Category Archives: Old Testament

pentecost and the subversion of empire

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel (1563)

In the Bible there are perhaps few images of “empire” more poignant that that of the Tower of Babel.

This narrative tells the story of an attempt to build a city and a tower with its top in the sky. This is of course no mean feat – the building of such a magnificent tower, historical or otherwise, is an accomplishment of considerable time, effort and determination. Read the rest of this entry

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is wealth God’s blessing to the righteous?

Is it true that God blesses the righteous with financial wealth? Does he want to bless you with such wealth?

I’ve been a Christian for little over a decade and I’ve heard such a perspective propagated dozens of times in a wide variety of denominational backgrounds – God wants his people to be rich, and financial and material wealth is a form of his blessing.

This view is normally derived from the Old Testament, particularly from the stories of Abraham and his family. It is true, God does indeed bless Abraham and his sons with wealth:

And the LORD has blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he has given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses. (Genesis 24:35)

Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. (Genesis 26:12–13)

There is no getting around the fact that wealth is here viewed as God’s blessing by the author. However there is no definitive reason to view these reports as constituting a prescription for us. Read the rest of this entry

“enough is enough”: walter brueggemann on abundance and scarcity

Below is an article by Walter Brueggemann entitled “Enough is Enough”. Brueggemann is a world-renowned Old Testament scholar, prolific author and a prophetic voice in a world dying for lack of imagination. I don’t normally post exterior articles, but this is more than worth the exception.

Source: The Other Side, November-December 2001, Vol. 37, No. 5.

Enough is Enough

“In feeding the hungry crowd, Jesus reminds us that the wounds of scarcity can be healed only by faith in God’s promise of abundance. “
by Walter Brueggemann

We live in a world where the gap between scarcity and abundance grows wider every day. Whether at the level of nations or neighborhoods, this widening gap is polarizing people, making each camp more and more suspicious and antagonistic toward the other.

But the peculiar thing, at least from a biblical perspective, is that the rich – the ones with the abundance – rely on an ideology of scarcity, while the poor – the ones suffering from scarcity – rely on an ideology of abundance. How can that be? The issue involves whether there is enough to go around – enough food, water, shelter, space. An ideology of scarcity says no, there’s not enough, so hold onto what you have. In fact, don’t just hold onto it, hoard it. Put aside more than you need, so that if you do need it, it will be there, even if others must do without. Read the rest of this entry

q&r: genesis and evolution?

What is your opinion on evolutionary theory vs. creation theory?

I have been apart of a discussion where both sides were argued, the evolutionary theory being that God instigated or created the cellular/atomic structure that began evolution, and that Adam and Eve are the result of the human evolution from cells to animals to primates to people, and the garden of Eden only begins after all the evolving is finished. I had not really heard this theory before, and find it somewhat uncomfortable, as I was a pure creationist at the time, but given that believing either theory doesn’t really change anything in the course of Jesus coming here and dying, I really don’t know what to think.

I’m not sure that anyone really knows what to think. Knowledge is a clumsy beast, though humans seem to think they can completely tame it.

Evolution is far from proven, but according to the majority of biologists it is the best theory (or theories) we have right now. Might it be developed in the future? Yes. Will it be changed? Yes. Will it be disproven? Maybe. Would that “prove” creationism? No – disproving evolution does not prove creationism.

There is a lot I could talk about here, including the false paradigm of debating faith and science, and also issues in modern scientific philosophy. What is my personal opinion? At this point I believe in evolution, inasmuch as it is the best option out there that I know of. Many people will disagree, and that’s fine.

But that is a moot point, since I am no biologist. What is important for me as an exegete is how we read the Bible. The pertinent question is, does the Bible have anything to say about the prehistory of the world and humanity? Read the rest of this entry

“god bless you!”: what is blessing?

When something becomes customary in a culture, such as the recitation of the phrase “(God) bless you!” following a sneeze, it often happens that the meaning of that custom is lost in habit.

So what does it mean to be “blessed” in a biblical sense?

Some people understand it to mean something like good fortune.

Others see blessing as referring to material wealth, as in some strands of contemporary Christianity.

