Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Something Just to Think About...

I can't say I ever heard much in WCG, nor did I ever speak much if at all on the Birth Narratives of Jesus when pastoring.  I think it was subconsciously avoided due to the over reaction the church had to all things Christmas.  I gave one sermon on both accounts twice in two different places towards the end of my ministerial career explaining why the Birth Narratives were added to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and how they simply cannot be harmonized and that was not the point anyway.  The conflicts over why there would be genealogies of Jesus in both books giving rather human roots to Jesus but then the birth stories which made genealogies moot as God was Jesus father are endless.  Apologetics goes into overdrive when discussing the Birth Narratives of Jesus.  My view, as you should know by now, is that the Narratives are not harmonious and it obvious that neither writer read the other's story before writing their own.  They were added to the Gospels accounts and are not eyewitness accounts of anything.  While not trying to sound too harsh or pointed, there were never really any Wise men, shepherds watching flocks, angelic choirs, roaming stars, flights to Egypt, the slaughter of the innocents or quiet trips back to Nazareth after 40 days.  These stories are mined totally from the Old Testament Scriptures, as was the writing style of the times, to give Jesus a spectacular birth fit for the Son of God.  The Caesars had them so why not Jesus...

If one is genuinely interested in the background of the Birth Narratives, one of the definitive works on the topic is by Raymond Brown in his classic, The Birth of the Messiah.  It is a heavy hitter and he admits to having to his own caution not to offend the Magesterium of the Church and get himself bounced.  Father Brown removes any doubt as to the intent and mistakes made my the authors of the Birth Narratives that would not be tolerated today.  He even takes Ernest Martin, of WCG fame , to task for his unfortunate literalism which lead Ernest Martin to all sorts of calculations about the Star of Bethlehem etc.

The Birth Narratives of Jesus as found in Matthew and Luke are fascinating.  I would like to point out one aspect of the genealogies which lead from Abraham to Mary.  I would like to point out that in this genealogy are four WOMEN, which of itself is rather unheard of in genealogies of this type.  But what is more interesting is that the four are not the women one would expect.  There are no Sarahs, Leahs or Rachels.  No Deborahs or even Eves, though she might make the cut on this one.  The four women included are all fallen women with questionable backgrounds.  They were as included in the text....

Matthew 1:

"The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah."

To refamiarize yourself...

Tamar -Daughter-in-Law of Judah

Tamar-  Tamar was accused of prostitution on account of her pregnancy. Upon hearing this news, Judah ordered that she be burned to death. Tamar sent the staff, seal, and cord to Judah with a message declaring that the owner of these items was the man who had made her pregnant. Upon recognizing his security deposit, Judah released Tamar from her sentence and accordingly she was able to give birth to twins, Perez and Zerah. Perez is said to be the ancestor of King David. The Genesis narrative also makes a note that Judah did not have further sexual relations with Tamar. (Genesis 38:24-30)

Rahab, the Harlot who helped the boys out 

Rahab, (/ˈr.hæb/;[1] HebrewרָחָבModern Raẖav Tiberian Rāḥāḇ ; "broad," "large"; GreekῬαάβ) was, according to theBook of Joshua, a woman who lived in Jericho in the Promised Land and assisted the Israelites in capturing the city. Nearly all English translations of Joshua describe her as a harlot or prostitute.[2]

Ruth the pretty relative of incestuous ancestors

Ruth the Moabitess,  (a Gentile through whom no heir to the Messiah could come.) the great-grandmother of David, and, according to the Gospel of Matthew, an ancestress of Jesus.  The Moabites were descended from the incestuous relations between Abraham's nephew Lot and his oldest daughter after the destruction of Sodom (Gen. 19:33-38)

Bath-Sheba because she was taking a bath.  If she was taking a shower, she'd be "Shower-Sheba."  (Radio Preacher truth I heard here in town.  I added the shower part.)

