Review of “Covenant and Creation: An Old Testament Covenant Theology,” by William Dumbrell

Before I begin, I should state that I read Covenant and Creation because of a very strong recommendation by Rev. Steven J. Boint. Reverend Boint has had a profound effect on me. It was Boint who introduced me to Einstein and Kuhn — my philosophy of science and understanding of epistemology are largely the product of his instruction. Additionally, Reverend Boint is the author of Did Jesus Die for Dogs?, a popular book on a Christian theology of our common home. There’s strong parallels to Pope Francis’s Laudato Si, and I’d advice anyone interested interested in one to also read the other.

My take on William J. Dumbrell’s Covenant and Creation is in several parts. Dumbrell rejects the central core of Christianity. He introduces “covenant theology,” without explanation and without consistency towards what covenants were. His translation style is unusual, and his view towards others who fear the LORD is hostile. The scriptures are sanitized. And the Son of David is rejected.

The Creator, A Creature


Dumbrell appears to reject the central reality of Christianity: that the Creator became a creature. Christianity transcends the fundamental categorical distinction between the contingent and the unconditional, because the baby born of Mary is Himself the LORD.

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:6-7

But while this view is clearest in Christianity, it is immanent within the Hebrew bible itself.

For instance, the climax of Exodus is the Creator transcending the same divide: the transcendental Being beyond the universe dwells in a tent, and speaks of Moses face-to-face, like a friend. He will always, really and truly, be with the Israel

When the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.
Exodus 40:34-38

But even though the LORD’s cloud was with them, in all of their journeys, Dumbrell rejects this:

“The temple in the Old Testament is designed to remedy for Israel a lack of the divine presence” (p.38)


“And a result of Israel’s sin, God is now only to be indirectly present through the leadership of an angel as Israel’s guide to the Promised Land.” (p. 140)

This is because God is to great to b enshrined, to noble to dwell on the earthly plane:

The transcendent character of God is certainly referred to, and no doubt, in the question of v.5 in the impossibility of enshrining him. The notion could not be entertained that [the LORD] should ‘dwell’ (i.e. sit enthroned) in a temple! (p. 221)

Though, of course, such a notion was entertained by others…

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.”
John 2:13-17

Imagine Dumbrell’s response to the claim that God Himself took the form of a servant…

The Covenant, A Surrender


In the ancient near east, a “covenant” was an Instrument of Surrender between a weaker polity and a stronger one. Covenants included the identity of principals involved, lists of witnesses from each party, the specific obligation fo the conquering power to protect the surrendering power, the specific obligations (including various forms of tribute) from the weaker party to the stronger party, and consequences in the event of covenant breach. The combined text of Japanese Instrument of Surrender and General Order No. 1 together would furnish a covenant by the ancient understanding. Likewise, the LORD’s Covenant with Moses

Covenants are one of multiple ways that Trinity communicates with man in the Hebrew Bible. There are internal monologues, blessings, oaths, curses, marks, visions, and so on. For a reason not explained, “covenant theology” elevates Covenants over these other Divine Communiques as governing documents. Such a view of the modern would would, say, require understanding of US-Japan relations to focus on the Instrument of Surrender and General Order No. 1, but not the Treaty of San Francisco or the US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement. In relations between man and man, relying exclusively on Instruments of Surrender would be incomprehensible. No justification is given for applying it in relations between men born of women and the God born of woman.

An obvious objection to this “covenant theology” — a history of God’s relationship to man based on Instruments of Surrender — is that it excludes much. This would as that would be like viewing all of American history as,say, the story of the Surrender at Yorktown. Seemingly anticipating objections, Dumbrell merely states that it is restrictive to insist the meaning of covenant be treated as analogous to any other use of the covenant concept in any other context. In other words, the idea is de novo.

To this, Dumbrell adds the belief that a “covenant” does not necessarily include witnesses, polities, and so forth. The reason is that Dumbrell seeks to collapse all covenants into one, and assert that all of creation history is the story of the covenant of God with Adam, with other covenants being either special cases or instantiations of methods designed to bring this about.

“What this means in real terms is that there is only one biblical covenant, with the end to be reached from the beginning always in view,” (p. 8).

At this point the term “covenant” loses all meaning except for what it Dumbrell wants it to mean.

The Text, A Muddle

Josiah's Reform

The slippery definition of “covenant” in the book is compounded by the quixotic method of translation used. There is a difference between translating and explaining a text. A good example is , in which a vivid sexual metaphor is used to emphasize God’s promise to Abraham. The imagery and the meaning are both clear to adults, but confusing to children. The advantage of separating these two functions – translates and explanations – is that pre-printing-press writing was often fraught with multiple meanings as a method of increasing information density. In this context, an attempt to “explain” instead of translate Genesis 22:17 would lose either the vividness of the imagery (which itself emphasizes the pain of childlessnesss), and bowdlerize the passage out of the pains of adulthood into something as generic and meaningless as a child’s understanding of the problem.

In other words, conflating “translation” and “explaining” collapses a passage fraught in a superstate of multiple dimensions of meaning into only one meaning. Most of the potential and information is lost by Dumbrell’s style of translation.

A specific example of his translations is the Hebrew word “qum,” literally meaning “stand-up.” A context often used would be to “stand-up a covenant.” The literal expression “stand-up” is commonly used in information technology, where it means to create something new. In both English-language communities (technical and military/governmental) were the phrase “stand-up” is used as a verb, it means to create something new. It is in this context that to stand-up a covenant is used multiple times in the Bible, for instance Genesis 6:18, Exodus 6, 2 Kings 23, and so on.

