.[2] This work was written at a time when the emperor claimed divine status with this title. Here, Jesus was declared the son of God, and there could hardly have been a more “counter-political message”[3][4] for the Markan audience. However, he was characterized by acts of mercy, kindness, and intervention on behalf of the oppressed rather than cruelty, brutality and selfish ambition.
            When considering the content of Mark and the ways it differs from the later traditions found in Matthew and Luke, there are numerous elements that stand out. Matthew and Luke[5] quote from Jeremiah 7 but only Mark has the more complete reference to Isaiah 56:7, “for all the nations.”[6] While there are multiple possibilities present in this text,[7] there are two particular themes of interest for this post.
First, it does not appear in Mark that Jesus is against the temple or ritual in and of itself.[8] There is the suggestion that commercialization and corruption of the priesthood,[9] at the people’s expense, is the focus of his protest. This is seen in the contrast between “house of prayer for all nations” and “den of robbers.”[10] Sources indicate that many Jews in this period were overtly perturbed with the way the leadership was abusing their authority[11] and failing to guide the God-ordained system of worship in just ways.
The second theme is the exclusion (“for the nations”) of outsiders. If the outer court[12] was the location of this scene – where the “other nations” worshiped – it opens the possibility to Jesus addressing the exclusion of those desiring a close proximity to God and being interrupted by an elite system of greed. Israel’s calling was to be a light to the nations and a kingdom of priests. The intended role was to put God on display, thus drawing others in, not keeping them out. And it appears that the temple had grown quite popular among the Gentiles[13] in the time of Jesus.
Jesus’ action, as N. T. Wright comments, was more than only symbolizing the Temple’s destruction and a “mere intention to replace the present temple with a new one,” it was also a critique of what the system had become, which fits within the eschatological dynamic of Jesus.[14] Daniel Kirk summarized it well: “Thus, the cursing of the fig tree, together with the indications that a new exilic state for the temple is looming, make a stark statement about the state of the temple and likely its leadership, according to Jesus. Not being a time for fruit,[15] it is a time for judgment.”[16]
In sum, if Christians today earnestly seek to be a peaceful people, the ethics and concerns of Jesus must be adopted in practical ways. At times, unity among God’s people is sacrificed in favor of uniformity. Those “who understood their humanity and their religiosity differently that that of the dominant voices of the text”[17] have often been marginalized for it.
The point is not necessarily to emulate Jesus’ actions exhibited here, but rather conclude that action belongs with conviction. Even though tensions can appear too mountainous to move, this is not a new phenomenon. When one individual is willing to take a stand on behalf of those who will not, or cannot, anything is possible. “For those” – says the Apostle Paul – “who are led by the Spirit of God are children [sons] of God” (Rom 8:14 NRS).




[1] Nuances to this title are found within Hellenism and Hebraic tradition. See Karl-Josef Kuschel, Born Before All Time?: The Dispute Over Christ’s Origin, trans. John Bowden (New York, NY.: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992), 311-13.
[2] There are however numerous manuscripts from various text groups lacking the phrase “son of God.” Adela Yarbro Collins and John J. Collins, King and Messiah as Son of God: Divine, Human and Angelic Messianic Figures in Biblical and Related Literature (Grand Rapids, MI.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008), 126.
[3] Willard M. Swartley, Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 93.
[4] Cf. Romans 1:4.
[5] Matthew 21:13; Luke 19:46.
[6] J. Marcus draws the distinction that the citation in 1 Macc 7:37 is restricted to Israel alone, while Mark has a universal nuance. Joel Marcus, Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries: Mark 8-16. (New Haven, US: Yale University Press, 2009), 783.
[7] Eugene Boring notes five proposals having been argued in this text. Eugene. M. Boring, Mark : A Commentary  (Louisville, KY.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 320-21.
[8] Judgment against the temple could be concluded from 11:12-25; 13:1-2. He is accused in 14:49, 58; 15:29. Exposing the corruption of what the system had become is arguably different than opposing the Temple cult.
[9] It is also worthwhile to note the critique of scribes in 7:1-13; 12:39; etc.
[10] Steve Moyise, Jesus and Scripture: Studying the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 2010), 22.
[11] N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 2 (Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 1996), 413.
[12] This is not the most plausible historically as Adela Yarbro Collins notes, “The narrative description of Jesus' actions does not emphasize the Gentiles or their relation to the temple. This lack is especially important since the outer court, where the actions probably took place, was not called the 'Court of the Gentiles' in the time of Jesus and Mark.” Adela Yarbro Collins and Harold W. Attridge, Mark A Commentary: Hermeneia: a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 2007), 526.
[13] Marcus 2009, 783.
[14] Wright 1996, 417-18.
[15] Or perhaps it could be that the Messiah disagrees with the tree about whether it is time for fruit. The demons believe that Jesus has come to torment before the proper time. But if the Messiah is already here, it is time for the temple to be producing the fruits of righteousness.
[16] J. R. Daniel Kirk, “Time for Figs, Temple Destruction, and Houses of Prayer in Mark 11:12-25,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 74 (2012): 522.
[17] Renita J. Weems, “African American Women and the Bible,” in Stony the Road We Trod, ed. Cain Hope Felder (Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 1991), 74.