Bathsheba (Hebrewבת שבע‎, Bat Sheva, "daughter of the oath") (Arabicبثشبع‎, "ابنة القسم") was the wife of Uriah the Hittite and later of David, king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah. She is most known for the Bible story in which King David took her to sleep with him.  (But they were not really sleeping:)

Why fallen women?  Because it was not uncommon for the early Church to have to defend Jesus birth as not illegitimate and Jesus a bastard is why.  In John 8 we have an argument that goes wildly out of control between Jesus and the Pharisees over who really can claim God as their Father.  It ends up Jesus telling them their father is the Devil and they are all liars.  The Pharisees respond with stones. So much for turn the other cheek.  Just before this knockdown, we have the story inserted many years later and not in any originals showing that texts were indeed edited along the way to fit agendas, of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery.  Jesus basically reminds the men they all have done it too in one way or the other and they slink away.  All is forgiven.  Was the author responding to his misunderstanding of the charge in John 8:41 that unlike Jesus, the Pharisees were not born of Fornication?  Maybe....   The spin off doctrines of trying to keep Mary a Virgin and thus herself clean and Jesus perfect have been many.  One embellishment of a story leads to the need for many more to explain how the last one could be. 

Including the four fallen women in the genealogy was some one's attempt  to send the message that no matter, even if Jesus had a questionable birth and circumstances were dicey at best (no one really knows anything about Jesus actual birth date or circumstances), God can work through fallen women to accomplish his goals so get off Mary and Jesus back!  The inclusion of the women was an admission that few would buy the "Dad, Joseph...I have something to tell you.  I am pregnant but not to worry.  It is by the Holy Spirit and the baby will be the Messiah because God begot him in me.  I am really still a virgin."   "Oh ok...great!" was probably not going to be any real response by the men in Mary's life.  Joseph is a bit player in the play and comes and goes from the scene quickly.  

I recall a several brilliant questions from a teen to me once which left me only with, "Wow..great questions!"  I was asked how old Mary was when she had Jesus.  Tradition says below the age of 16 and maybe as young as 12.  He asked if that wasn't a crime?  Prolly!    He then asked me who was Mary's husband when she had Jesus?  Well we might say Joseph but he was not the father of Jesus .  It was God according to the story.  He then asked me why that would not be considered fornication on God's part since God may have been the father but not the husband...  See what I mean about one story leading to another to explain the last one!  He finally asked me a third question about the text that says Mary was with child "by the Holy Spirit."  Ummm...Mr. Diehl, who's child was this?  God's or the Holy Spirit's?  The problem gets bigger if you imagine the HS as a third person of the one mysterious thing.  Another topic where one answer produces the need for more stories.  I liked that kid!  He's probably an Episcopal Priest somewhere now!  He would probably understand this...and be ok with it too.

...but that's another story  :)

At any rate, tis the season to hear the story over and over and I know if you were in WCG or are in the Splinters, you not only won't hear much of the story but you certainly won't hear the why and how of them and the fascinating politics going on behind the scenes which required them to be inserted in the text.  Let's face it, if the geneologies lead from God or Abraham or Adam and Eve back to Jesus, without miraculous stories, then why do we need them?  The fact is that the geneologies were probably much older in the text than the come later Birth Narratives suited for another time.  Rather than remove them, because they were already so popular, they just let it be complete with all the conflict doing so would bring theologians and thinking Christians for the next 2000 years.


Homer said...

The picture indicates "Birth of 'God's Sun' at Winter Solstice". Consider this, could the birth be one day after the winter solstice. Solstice meaning "sun stands still" for 3 days after the shortest day. Hmm-mm-mm, 3 days and 3 nights - sounds a bit familiar to another bible story. Could most or possibly all the stories in the bible be allegory or as Jesus called them - parables. Even Paul said the story of Abraham, Sarai and Hagar are allegory. The bible has some fantastic lessons to be learned if we looked for and to the underlying meaning rather than the literal meaning which is generally taught.

Corky said...

Homer said...
Even Paul said the story of Abraham, Sarai and Hagar are allegory. The bible has some fantastic lessons to be learned if we looked for and to the underlying meaning rather than the literal meaning which is generally taught.

This "underlying meaning" is how Christianity was ripped out of context from the Septuagint from the start. A gentile form of Jewish "midrash" is what it is. Paul called it "the spirit" of the word as opposed to "the letter".

I think Paul was wrong about the Sarai and Hagar story being "allegory" and also wrong about "Abraham's seed" being an allegory about Jesus. They weren't meant to be allegories but part of the literal history of the Jews as the chosen people. IOW, the Jews are the "seed" of Abraham and all of Christianity is based on a wrong method of interpreting Jewish "scripture".