Dumbrell emphasizes covenants with Abraham, Moses, and Josiah. Much of Dumbrell’s argument relies on asserting that these were not new covenants, but merely continuations of an older one.  This is not the sense any trustworthy translation I could find.

Genesis 6:18
New American Standard Bible
“But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark– you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.

King James Bible
But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.

Young’s Literal Translation
‘And I have established My covenant with thee, and thou hast come in unto the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy son’s wives with thee;

Robert Alter
And I will set up my covenant with you, and you shall enter the ark, you and your sons and your wife and the wives of your sons, with you.

In all formal equivalent translations the tense of the verbs are either both in the future tense (as the covenant with Noah and entering the ark are in the future), or both in the past (as the LORD relates the near future to Noah). Dumbrell arbitrarily selects different tenses for the verbs, and declares it to be a great mystery when a previous covenant with Noah was established (though he is silent on Noah’s family having supposedly already entered the ark!)

Since divine covenants are reassurances to humanity of divine intention, why then, at Genesis 6:18, the mention of a previously unexpressed divine commitment without human involvement? (p. 17)

Yet subsequent uses of the same Hebrew verb, across these four translations, also interpret it as establishing a covenant, as opposed to renewing one:

Exodus 6:4
New American Standard Bible
“I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned.

King James Bible
And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers.

Young’s Literal Translation
and also I have established My covenant with them, to give to them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojournings, wherein they have sojourned;

Robert Alter
And I also established My Covenant with them to give them the land of Caanan, the land of their sojournings in which they sojourned.

… and …

2 Kings 23:3
King James Version:
The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to carry out the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people entered into the covenant.

New American Standard Bible
And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.

Young’s Literal Translation:
And the king standeth by the pillar, and maketh the covenant before Jehovah, to walk after Jehovah, and to keep His commands, and His testimonies, and His statutes, with all the heart, and with all the soul, to establish the words of this covenant that are written on this book, and all the people stand in the covenant.

Robert Alter
And the king stood on a platform and sealed a covenant before the LORD to walk after the LORD and to keep His commands and His precepts and His statutes with a whole heart and with all their being, to fulfill the words of this covenant written in this book. And all the people entered into the covenant

The four translations above came out in the 15th, 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, respectively. And none of them agree with Dumbrell.

Dumbrell’s “translations” are thus as useful as Anthony Cekada’s Introduction to the Mass of Paul VI. Both are thought provoking and intelligent, but with an unpredictable pattern of conflating their personal opinions with objective descriptions.

The Faithful, A Remnant

jerusalem messianic seal

Dumbrell makes special notice of the idea of a “remnant,” that while many believers have fallen away a core, real group of religionists will still be saved. Dumbrell does not explain or defend this concept, but its influence can be seen in his antagonism toward Catholicism and Judaism.

Not only does Dumbrell believe that God abandoned Israel at the end of Exodus, he believes that (after, temporarily, taking her back), God finished the divorce in the Gospels:

Finally Israel’s rejection of her Messiah, in John 19:15 by “We have no king but Caesar,” will mean the end of the national relationship with [the LORD].” (p. 144)


However, when Pilate presented Jesus to the Jews with ‘Behold your King,’ the chief priests answered for Israel, ‘We have no king but Caesar (John 19:14,15). This was the final and tragic covenant breach, making national Israel merely a nation without a cause. (p. 192)

But even Dumbrell’s legalistic view, how could this sever the covenant, because the High Priest was not in the crowd — the High Priest was Christ Himself!

There are three obvious criticisms of this.  First, from a Catholic perspective, this is simply incorrect:

We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). The Church, which shares with Jews an important part of the sacred Scriptures, looks upon the people of the covenant and their faith as one of the sacred roots of her own Christian identity (cf. Rom 11:16-18). As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thes 1:9). With them, we believe in the one God who acts in history, and with them we accept his revealed word.
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, pp 247

Second, from a Sola Scriptura perspective, the people literally ask for the blood of the savior — the perfect moral detergent — in the same episode:

And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!”
Matthew 27:25

Third, for the experts in the law, the Letter to the Hebrews explicitly addresses the relationship of the people to God in light of the Sacrifice:

Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them
After those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws upon their heart,
And on their mind I will write them,”
He then says,

“And their sins and their lawless deeds
I will remember no more.

Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Hebrews 10:11-18

Christ, as High Priest, ensured the blood of the sacrifice would be on the people. Moses did no less.

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
Exodus 24:5-8

But Christ’s sacrifice was perfect, once and for all. The death of the High Priest did not create an eternal divide between the LORD and His People, but an eternal closeness.

The God described by Dumbrell though is constantly pulling out the rug. “Now Israel is to be the replacement for Adam” — Israel stole God from Adam, but lost Him to the “New Israel”…  the new wife.

Throughout the text Dumbrell spells out phonetically the Divine Name, instead of using common substitutes such as the LORD, the intentionally mispronounced pseudonym “Jehovah,” or by making reference to the Tetragrammaton. This is odd, considering Covenant and Creation’s position itself as an explicitly theological book, written in a theological institute. The use of such terminology seems specifically designed to alienate Catholic or Jewish readers, and is further ironic considering this paragraph by Dumbrell.

The third commandment declaims against the divine name taken in vain, for the name is an expression of all that can be known of God. All possible misuse of the divine name in perjury, sorcery, curse, blasphemy, false prophecy, empty vows, or anything that leads to any kind of falsehood, deception or harm is warned against. The breach of this commandment is to be punished by the severing of the covenant relationship and therefore by the forfeiture of the freedom which depends on that relationship. (p. 167)

Good thing that Dumbrell is infallible, and his writing cannot possibly lead “to any kind of falsehood”!

