Category Archives: Hermeneutics

wives, husbands & ephesians 5:22

http://blog.taramoss.com/media/2/submit_1.jpgThis week’s announcement of a new marriage vow to be introduced by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney* has caused quite a stir across a range of circles.

The vow, which is expected to be approved at the synod of the Sydney Diocese in October, and which may not in fact comply with federal laws, would require a minister to ask the bride regarding her groom, “Will you honour and submit to him, as the church submits to Christ?” and for her to pledge ”to love and submit” to her husband.

These words are taken unmistakably from Ephesians 5:22:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

Complementarians regularly claim that their understanding of this text is in line with its “plain meaning” or “plain sense”. In other words, women submitting to men in marriage (and often in other areas) is the literal meaning of the text.

But the idea of a “plain meaning” of a text, particularly ancient texts far removed from our own chronological and geographical context, is at best questionable. Read the rest of this entry

“it shall not be so among you”: authority and the bible

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

– Mark 10:32-45

In the above passage, and its parallel in Matthew 20, we are told that James and John want to be placed in positions of high rank when Jesus conquers Jerusalem. Their fellow disciples are incited to anger. Jesus, however, in his usual style, redefines the nature of the topic at hand. Authority is used by the Gentile imperialists for violence and control, but disciples of Jesus are to enact something different, a servant authority, even to the point of death.

Such a vision of authority stands in stark contrast to the authority of the world. 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

younger than the happy meal? evangelicals, abortion and ahistoricism

An interesting and revealing article appeared on a Patheos blog some days ago claiming that the current and standard Evangelical view on abortion, that human life unquestioningly begins at conception, can in fact be traced to a point no less recently than 30 years ago.

In his post, entitled The ‘biblical view’ that’s younger than the Happy Meal, Fred Clark shows quite convincingly that the contemporary black-and-white approach to abortion, an approach that has been taken for granted by many as simply biblical, was not in fact the view of conservative Evangelicals 30 years ago. Read the rest of this entry

reflections on piper’s “masculine christianity”

Hello readers! It’s nice to be back on board life.remixed after a week of work travel – apologies for the gap.

Since I’ve been away for a little bit this post will be reflecting on an event from last week. Though it is a little old, I feel that this event deserves some treatment, particularly since I have been asked about it a number of times.

On Wednesday last week the Christian Post ran a story entitled John Piper: ‘God Gave Christianity a Masculine Feel’. It reported that Piper, at the 2012 ‘Desiring God’ Conference (which he founded), declared “God has given Christianity a masculine feel.”

The full transcript of the sermon records that Piper, speaking to a room full of pastors, backed up this claim by saying:

God has revealed himself to us in the Bible pervasively as King, not Queen, and as Father, not Mother. The second person of the Trinity is revealed as the eternal Son. The Father and the Son created man and woman in his image, and gave them together the name of the man, Adam (Genesis 5:2). God appoints all the priests in Israel to be men. The Son of God comes into the world as a man, not a woman. He chooses twelve men to be his apostles. The apostles tell the churches that all the overseers—the pastor/elders who teach and have authority (1 Timothy 2:12)—should be men; and that in the home, the head who bears special responsibility to lead, protect, and provide should be the husband (Ephesians 5:22–33).

The sermon goes on, concentrating largely on the ‘masculine’ life of 19th-century English bishop John C. Ryle. I will refrain from quoting it at length (click the link above for the full text). Much has been written on other blogs, so I will simply offer some points of interest as to why I think Piper’s claims are simplistic, exegetically sloppy and ideologically-driven. Read the rest of this entry

q&r: luke 19 and the parable of the minas

A Facebook message I received today read simply:

Luke 19 – parable of the 10 Minas. Please explain?

Straightforward. I like that.

The Parable of the Ten Minas is a well-known parable whose popular interpretation has God as the nobleman and Christians as the servants. In this reading faithful servants are those who are productive. We all have different levels of resources, and this is taken into account by God. Ultimately though the faithful are rewarded and the unproductive are punished.*

The problem with this reading is that it portrays God as a cold, cruel, greedy elitist. It assumes that the nobleman in the parable, who is a wealthy character, should be equated with God. As I have said previously this is a mistake; Luke consistently portrays the rich in less than flattering ways throughout his Gospel:

  • … he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. (1:53)
  • … woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. (6:24)
  • … the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God. (12:21)

It would be strange if Luke suddenly equated God with a rich man.

If the nobleman is not God, and the story is not about productivity, what exactly is going on in this parable? Read the rest of this entry

bible infallibility & the act of reading

Someone on my Facebook News Feed wrote the other day something along the lines that God used fallible people to write his infallible Word (the Bible) and so people should stop thinking they are smarter than God (I assume by questioning this apparent fact).

I don’t mean to disrespect this person (if they are reading this, hello!) …

… but I do wish to ask questions about this way of thinking.

To me the idea of an infallible Bible is riddled with problems. This is not because I doubt the power of God in any way, but rather because I doubt the ability of humans to write anything that is infallible, even under divine inspiration.

(Yes that’s right, I am differentiating infallibility and inspiration – they are not the same thing.)

Some may argue that God can overcome the shortcomings of humans to achieve his will, including the composition of the biblical text. This is however a problematic claim – does God override the will of the person to do so? Why use a person at all?

We could explore this for ages, so I’ll move on to my main question Read the rest of this entry

select your character: identifying with bible “heroes”?

I am often amazed at the parallels we draw between ourselves and characters in the Bible.

We are taught as early as Sunday school, and certainly in much contemporary preaching, to identify with the so-called “heroes” of the Bible.

Just as Moses trusted in God and performed great signs, so too can we if we trust God too!

Just as David slew Goliath, so too can we overcome our “giants”.

Just as Jesus challenged the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, so too should we challenge hypocrisy.

Now, I’m not necessarily denying the basic truth of these statements… Read the rest of this entry

old testament violence: is God really genocidal?

On this blog I have written a good number of posts on violence in the Bible, arguing for a robust theology and practice of nonviolence based primarily on the ethics of Jesus.

The number one question I have received in response to these posts has been, “But what about violence in the Old Testament?”

This is an important question, for it is not simply about whether the Bible advocates violence – it is about whether or not God himself is violent. Read the rest of this entry

hell raiser: francis chan and “erasing hell”

A few months ago I watched this video and I’ve been meaning to write something on it, though I’ve had it on the backburner for a while.

The video is a preview/advert for Francis Chan’s now-released book, Erasing Hell. I should note I have not read the book, nor do I plan to in the near future (PhD studies… they ruin everything). For this reason I do not know in any definite way what Chan’s view is on the subject of Hell, nor is it directly relevant to this post. I should also note that I am not interested in discussing the content of the book, but only of the video.

The video begins with an air of humility, including the use of biblical metaphors to demonstrate how much lower we are than God, just as clay to the potter. So far so good. Read the rest of this entry

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