Anonymous said...

I think you have the wrong Tamar.

Anonymous said...

The genealogy you quoted refers clearly to Judahs Tamar, some generations before David. She has a fascinatig story tho - RSK

David said...

The Tamar in Jesus genealogy is not the same Tamar you mention.

Anonymous said...

Yep...wrong Tamar.

RSK said...

Well then, here's a fine chance to prove how much you shed your former pastordom: Admit you're wrong!

Seriously, though... accounting for Judah's Tamar means Jesus had at least two known instances of incest in his ancestry... eww.

You know, some COG apologist could turn this all around and say "SEE! INCEST CAN BE GODLY!"

Anonymous said...

Mr. Diehl I would like to know what you have to offer after you have succeeded in casting doubt in the minds of those who believe the story of Jesus and the eternal plan of a God who is the source of what we call life. It is quite evident that the human mind as great as it is, is incapable of controlling the destructive damage created by those who are focused on their personal understanding of the stories man creates. I agree there are abuses in the use of these stories, but there are also factual lessons that deal with the core problems in a world populated by human life.
A. Boocher

DennisCDiehl said...

Corky said:

"I think Paul was wrong about the Sarai and Hagar story being "allegory" and also wrong about "Abraham's seed" being an allegory about Jesus.

Correct. Paul's misuse of "and that seed was Christ" because the verse said "seed" which he thought was singular and not "seeds" which he thought was the plural of seed.

He would also have thought sheeps was plural for sheep.

Paul is one of the classic misusers of the Old Testament to make his points. He turned the stor of Hagar and Sarah along with the story of Moses and his veil on their heads leaving theologians shaking their heads over his reasoning.

You guys are correct. Wrong Tamar. My goof. While the Tamar of raped by Amnon would be a good choice here, it was Tamar of Judah. She was however fit for the part of fallen woman as well. As said of her...

" So because she was impatient and unwilling to wait for God to supply her need, she hatched a scheme to cause her father-in-law Judah to sleep with her. Her plan was simple: Dressing up as a shrine prostitute, she seduced Judah into sleeping with her, whereupon she became pregnant and gave birth to twin boys—Perez and Zerah. When she confronted Judah with the truth, he said (rightly), “She is more righteous than I.” Indeed, no one looks good in this story, which reeks of greed, deception, illegitimacy, prostitution, sexual lust, and even the hint of incest. Whatever you can say about Judah (and it’s not very good), you cannot by any stretch of the imagination make Tamar look good."

The audience would have had the same reaction to this Tamar as the one in Samuel.

The geneologies were written when Jesus was just considered a human Messiah by Jewish Christians trying to show he was connected to David and thus qualified etc. The more fantastic stories came later. The writers of the Geneologies never head of the Virgin Birth as neither did Paul For Paul, Jesus was born of a woman, and it was evident he "sprang out of Judah." The Virgin Birth stories come much much later in the game.

Thanks for the correction. Theologians when they speak of these four do mean Tamar of Judah and not of the Amnon story.

DennisCDiehl said...

Mr. Boocher asked:

"Mr. Diehl I would like to know what you have to offer after you have succeeded in casting doubt in the minds of those who believe the story of Jesus and the eternal plan of a God who is the source of what we call life."

I am not intending to cast doubt in the minds of believers. However, the Sunday School version of the stories are not helpful and cause most people to never ask the hard questions about the who, what, when, where , why and how of scripture.

A mature Christianity, to me, is not the WCG, RCG, UCG, PKG, LCG or Baptist fundamentalist version. The same question could be asked of anyone, such as a Bart Ehrman, Father Raymond Brown, Karen Armstrong, Ellaine Pagels or Dan Barker who explain very well the origins of everything from Judaism and the evolution of El to YHVH to Jesus in the Bible, to the real origin and intent of birth and resurrection stories.

The problem is not anyone shaking up anyone's faith. The problem is people's faith being built on the wrong Western model of fundamentalist and literalist religion and theology when it was NEVER meant to be seen as such.

While "Away in the Manger" and "Up from the Grave He arose" make wonderful passion plays and I have played parts in both as a child, one has to put away childish views of the actual story and ask the hard questions that make any faith a real faith and not one easily shaken by learning that what one has always been taught may not quite be what was ever intended to be taken as it was in our Western culture.