The Prophets, Rejected


The story is Israel birth as a nation is odd.  It has an interesting structure, including Moses’s Walter White-like descent into darkness.  The Prophet, who was saved as a bay from a murderous tyrant, becomes that tyrant before he is deposed, before the military takes over, before He dies alone

And Moses said to them, “Have you spared all the women? Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD.Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.
Numbers 31:15-17

But then, after this, comes a retelling, a story that never was. In Deuteronomy, over and over again, Moses is aggrandized and others forgotten.  The reorganization of the tribes was his idea, not his father-in-law’s.  The ark’s construction was his alone, not the craftsmen mentioned in Exodus.

This same antiseptic view of the Scripture appears in Dumbrell. Bizarre claims, almost proudly out of step with reality or what has been written, are made again and again.  Here’s just one, defending King Saul:

In fact we see nothing in the reign of Saul quite like the extraordinary failure sand personal excesses which characterized the court and person of David” (p. 213)

Of course, to position David as the villain, and Saul as the innocent hero, one must forget of other events in the same book…

Then the king [Saul] said to Doeg, “You turn around and attack the priests.” And Doeg the Edomite turned around and attacked the priests, and he killed that day eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. And he struck Nob the city of the priests with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and infants; also oxen, donkeys, and sheep he struck with the edge of the sword.
1 Samuel 22:18-19

This disinfected view of Scripture extends to how it may have been written. For instance, consider the two books of laws, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. the different writing styles, different technologies described, different views of Moses, and different civil systems implied by Leviticus and Deuteronomy implies that either Deuteronomy was largely written hundreds of years after most of the material in Leviticus, or alternatively that Leviticus was intentionally constructed to appear to be much older than Deuteronomy. Neither alternative rejects the Holy Spirit’s role in authoring those books, but either alternative would provide context for how the words should be read. Dumbbell appears to completely reject such an approach, taking passages at “face value” regardless of context.

Bizarrely, Dumbrell seems to acknowledge this. In Deuteronomy, but not Leviticus, the “Levite” is described as a marginalized class. In Leviticus the butchering of animals was to be done by Levites, but in Deuteronomy this monopoly no longer existed.

“The mention in Deuteronomy 26:11 of the Levite and the sojourner, who are also, though underprivileged in the society of the time…”

but Dumbrell never closes the loop. The interpretation of Deuteronomy and Leviticus as being originally composed in the same historical time period makes no sense, even to Dumbrell, but Dumrell insists on reading them as being of roughly equal antiquity.

My suspicion of what Dumbrell is doing — and what the Deuteronomist intentionally did — is sermonizing. The Holy Spirit uses a variety of literary techniques and tropes to open the door to all.  Some books are war stories (Joshua, Judges).  Some let us see one individual life as it deforms and twists, others are comedies, or philosophy, or even erotic (the Song of Songs). And then there are sermons, a technique like all others which is dull to some and fascinating to others.

A sermon (which in the Christian tradition typically incorporates short passages from the Old Testament, the Letters, and the Gospel) takes specific passages, puts them in a coherent light, and passes by other meanings which may exist as well.  For instance, consider the Fall

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate
Genesis 3:6

Dumbrell’s description:

“‘And he ate’ (v. 6) — no words — the woman is not a temptress.”

Now, this doesn’t follow — or at best is partially true — because the purpose of quoted dialog would be to show what someone essentially is, regardless of what they did in that circumstance. Elsewhere in Genesis there are plenty of passages, where the reader’s perspective must be “Surely, she must have said more than that!”

It came about after these events that his master’s wife [i]looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”
Genesis 39:7

But Dumbrell is not trying to objective describe either events in the text or what is happening the text.  His work is academic in style but not in intended function. It is a sermon — a sermon for those who love reading — that focuses on its message and uses the Bible as a prop to do so.

The Son of David, a King


Dumbrell continues his discussion into the latter prophets, who I have not yet read. So instead I will end this review on the last paragraph of the Book of Kings. Mentioned in this paragraph is the last King of Judah before the exile, Jehoiachin called Jeconiah:

Now it came about in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, that Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he became king, released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison; and he spoke kindly to him and set his throne above the throne of the kings who were with him in Babylon. Jehoiachin changed his prison clothes and had his meals in the king’s presence regularly all the days of his life; and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, a portion for each day, all the days of his life.
2 Kings 25:27-29

My take, from almost two years ago, before reading the New Testament, was

The ending of the Book of Kings is odd, ambiguous. The House of David is in captivity, in exile, but exalted above other captive monarchs. The branch of Jesse lives. Perhaps, one day, a King will return…

Dumbrell disagrees. Using the “royal we” he writes

“We doubt, however, whether the concluding verses of 2 Kings are to be constructed in this way… Davidic kingship was not in fact restored after the exile, nor was such a restoration ever seriously contemplated.” (p. 239-240)

If only there was a way to know, if the Son of David would ever return

The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham… Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel. …. Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.
Matthew 1:1, 11-12, 16-17

The First Book of Enoch

So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?”
Acts 8:27-31

And there, my eyes saw all those who do not sleep; standing in front of Him, and blessing, and saying: “Blessed are you, and blessed is the Name of the Lord, for ever and ever!”
Enoch 39:13

This week I read The First Book of Enoch. I Enoch is accepted as part of the Bible only by two apostolic churches, the Ethiopian Oriental Orthodox Miaphysite Church and the Eritrean Oriental Orthodox Miaphysite Church. Additionally, a very similar text (with slightly different verse ordering and some additional material) was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, placing the text to the last few centuries Before Christ.

