14 September 2010

Sep 14

Reference links:
Old Testament

Isaiah prophecies against Moab. Isaiah prophecies against Damascus. Isaiah prophecies against Ethiopia. Erika wonders if she is going to be able to get through Isaiah without losing her mind...

Isaiah's God is a vengeful God. The language of destruction and desolation are repulsive. The violence goes beyond the requirements of justice to the extreme of revenge. These sounds more like the words of Isaiah, the man living in uncertain and fearful times, than any God worthy to be called such.

Also, Eglath-shelishiyah is an awesome place name.

New Testament

We start a new letter today: the letter to the Galatians. According to Harris in Understanding the Bible:
Like the letters to Corinth, this letter to the Galatian churches reflects Paul's ongoing struggle with opponents who challenged his apostolic authority and his "gospel" that believers must live free of the Mosaic Law. An angry declaration of Christianity's independence of Judaism, Galatians vigorously defends Paul's doctrine of salvation through faith. The letter also proclaims Paul's independence of Jerusalem's Christian leadership. 
This uniquely Pauline gospel [that only faith in redemption through Christ can obtain salvation] revolutionized the development of Christianity. By sweeping away all Torah requirements, including circumcision and dietary restrictions, Paul opened the church wide to Gentile converts. 
Paul has a twofold purpose: (1) to prove that he is a true apostle, possessing rights equal to those of the Jerusalem "pillars" and (2) to demonstrate the validity of his gospel that Christian faith replaces works of law, including circumcision.
It is important to remind ourselves just how much these ideas about salvation are uniquely Pauline. Many of the standard ideas of Christianity came from Paul's interpretation of his knowledge of Jesus. Given that the gospels, which were written after Paul's letters, have very little overlap in things like the finer points of salvation, it seems reasonable to assume that in Paul's time and after, there were multiple competing Christian traditions (the difference between the gospel of John and the synoptics presents yet another potential competing tradition).

Although Christians like to look at the Bible as having a unified message, it is important to realize that the authors themselves came from diverse backgrounds and would, most likely, often have disagreed with each other, even if you only consider the authors of the New Testament books.

On to today's content! Paul admonishes the Galatians for following a different gospel than the one he preached (more proof of competing traditions) and defends his authority. Here we see Paul claiming that his authority comes directly from Jesus and is independent of (but approved by) existing authorities.

Psalms and Proverbs
Commit yourself to instruction;
listen carefully to words of knowledge.
Random musings today. People often think they are committing themselves to  knowledge and instruction when, in reality, they are actually only committing themselves to knowledge and instruction that match their preconceived notions.

I have had people reject what I have to say about the Bible just because I am an atheist. That's just dumb. I may be an atheist, but I am also someone who has spent 8.5 months reading and learning about the Bible. I have under my belt what is probably the equivalent of two semesters of Biblical introduction classes. There is a ton I don't know, but I have learned a lot, and it disappoints me when people dismiss what I have to say just because they think they only need to listen to those who share their same conclusions.