Christian Patriotism and the War Machine

There's got to be a better way 
What is it good for?

. . .

War, I despise 'cause it means destruction of innocent lives
War, means tears to thousands of mothers how
When their sons go off to fight and lose their lives

. . .

War, it ain't nothing
But a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker
It's an enemy to all mankind
The point of war blows my mind
War has caused unrest
Within the younger generation
Induction then destruction
Who wants to die

War, what is it good for?
Absolutely nothing

Edwin Starr, War

Regardless of one’s eschatology or opinions of political policy, categorizing any political state as though it is the legitimate recipient of God’s favor before all others is a gross mistake with detrimental ethical repercussions.


The allegiance of members within the community of God to a "nation state," as though God were taking a particular side, is troubling. There are many who are convinced that God is with the United States, including its perpetual military endeavors. For some, this is rooted in the mistaken notion that this nation was founded upon and still is an inherently "Christian" nation, blessed by God. What about those who serve God in territories we have invaded and afflicted? If they cry to God against us, who is God obliged to answer? 


“For it is not right that a worshipper of God should be injured by another worshipper of God.” - Lactantius, A Treatise on the Anger of God (ANF 7.271). 

Far too often, theology has been poured into an ideological mold for the purpose of casting a nationalized image of God to fit worshiped, political agendas. 

"Believing that God accompanies one’s army is always comforting, and a people can perhaps be braver the more inclined they are to view God as able and willing to come out in their defense.” Patricia M. McDonald, God and Violence: Biblical Resources for Living in a Small World (Scottdale, PA.: Herald Press, 2004), 77.

When did Christianity become so inseparably intertwined with political agendas and identities? Why is it that a "conservative" Christian will question the faith of someone they deem as "liberal" or who identifies with another political party?

The history of humanity, including Christianity, is strewn with a trail of blood where imperialistic aspirations have been religiously justified as though they were God’s own desires. See David A. Leiter, Neglected Voices: Peace in the Old Testament (Scottsdale, PA.: Herald Press, 2007), 10.

“You kill one person, they lock you up and throw away the key. You kill three-hundred thousand and they give you a knighthood.” PBS Masterpiece, Endeavor, S1E1, 48:46 (In the context of what happened to Hiroshima).

What does Jesus have to do with Caesar?


Dr. John Goldingay on Israel and Palestine

This is a brilliant statement of crucial importance:

“Does God still protect Israel? Well, God still protects the Jewish people. In our time we have to make a distinction between the state of Israel, which is a state like any other and the Jewish people, most of whom live outside the state of Israel. And declaring that God is committed to the Jewish people does not mean that you reckon that God is committed to the state of Israel, particularly over against the Palestinians. But it’s hard, I think, for Christians to make those distinctions.” 

Dr. John Goldingay

Strong Finishes and Fresh Starts

It has been a great year. There is much on which to reflect, both good and otherwise. While the changing of one digit to another on the calendar is no major accomplishment in and of itself, it has and continues to be a cultural phenomenon that promotes reflection, identifies with fresh starts and new beginnings. I love that. 


As I did last new years eve, I've listed the most viewed posts of 2016. But first, I wanted to let you in on what has been happening. I have not posted much in the past few months, and I doubt that my frequency will increase in the near future. The blog is not going anywhere, but I am.

Having begun seminary, it has demanded my undivided attention. For those who may be inquisitive, my focus is on biblical studies, not in pastoral ministry of an official capacity as often equated with seminary attendance. Between school, taking care of my family, my obligations around my house and those people in my life (who I am grateful to call "friends,"), I have little time to devote to other cyber activities. 


This will not be permanent, and as projects present themselves as capable of being quickly turned into posts - which I think you will enjoy - I won't hesitate to share them. I appreciate your readership and interest in this blog, so stay tuned; "patience, patience my love," as Gollum said to himself.

Here then are the most popular posts of 2016:












I'll leave you with this benediction:

This year may truth be a stranger you meet on the road, welcome into your home and with whom you form strong bonds of affection. 