Three aspects are most notable. First, the window I Enoch opens to the culture that created it. Second, the Messianic Jewish aspects of I Enoch. Third, my own thoughts on what the this First Book of Enoch is.

ethopian oriental orthodox church

Enoch seems obviously written in Africa. The geographic descriptions match an Ethiopian composition, including the Afrocentric geography (the eastern Red Sea 33:3. paradise in the cool North Pole, 77:3). Angels, always seen as terrifying and strange, here likewise appear as “white men” (87:2) — implying that is not the normal color of men.

The Book of Enoch appears to be the product of a civilization at the very beginning of literacy. Of all verse fraught with background in all compilations of the Bible, this must be the most notable

He [The fourth Fallen Angel] taught men the art of writing with ink and paper, and through this many have gone astray, from eternity to eternity, and to this day.

For men were not created for this, that the should confirm their faith like this, with pen and ink!
I Enoch 69:9-10

The First Book of Enoch must have been spoken against writing down the words of Scripture… and now only its written form survives!

Like God-fearing writers from the Deuteronomist to Pope Francis, the author of Enoch is concerned about the natural world

And they began to sin again birds, and again animals, and against reptiles, and against fish, and they devoured one another’s flesh, and drank the blood from it
I Enoch 7:5

The most touching is an extended “prophecy,” written in the form of a children’s story, of the Bible. The action begins at creation, and includes the murder of Abel by Cain

Behold, a bull came out of the earth, and that bull was white. And after it, a heifer came out, and with the heifer came two bullocks, and one of them was black and the other red.

And that black bullock struck the red one, and perused it over the earth, and from then one I could not see the red bullock
Enoch 85:3b-4

Moses is also mentioned. Not as a Law-Giver, given Enoch’s anti-literate bias, but as a sheep leading other sheep who wish to return to their wolf-guarded pen:

And that sheep, which led them, again went up the summit of that rock; and the other sheep began to be blinded, and go astray from the path which had been shown to them, but that sheep did not know.

And the Lord of the Sheep was extremely angry with them, and that sheep knew, and went down from the summit of the rock, and came to the sheep, and found the majority of them, with their eyes blinded, and going astray from his path.

And when they saw it they were afraid and trembled before it and wished that they could return to their enclosure.
Enoch 39:32-34a

all the way through the Kingdom and the Exile, to the end of the world (including, strikingly, the a description of purgatory as a cleansing fire, and the conversion of the gentiles, as well as the New Earth)

And I saw at that time, how a similar abyss was opened in the middle of the Earth which was full of fire, and they brought those blind sheep and they were all judged, and found guilty, and thrown into that abyss of fire and they burned. And that abyss was on the south of that house…

And I looked until the Lord of the Sheep brought a new house, larger and higher than the first one, and He set it up on the site of the first one that had been folded up. And its pillars were all new, and its ornaments were new and larger than those of the first one — the old one that had been removed. And the Lord of the Sheep was in the middle of it.

And I saw all the sheep that were left, and all the animals of the earth, and all the birds of the sky, falling down and worshiping those sheep, and entreating them and obeying them in every command…

And all those which had been destroyed and scattered, and all the wild animals, and all the birds of the sky, gathered together in that house, and the Lord of the Sheep rejoiced very much because they were good and had returned to His House

I Enoch 90:26, 29-30, 33

Until, finally, all are resurrected in the perfect bodies, imitations of the Incarnate Christ:

And I saw that the house was large, broad, and exceptionally full.

And I saw how a white bull was born, and its horns were big, and all the wild animals, and all the birds of the sky, were afraid of it, and entreated it continually.

And I looked until all their species were transformed and they all became white bulls.
I Enoch 90:36-38a

The New Heaven is repeated, in a form intelligeible to adults, after the main narrative resumes

And the First Heaven will vanish and pass way and a New Heaven will appear, and all the Powers of Heaven will shine forever, with a sevenfold light.

And after this, there will be many weeks without number, forever, in goodness and in righteousness, . And from then on sin will never again be mentioned.
I Enoch 91:16-17

This is one of many introductions to the Messiah given in Enoch. In the Hebrew Bible, the relation of the Hebrew Bible is most clear in parts of the Torah, where the Father is known as El(ohim) and the Son as the LORD. In the Book of Daniel, the terms are “Ancient of Days” and “Son of Man.” Enoch prefers “Lord of Spirits” or “Head of Days” for the disincarnate eternal Father, and “Son of Man” or “His Son” for the Son.

And in those days, says the Lord, they shall call and testify to the sons of Earth about the wisdom in them. Show it to them for you are their leaders and the rewards will be all over the earth.

For my Son and I will join Ourselves with them, forever, in the paths of uprightness during their lives.

And you will have peace. Rejoice — you sons of uprightness!

Enoch 105:1-2


And I saw one who had a Head a Days and his head was white like wool. And with him there was another whose face had the appearance of a man and his face was ful of grace like one of the Holy Angels.

And I asked one of the Holy Angels who went with me and showed me all the secrets, about that Son of Man, who he was, and from where he was, and why he went with the Head of Days

And he answered me, and said to me: “This is the Son of Man who has righteousness and with whom righteousness dwells. He will reveal all the treasures of that which is secret, for the Lord of Spirits has chosen him, and through uprightness his lot has surpassed all others, in front of the Lord of Spirits, forever.
Enoch 46:1-3


ethiopian lastsupper

And the Lord of Spirits will remain over them, and with that Son of Man they will dwell, and eat, and lie down, and rise up, for ever and ever
Enoch 62:14


And at that hour that Son of Man was named, in the presence of the Lord of Spirits, and his name brought to the Head of Days.