When Jewish scholars read Paul's explanations of Jewish scripture as it pertains to the story of Paul's cosmic Christ , they shake their heads in wonder over the blatant misquoting and misues of Jewish sensibilities.

I have never found learning a more realistic view of the Bible threatening and I certainly am not interested in hurting the faith of those who could not care less about learning more about it themselves.

DennisCDiehl said...

The Apostle Paul, who wrote, lived and died long before the rest of the NT was written by others never knew any human Jesus of the Gospels. He never quotes the Gospel Jesus even when it would be to his advantage to do so. His Jesus was Christ, revealed to him in visions and crucified in the heavens. The Gospel writers brought the Cosmic Christ of Paul down to earth and the literal story took off from that. The New Testament is not in a helpful order to understand this.

First we have Paul writing his theology

Then we have the Gospels

Then Acts tries to make Paul look more atuned to the Jewish Apostles than he really was in Galatians.

Then various letters and epsitles mostly written by others not really who they claimed to be but trying to build up the faith of early Christians in the name of this or that original Paul or Peter. It was a very human endeavor and game at times. Early Church fathers knew very well how many "Gospels" "Epistles" and "Writings" were out there that were not genuine. The New Testament let some of those in the mix.

One simply has to drop the Sunday School version if one is ever to understand the story as intended and not as presented even in the WCG version of YES lessons.

The church wrestled for hundreds of years over Jesus birth circumstances. They also saw the problems with geneologies and Virgin Births. These are not new concepts or problems to theologians who notice them.

And it is ok to notice them. Can one at least admit it is odd that such women made it into the list? Can anyone see someone was trying to send the message that God can work things out through who ever he wants even if you wonder about Jesus real birth circumstances? Can God use bad people to bring about good things was someone's message lost on most.

Is it wrong to ask the ultimate question of Jesus birth? Just where do babies really come from?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Diehl, I will restate my question. What do you have to offer that is better without the story of Jesus and the eternal plan of a God who is the source of what we call life. The story of the virgin birth plays an important role in the Christian faith. What has been preserved as scripture deals with the failure of humanity to solve the problems of human relationships with God and fellow man. The simplicity of the gospel message is that God has a plan for human life and for that plan to be completed there was to be way for God to go through a death and a resurrection. This is the whole story in a nut shell and accepting it requires faith. We cannot accept that all the human reasoning is useless.
A. Boocher

Anonymous said...

It didn't take much to be a 'fallen woman' in those days. Most modern women would be fallen I am sure. It just took a miserable jealous husband, and you are a fallen women, and if you are unlucky you might get stoned and your children sold into slavery.
And what is a harlot or prostitute, perhaps just another word for a woman with a jealous husband. Seems like most of the women following Jesus were of this type, but maybe they were just not locked up at home and they actually spoke to a man who was not their husband, and this was enough to give them the label.

Anonymous said...

In Tamar's case due to the Levirate that was later codified in the Mosaic Law her actions proved "more righteous" than Judah's since she had a legal right that she was simply exercising albeit under beguiling means. Judah's actions, however, in resorting to prostitution to satisfy his sexual urges makes the double standard plain for all to see considering that he demanded Tamar to be executed for her "apparent" fornication (or harlotry) even though she really wasn't, but Judah was!
I believe that it all ultimately shows that God can use man's wrongs to bring about His righteousness i.e. through Judah's wrong, Lot's wrong (or in actuality his daughters'), David's wrong etc. the Christ still was born as a man!

Byker Bob said...

I'd say that people are probably going to find whatever they are looking for in these narratives. Some would take it that Jesus really humbled himself incredibly, being born into a geneology of fallen ones and sinners. Actually, the Jews had a long tradition of having recognized adoption as grafting an individual into the genealogy of the adopting father. It seems totally cool that the Son of God would have been adopted into such a rich and diverse heritage.

Me? I'm just happy that some really special customers have invited me to share Thanksgiving dinner with them tomorrow! Hope all our friends on this blog have much for which to be thankful this year, and always!


Byker Bob said...

By the way, Tamar has really got it going on! What a fox! Got any more pix of her?


Anonymous said...

Some ostriches get very fond of that warm sand.

DennisCDiehl said...