May you subsequently seek out her travel companions, wisdom, prudence and meekness until you have thoroughly exhausted yourself in doing so. 

May the love of God flow from your lips and fill your heart, spilling over into the lives of others. 

May your heart groan over the abominations and injustices done in the earth, while your hands rise to defeat the chaos and meet needs of our world in God’s Name. 

May your mouth be slow to speak, creating good not causing evil. 

May your ears be open, quick to listen and not for that which feeds their own desires. 

Let the words of your mouth and the deepest desires of your heart be pleasing to your God. 

May you follow rabbi Jesus so closely that the dust from his sandals clings to you as an ornament from your head to your feet, revealing your desire and passion to walk in his steps.

Wishing you and all your loved ones a wonderful year ahead.


- Shaun

Hans Küng on John's Christology and the Shema

In a little reading of Hans Küng's Judaism; Between Yesterday and Tomorrow, I came across these statements:

“In this Gospel [John] ... there cannot yet be any question of a ‘metahistorical drama of Christ’, the objection often put forward by the Jewish side. Precisely in this late, fourth Gospel, we still have statements like: ‘And this is eternal life, that they may know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ Or, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. Here there is a clear distinction between God and Jesus Christ.

No, this Gospel too does not contain any speculative metaphysical Christology – torn from its Jewish roots – but rather a christology of sending and revelation associated with the world of Jewish Christianity. However, its statement about pre-existence, understood in an unmythological way, takes on heightened significance: ‘John does not investigate the metaphysical nature and being of the pre-existent Christ; he is not concerned about the insight that before the incarnation there were two pre-existent divine persons who were bound together in the one divine nature. This way of conceiving of things is alien to John. So too is the conception of a 'begetting within the Godhead.' 'I and the Father are one.' This statement has nothing to do with any dogmatic-speculative statements about the relationship of the natures within the Godhead.' So what was John's positive concern? What stands in the foreground is the confession that the man Jesus of Nazareth is the Logos of God in person. And he is the Logos as a mortal man; but he is the Logos only for those who are prepared to believe, trusting God's word in his word, God's actions in his praxis, God's history in his career, and God's compassion in his cross’ …


If the Jewish tradition has always held unshakeably to a basic truth of Jewish faith, then it is the ‘Shema Israel’, Hear, O Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone! … This confession of the unity and uniqueness of God meant the strict repudiation not only of any dualism but also of any trinitarianism.”

Hans Küng, Judaism; Between Yesterday and Tomorrow (Continuum, 1991), 382-3.

Resources for Educational Purposes

I have benefited greatly in the past from the generosity of various professors and institutions of higher education, who have made resources freely available to those who may otherwise never have the opportunity.

With the rise of the internet has come a tool of incredible power to share and learn, but with it comes the danger of widely disseminating falsehood as well. There are endless circular quotations and content that is taken as legitimate but is often not the case. Fake news, propaganda, falsified information and amateurs purporting to be experts can find unsuspecting audiences, unaware of what they are consuming. As individuals, it is our responsibility to be prudent with the information we take as "truth" and "fact." This is where reputation can play a large factor; find it in a book.

One particular tool that has been useful is iTunes University. It is like podcasts or video-casts provided by Colleges, Universities and Seminaries. There is an incredible amount of classes able to be taken on your own and at no expense. Many even contain the handouts and syllabi to provide the full experience. I have utilized this resource on many occasions including (but not limited to) classes from Yale, AMBS and Fuller Theological Seminary. The disadvantage is that it is limited to Apple users, but it has been worth it to me to have an Apple device for this reason alone.

Another option is "The Great Courses." Some of the most well-known teachers from respected institutions have lectures covering any range of topics and areas of study. These can be downloaded, or (my personal favorite) found in your local library system. If you have not been a regular patron of your local library, you are missing out on an incredible resource with dedicated people possessing an extraordinary knowledge for aiding you in your quest. As Matt Damon's character Will said in Good Will Hunting,

"You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for $1.50 in late fees at the public library."
  
There are other options as well, such as reputable professors making their classes available on a site like YouTube. One in particular I will note is Craig Keener. He has magnanimously made various of his lecture series available to all, such as Romans and Matthew. Dr. John Walton has similar lectures: Job.



There are lectures given in a series, such as those the Lanier Theological Library in Houston has done at regular intervals. They host various scholars giving talks on a variety of topics. Their videos are archived on Vimeo

For someone who may be interested in learning a foreign language, I highly recommend Simon and Schustler's Pimsleur (and Little Pim for Children). Again, these are resources that will be readily available at most local libraries.