Even before the Sun and the constellations were created, before the Stars of Heaven were made, His Name was named in front of the Lord of Spirits.

Enoch 48:2-3


But the wisdom of the Lord of Spirits has revealed Him to the holy and the righteous, and He has kept safe the lot of the righteous, for they have hated and rejected this world of inequity. And all its work and its ways they have hated in the name of the Lord of Spirits. For in His Name they are saved, and He is the One who will require their lives…

And on the day of their trouble there will be rest on the earth and they will fall down in front of Him and will not rise. And there will be no one who will take them with his hands and raise them for they denied the Lord of Spirits and His Messiah. May the Name of the Lord of Spirits be blessed!
Enoch 48:7,10



So, what is the First Book of Enoch? Like the Book of Daniel and the Revelation to John it is an apocalyptic book, but certain aspects (including an incredibly long astronomical section, and verses such as

And barrenness has not been given to a woman but because of the deeds of her hand she dies without children.
I Enoch 98:65

probably means it was rightly left out of the Bible compiled at the Synod of Hippo. At the same time, nothing in the text implies the author saw himself as outside of gentile Messianic Judaism in the decades or centuries leading to Christ.

Thus, the Book of Enoch is probably an ancient, African, equivalent to C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, a novel about death, the resurrection, and the end of the world. Both can help explain or elucidate the Christian and Jewish Scriptures. But neither, except for the Ethiopian and Eritrean Miaphysite Churches in the case of Enoch, are scripture themselves.

(Chapter and verse numbering comes form the New American Translation, Kindle Edition.)

The Revelation to John

He who writes these things, is hard to understand.

I’ve tried three times to write up my thoughts on Revelation, similar to the other books of the New Testament. I can’t. I thought the Gospel of John was hard to express in words. John’s final book, the Revelation made to him, is nearly impossible.

At least four ancient narratives are picked up, each of which involves a great deal of background. But as Genesis was “fraught with background” that was unsaid, the background of the Revelation is both said and unsaid.


The Words

Four times John is in, or goes deeper, into the spirit. And each time is preceding by a revelation

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.

Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.

Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.
Revelation 1:8, 4:1b, 17:1b. 21:9b


The Living Creatures

Four living creatures, each reflecting an aspect of God — An Eagle, a Lion, an Ox, a Man, — surround the throne of God


You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.
Exodus 19:4


For I will be like a lion to Ephraim,
And like a young lion to the house of Judah.
I, even I, will tear them and go away;
I will take them away, and no one shall rescue
Hosea 5:14


God who brings him out of Egypt,
is like the horns of a wild ox for him;
he shall devour the nations that are his foes
and break their bones.
He shall strike with his arrows.
Numbers 24:8


When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!”John 19:26

And beyond these symbols — these Spirits and states and manifestations — are the narratives.

In Revelations one of these ends


The Stories, Until Then

There is the pre-story of the Bible… Ba’al and his quest for a mansion. The Hebrew Bible repeatedly emphasizes that Ba’al should not be worshiped before God, and does not hear the prayers of Israel… but if anything the narrative assumes he exists. Indeed, the the Ba’al-worshipper Danel is included along with Job and Noah as a rigtheous gentile.

And we see in Revelation Ba’al — still there, still huge, still astride the clouds and still with his rainbow. And we see Ba’al’s words unrecorded. God’s plan for him continues, unmolested by man’s fall and salvation, as presumably God’s plans for the Andromeda galaxy continue regardless. And Ba’al’s oldest enemies are there too– the Sea Monster and Death — though of course God ends them more completely than Ba’al could on his own. The Canaanite. story of Ba’al ends with a feast, with God Himself drinking wine. And in Revelation before the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, we see old Ba’al, a fellow creature, not speaking to us, or for us, by also created by the Father, our brother in existence

I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire. He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices. Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.”
Revelation 10:1-4

There’s the story of the Bible – the woman and her children, who sail the seas and live in the cities. The woman’s care for the newborn child is the beginning of the family, and of society. But while Eve was anxious, inaccurately reporting the word of God to the serpent, and falling prey to his lies, in Revelation that dragon does not prevail. Instead the woman — not the Eve of creation but her daughter Mary — is crowned with the stars, God’s celestial army as her adornment. The story of Mary ends with her coronation, clothed with the sun, with the stars her crown.


And there’s that last story, the story the Bible is arguably about. Not Ba’al and his friends, whose adventures are the backdrop of much of biblical literature. Not the woman and her children, whose adventures must continue after the end of the Bible. But the Serpant, the Dragon, that murderer from the first.

For him no feast, and no crown.

For the Bible is the story of the defeat Serpent, the death of the Dragon.

He was once part of society — in the garden, a four-way conversation between the LORD, the Man, the Woman, and God.

Later he’s reduced to spying on Job, in a two way conversation between him and God.

And then in the Gospels, simply him and the Lord alone.

And finally, silence.

He stood on the shore of the sea.
Revelation 13:1a

man on the shore of the sea

At the end of the Serpent’s life…

The woman, who was once deceived is protected by the Earth

But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.
Revelation 12:16

And the Sea Monster and Death, who were imperfectly defeated by Ba’al, is now perfectly defeated as the Dragon himself is tossed into the second death

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown…

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death
Revelation 20:10,14

After And Before, That Murderer from the First

And that serpent, who we once spoke to us to face-to-face, like a friend, is no more.