"The simplicity of the gospel message is that God has a plan for human life and for that plan to be completed there was to be way for God to go through a death and a resurrection. This is the whole story in a nut shell and accepting it requires faith. We cannot accept that all the human reasoning is useless.
A. Boocher "

If that approach works for you, that is fine. It does not work for me. Having an alternative faith or answer is not the point of pointing out there is much more to the "old old story" that we all loved to tell.

Faith cannot be "proven" and lies outside of testing or proving in my real life experiences. Faith is just faith until facts come along and drive the faith filled nuts with annoyance, anger and defensive apologetics.

I am content to not be so sure about what others say the Bible says, means or promises. If it is true, great! There is just so much more to learn than contained in the pages of any one book written by humans over many years and no, it does not all agree with itself.

I can live with the wonder of being a conscious hairless hominid that is the current product of millions of years of slow change and adaptation. That's a miracle to me more than women being made from men's ribs and men from dust whole and complete right on the spot. That is mythology and if one can't see that, then they can't see it.

But to answer again our original question...My having the alternative answer or something to offer in the place of anything just because I am not comfortable with something is not the point.

I like that every atom in my body came from stars that had the courtesy to explode and puke their guts into the universe, as physicists say. Going back to stardust is a spiritual concept to me. If conscious awareness goes on in some form, that would be nice too. I don't believe in the cultic and jealous little god of the OT. The Hubbell telescope has shown how petty that one is as written about by priests to push their own religious agendas.


Homer said...

Hear! Hear! Dennis.

Your last paragraph of your last post is right on, IMHO. My previous post with my statement concerning allegory does not preclude the existense of a source of power which the collective voice of man has described as GOD. It is quite evident there are many opinions concerning what and who GOD is and IMHO those many opinions of the various nations and tribes are based on a way to explain the source of that force. Those explanations used allegories, metaphores and parables to explain the things above,(sun, moon, stars) which are not easy to explain. Hence, we have the many religions of the world and the many variations of a particular religion, sect, denomination or splinter of whatever group one may prefer.

One definition of allegory is, "An allegory conveys its hidden message through symbolic figures, actions, imagery, and/or events."

Unfortunately, over time, those "stories" came to be understood as actual, factual, historical people, places and events. The most unfortunate thing is that some realized the power over others if this information could be used to control other people and "relgion" gained its foothold in the lives of men. That is why I have stated many times, "All religion is man made."

During the past 9 years my thoughts have been redirected concerning this subject and - for me - I have a completely different understanding about what GOD is. This way of thinking and and understanding is not complete. There is much yet to be learned. These statements are made without any desire to convince anyone to change their belief or understanding.

The comment made by Dennis, "I like that every atom in my body came from stars...." made me think of the following youtube video.

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder about the morality of prostitution throughout the lives of various OT personages. Besides those you mention ie Judah obviously frequented prostitutes seeing his daughter in law devised a plan to disguise herself as such to get pregnant; the two men sent to Jericho possibly visited a house of ill repute while they were there seeing they befriended Rahab who was a prostitute. I've noted even Samson seemed to have a sexual addiction or weakness (probably due to all that excess testosterone running through his veins?) seeing he hired a hooker in Gaza (Judges 16:1). I know that as Xian men we aren't supposed to have sex outside of marriage, but it seems these guys (& gals) were permitted to engage in it without any condemnation. Fair enough the Catholics (like Hwa) teach masturbation is wrong, but we know there's no bible support for this teaching. Even Hwa was guilty of this "vice" all of his life!

old EXPCG hag said...

Something else to think about,

Speaking of "Ho's"...

Seems all I hear is about WOMEN being prostitutes, sluts (as Gerald Flurry calls them), and all the other wonderful names men put on women to demean/degrade them.

Time after time in the bible women were raped by men, and continues as a normal thing for some men to this day. Men cheat on their wives all the time and so on and so on.

HWA had the same perverted way of looking at women. This is why he ordered them not to wear make up in the WWCOG. This was also a form of control against them. All along, he was being a whore, slut, harlot etc., himself!

Everything starts at the top. Whoredom started with MEN!. If men didn't want it all the time, there wouldn't be any women prostitutes or harlots out there taking advantage of men's LUST-FULNESS and WHORING AROUND!!

Always a double standard. Men expect women to be pure/chaste ...BUT THEY ARE NOT.

So take that Gerald Flurry!!