Some Christians think blessing refers to God’s favour, and this can be understood in a great number of ways (including material wealth as above).

For others blessing is almost a physical thing to be passed on (as with some understandings of the story of Isaac, Jacob and Esau).

I have constantly wondered what blessing is. Read the rest of this entry

sodom and gomorrah: punished for homosexuality?

Saturday just gone was an important day in Australia for LGBTQI* people.

The Australian Labor Party (the current government) voted on its policy position regarding same-sex marriage at its National Conference; it voted to change its platform in support of changing the Marriage act to include same-sex couples.

In addition was a rally held in the Sydney CBD, with somewhere between five to ten thousand participants, calling for marriage equality in Australia.

In response to these events many Christians I know on Facebook posted comments critical of the push for the recognition of same-sex marriage.

Some, on both sides of the argument, were reasoned and thoughtful, recognising that there are in fact different viewpoints on the matter. They merely sought to offer an opinion in a respectful way.

Others were not so gracious.

But what struck me most was the amount of Christians posting quotations from the Bible, completely out of context and, by my judgement, absent of any form of exegetical investigation.

Something that I found fascinating was the repeated quotation of verses pertaining to Sodom and Gomorrah. Read the rest of this entry

rethinking bible “heroes”: how wise was solomon?

In my last post I looked at the character of Joseph in Genesis and suggested that perhaps he became a far more sinister character than is often thought.

I also suggested that the way we perceive some Bible characters could have more to do with our taste for imperial theology than with thoughtful reflection.

In this post I will turn my attention to Solomon.

Solomon

Most Seasoned Bible readers are aware that Solomon did not, as is often said, “finish well.” He married a lot of foreign wives for the sake of international diplomacy and compromised himself with their gods.

Despite this ending it is often thought that Solomon ‘started well.’ But how true is this? By comparing aspects of Exodus and Genesis with Solomon’s story in Kings we might be surprised by what we find. Read the rest of this entry

rethinking bible “heroes”: joseph the imperial henchman

Sometimes when we read the Bible we impose our own worldviews and values on the text.

One area in which this is apparent is that of “Bible heroes.” Are these people all we crack them up to be?

In the space of a few posts (maybe consecutive, maybe not, I haven’t thought about it yet) I’m going to explore some of the characters in the Bible who may have been misunderstood, for better or for worse.

Joseph

No, I am not talking about the stepfather of Jesus.

The son of Jacob’s story can be found in the later chapters of Genesis. He is often esteemed as a great man of God, someone to be imitated. Joseph, it is said, overcame great hardship, even his own attempted murder and imprisonment, only to be put into a position of great authority in Egypt by God: Read the rest of this entry

tgif (trash goes into flight): the bastardisation of creativity

Turn on the radio and you’ll find yourself bathing in the cesspool that is popular music.

Whoa, slow down there cowboy! That’s a pretty harsh way to start, you can’t open with that!

Maybe you’re right. I suppose that lots of music on the radio is actually very good. But you have to admit that a good deal of it can hardly be called beautiful.

Yes, yes, you’re right on that one. But on the other hand beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and those songs you’re talking about tend to be very popular, hence why they are on the radio. Somebody must like them!

Of course, I’m not denying their appeal. But I think the problem with these songs goes beyond their appeal.

What do you mean?

Well, I wonder what makes a song beautiful, or creative. Surely much of what appears in the music charts cannot be said to be creative.

That opens up a big set of questions. What does it even mean to be creative? Read the rest of this entry

what is eternal life?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16 is possibly the most famous verse in the Bible. It is so often said that its promise is life everlasting for those who believe in Jesus.

Certainly in our modern vocabulary the word “eternal” means “forever” or “everlasting”. Eternal life is almost universally understood as everlasting existence, immortality or life “in heaven”.

(Type “eternal life” into Wikipedia or Google and you’ll see what I mean. It does, however, also yield the song “Eternal Life” by Jeff Buckley… sublime.)

But is eternal life (zōē aiōnion) really the same thing as “everlasting” life? Is that what is meant by the phrase in the Gospel of John? Read the rest of this entry

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