And he said to the woman, “Though God said, you shall not eat from any tree in the Garden…” And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the garden’s trees we…”
Genesis 3:1b-3

Someone she once thought was a friend is lost. But, perhaps to the woman, a greater prize is won. That murder, from the first, might be undone

And the LORD said to Cain

Why are you incensed,
and why is your face fallen?

For whether you offer well
or whether you do not,
at the tent flap sin crouches
and for you it is longing
but you will rule over it
Genesis 4:6-7

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”

Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.


Impressions of “Biblical Games: Game Theory and the Hebrew Bible” by Steven J. Brams

biblical games steven j brams

Biblical Games is a fun book. Brams has written a basic introduction to game theory, designed to be a text used in a 400/500 level college class on the subject. But it’s also a fun introduction to the literature of the Hebrew Bible, and could be used as such in a theology class at a similar level. Plenty is missing and left out of both, but where else can you get such an unusual double-introduction?

Game theory is a way of mathematically modeling human interactions based on preferences. Game theory breaks down human behavior into a small number of games, such as the Battle of the Sexes game (trigger warning: assumes basic familiarity with human sexes).

Because the Hebrew Bible concerns human struggling in an incomprehensible world, there are plenty examples of these “games.” For example, in discussions the Battle of the Sexes game, Brams describes Samson and Delilah, David and Abigail, and Esther and Ahasuerus. While much is left out (the romantic comedy innuendo of the “golden scepter,” and the sadomasochistic subtext of Samson and Delilah, for instance), Brams treats his subjects seriously, which is far more than is done in most sermons and even much pop biblical criticism. No “dumb semite” theory here.


Biblical Games twice examines the Binding of Isaac, once presenting a preference schedule that might explains what happened in the Hebrew Bible (that Abraham did not believe his son would truly die), and another that explains an alternative set of actions (if Abraham had refused to bind Isaac).  But that each is equally convincing seems to be a problem.  If human interaction can be “formalized” — put into mathematical terms — so easily, in such contradictory ways, is not the “formalization” simply an obscurantic tautology?

Other biblical themes — such as the “fraught with background” nature of the Hebrew Bible (where much more is hinted at or assumed than is spoken) are hinted at, which makes Biblical Games a good teaser to the Old Testament. Likewise, Brams briefly describes how God almost seems to be a composite character, in some ways fully divine, in some ways a human being, in some ways proceeding from a different source…

My greatest disappointment in Biblical Games is that in discussing God, both the author’s mathematics and theology fail. In the final chapter, where Brams discusses the “theory of moves” (pdf description), he for the first time hints at the terrifying implications of “stopping power.” But otherwise God is presented as just another player, traveling in time at 60 minutes/hour with all the rest.

A time-bound God is problematic because a basic conception of God (explicitly rejected by Brams) is that He is hyper-dimensional, at least present at all possible points in time at once (which would at the very least make Him a four-dimensional being, as opposed to three-dimensional beings traveling along the axis of a fourth dimension). This would have been a neat way to introduce hyperspatial geometry, the idea that a higher-dimensional object can be “unfolded” or “shadowed” into lower-dimensional space. The shadow of the tesseract, or four-dimensional cube, can be drawn in this manner…


While the shadow of an unfolded tessaract on two-dimensional space looks like


One imagines a fuller description of God would have lead to an additional, interesting chapter, but such was more forthcoming. For “cursed is he who is hung on a tree” (Deuteronomy 21:23), as was the Son of David (2 Samuel 18:9). But such a chapter must be kept to our imagination.

Biblical Games is a fun book. It’s not the final or most convening word on either game theory or the Hebrew Bible, but its a very readable introduction to both.

Letters from James, John, Peter, and Jude

Then the LORD appeared at the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the cloud stood over the entrance to the tent.

And the LORD said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering.

They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed.

Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?’ And I will certainly hide my face in that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.
Deuteronomy 31:15-18

It can’t end like this. The anointed leader and his mother. The corruption of the Church.

The Anti-Christ, the Anti-Madonna
The Anti-Christ, the Anti-Madonna

When the Holy Spirit begins speaking in code, you know things are getting bad…

The Elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth — and not only I but also all those who know the truth.
2 John 1:1

Once, Paul could use courtroom cleverness

When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three.)
Acts 23:6-8

Now, the system isn’t so patient.

For the Lord’s sake be subject to every human institution, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority or to governors sent by the Emperor to punish wrongdoers and praise those who do what’s right, for it’s God’s will that by doing good you’ll silence the ignorance of foolish people.
1 Peter 2:13-15

So many people have been lost, the old words themselves are hard to understand. Without the ability to as questions, what was he getting at, anyway…

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
2 Peter 3:15-16

Paul’s words, unclear… or we don’t want them clear…

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:27-28

They echo… but what they echo…

The LORD will vindicate his people
and relent concerning his servants
when he sees their strength is gone
and no one is left, slave or free.
Deuteronomy 32:36

During the persecution there’s even confusion of the old bible, the Hebrew Bible. Is it this hard to find scripture anymore?

What happened when Moses died?

Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”

And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is
Deuteronomy 34:4-6

Or was it something else?

Michael the Archangel, on the other hand, when we was disputing with the Devil over the body of Moses, didn’t take it upon himself to pronounce judgment on the Devil because of his blasphemies. Instead he said, “May the Lord rebuke you!”
Jude 1: 9

What do we know about Enoch?

When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. After he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Jared lived a total of 962 years, and then he died.

When Enoch had lived years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
Genesis 5:18-24

Or perhaps, there was something else…

It was about them that Enoch prophesied in the seventh generation after Adam when he said, “Behold, the Lord came with His myriads of angels to execute judgment upon all, to rebuke all the impious for all the ungodly acts they committed and for all the harsh words that unholy sinners have spoken against him.
Jude 1:14-15

And, if you can’t quite remember, whose words are these?

Or do you suppose that Scripture is nothing but empty words when it says, “The spirit dwelling with us is given to jealous desires”?
James 4:5

The persecution is cutting down the faith. Once Christ promised he would recognize the sheep and the goats.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world

Matthew 25:31-34

But His own flock is suffering more

But if you suffer for being a Christian, don’t be ashamed! Rather, glorify God in that name. For it’s time now for the judgment, starting with God’s own household, and if it beigns with us, what will be the fate of those who refuse to believe God’s good news?
1 Peter 4:16-17

The Roman system, of humilitaing cults by revealing them to be venal and corrupt, is working. Much of the leadership went along with the persecution for their own benefit.

My children, it’s the last hour. You’ve heard that Antichrist is coming and now many Antichrists have come, which is how we know that it’s the last hour. The came form us but they weren’t of us, for if they had been of us they would have remained with us.
1 John 2:18-19

The Church no longer even speaks well of itself

I wrote something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to assert his authority, doesn’t acknowledge us. Therefore, if I come I’ll bring up what he’s doing — making unjustified accusations against us!And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brethren and stops those who wish to welcome them and expels them from the church.
3 John 1:9-10

Worse, the movement that would mestastisize into Islam is already active, emphasizing the Father alone

Who is the liar, if not whoever denies that Jesus is the Messiah? This is the Antichrist — whoever denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father, but however acknowledges the Son has the Father as well.
1 John 2:22-23

For certain persons who were long ago marked down for condemnation have snuck in under false pretenses. These impious men distort and change the love of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Lord and master, Jesus Christ.
Jude 1:4

What’s needed is action. The survival of the faith depends on people doing what is is right, not just hearing, or reading, or speaking

This means a faith deeper than mere knowledge which can be forgotten.

Be doers of the word and not just hearers, who deceive themselves. For anyone who is a hearer of the word and not a doer is like a man observing his own face in a mirror, for he looks at himself, then turns away and at once forgets what he looked like. But the person who looks into the perfect law — the law of freedom – and sticks with it, who is not a forgetful hearer but a doer, he shall be blessed in his actions
James 1:22-25

These are dark times.


Prepare for the Fire of Heaven

This is the message we heard from him and which we announce to you — God is light and there is no darkness in him. You rejoice in this, although for a short time you may have to suffer various trials so that your faith, more precious even than perishable gold which is tested with fire, may be tested and shown worthy of praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:5-7

The End of Everything is at Hand

Rejoice, you nations, with his people,
for he will avenge the blood of his servants;
he will take vengeance on his enemies
and make atonement for his land and people.
Deuteronomy 31:43

Impressions of “The Many Faces of Christ,” by Phillip Jenkins, and “The Emergence of Islam,” by Gabriel Said Reynolds

I recently read two books, both of which revolve around the diversity of the Christian church in the middle ages. One of the currents in Christianity, which had proponents in Archbishop Nestorius and the middle east, was that God would never sully himself by actually inhabiting human flesh, having a mother, or a son. Perhaps the best remembered proponent of that belief was the Arab, Muhammad ibn Abudllah.


Early Islamic coin, prominently featuring the “Chi-Rho” sign still found in Christian churches

Our knowledge of early Islam is weak.  The Qu’ran itself is vague — one might say nearly timeless — and most of “early Islamic history” comes from hadiths written centuries after.

Here is a rare, contemporary account of the rise of Islam:

In that period a certain one of them, a man of the sons of Ishmael named Mahmed, became prominent. A sermon about the Way of Truth, supposedly at God’s command, was revealed to them, and Mahmed taught them to recognize the God of Abraham, especially since he was informed and knowledgeable about Mosaic history. Because the command had come from on High, he ordered them all to assemble together and to unite in faith. Abandoning the reverence of vain things, they turned toward the living God, who had appeared to their father–Abraham. Mahmed legislated that they were not to eat carrion, not to drink wine, not to speak falsehoods, and not to commit adultery. He said: “God promised that country to Abraham and to his son after him, for eternity. And what had been promised was fulfilled during that time when God loved Israel. Now, however, you are the sons of Abraham, and God shall fulfill the promise made to Abraham and his son on you. Only love the God of Abraham, and go and take the country which God gave to your father Abraham. No one can successfully resist you in war, since God is with you.”
Bishop Sebeos The Armenian History

Chi-Rho, the first two letters of christ, surrounded by Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet
Chi-Rho, the first two letters of christ, surrounded by Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet

A large fraction of the world’s population believe a book is all you need. Muslims believe that the Qu’ran is eternal, the first born of all creation, existing with God in heaven before the beginning of time. Many Protestants believe in Sola Scriptura, “the book alone,” that the traditions and councils and history of the church are at best irrelevant and at worst harmful, because the Bible has all the answers.

There are two problems with “the book itself.” First, few Christians understand the definition or construction of their book. Second,few Muslims rely on their book alone, because of the incorporation of the hadiths into Islamic jurisprudence.

many faces of christ philip jenkins

The Many Faces of Christ, by Phillip Jenkins, is a story of the writing and editing of the New Testament. Because the New Testament we are familiar with is fixed — Four Gospels, one Acts, several letters to specific churches, and so on — there’s a sense of that’s how naturally it should be. And indeed, virtually every Christian group uses the same four gospels — those according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as their base. But there differences begin. Is Acts of the Apostles properly part of the Bible itself (almost all groups: yes), or is it a work of hagiography (writing about holy lives), or is it simply false? What about the Protoevangelium of James, which focuses on the childhood of Mary? Martin Luther tried to remove the Letter to the Hebrews from the Bible… but perhaps the problem is Paul’s letters (like the Gnostics and the Muslims believe).

The mass destruction of these “alternative” books began, not during the reign of Constantine, but during the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church’s prohibition against vernacular copies of the bible — but rarely those of “alternative” books (which were not holy and, therefore, simply works of fiction)such as the Cave of Treasures or the Gospel of James — meant those were widespread before the emergence of common-language Bibles. But “Sola Scriptura” meant that such sayings and legends no longer had a place in Protestant Christendom.

The process of creating the Protestant Bible — of perfecting Luther’s “Sola Scriptura” — finished some time after Martin Luther, around 1800. After that year the Old Testament books Luther opposed rarely were included in Protestant Bibles, but the New Testament books Luther opposed were always included in Protestant Bibles.

An example of such extra-Biblical works was the Protevangelium, best seen as Joseph/Mary fan fiction. In this passage, Mary is being raised by the Temple in Jerusalem, and is of marriageable age (12), so the Temple holds a lottery to marry her off:

And when she was twelve years of age, the priests met in a council, and said, Behold, Mary is twelve years of age, what shall we do with her, for fear lest the holy place of the Lord our God should be defiled?

Then replied the priests to Zacharias the high-priest, Do you stand at the altar of the Lord, and enter into the holy place, and make petitions concerning her, and whatsoever the Lord shall manifest unto you, that do.

Then the high-priest entered into the Holy of Holies, and taking away with him the breast-plate of judgment made prayers concerning her;

And behold the angel of the Lord came to him, and said, Zacharias, Zacharias, Go forth and call together all the widowers among the people, and let every one of them bring his rod, and he by whom the Lord shall shew a sign shall be the husband of Mary.

And the criers went out through all Judaea, and the trumpet of the Lord sounded, and all the people ran and met together.

Joseph also throwing away his hatchet, went out to meet them; and when they were met, they went to the high-priest; taking every man his rod.

After the high-priest had received their rods, he went into the temple to pray;

And when he had finished his prayer, he took the rods, and went forth and distributed them, and there was no miracle attended them.

The last rod was taken by Joseph, said behold a dove proceeded out of the rod, and flew upon the head of Joseph.

And the high-priest said, Joseph, Thou art the person chosen to take the Virgin of the Lord, to keep her for him:

But Joseph refused, saying, I am an old man, and have children, but she is young, and I fear lest I should appear ridiculous in Israel.

Then the high-priest replied, Joseph, Fear the Lord thy God, and remember how God dealt with Dathan, Korah, and Abiram, how the earth opened and swallowed them up, because of their contradiction.

Now therefore, Joseph, fear God lest the like things should happen in your family.

Joseph then being afraid, took her unto his house, and Joseph said unto Mary, Behold, I have taken thee from the temple of the Lord, and now I will leave thee in my house; I must go to mind my trade of building. The Lord be with thee.
The Protovangelium of James 8:9-16

The same nonsensical story, of the Temple lottery to determine who would mary Mary, occurs in the Qu’ran

Right graciously did her Lord accept her: He made her grow in purity and beauty: To the care of Zakariya was she assigned. Every time that he entered (Her) chamber to see her, He found her supplied with sustenance. He said: “O Mary! Whence (comes) this to you?” She said: “From Allah. for Allah Provides sustenance to whom He pleases without measure.”

There did Zakariya pray to his Lord, saying: “O my Lord! Grant unto me from Thee a progeny that is pure: for Thou art He that heareth prayer!

While he was standing in prayer in the chamber, the angels called unto him: “Doth give thee glad tidings of John, witnessing the truth of a Word from God, and  noble, chaste, and a prophet,- of the company of the righteous.”

He said: “O my lord! How shall I have a son seeing I am very old and my wife is barren?” “Thus” was the answer “doth God accomplish whatt He willeth.”

He said: “O my Lord! Give me a Sign!” “Thy Sign,” was the answer, “Shall be that thou shalt speak to no man for three days but with signals. Then celebrate the praises of thy Lord again and again, and glorify Him in the evening and in the morning.”

Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! God hath chosen thee and purified thee- chosen thee above the women of all nations.

“O Mary! worship Thy Lord devoutly: Prostrate thyself, and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down.”

This is part of the tidings of the things unseen, which We reveal unto thee by inspiration: Thou wast not with them when they cast lots with arrows, as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary: Nor wast thou with them when they disputed.

Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of those nearest to God.

“He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be of the righteous.”
Qu’ran 3:37-46

emergence of islam gabriel said reynolds

If The Many Faces of Christ is the process of hacking off “unworthy” texts from the Bible, The Emergence of Islam by Gabriel Said Reynolds is about the opposite process that occurred in the Muslim worlds: how the Qu’ran has been drowned out by the Hadiths in Muslim religious literature.

Hadiths are sayings of the prophet Muhammad.  A biblical analogy might be to King David.  David’s story was written down very quickly — the Book of Samuel seems to have been written during the time of King Solomon, and may have known King David.  But the “sayings of David,” the Psalms, were probably written hundreds of years later.

Interesting features of the Qu’ran include that iti never calls itself the Qu’ran (“Recitation”), though it repeatedly calls itself “The Book,” “The Book Manifest,” or “Th Reminder,” that the word Qu’ran itself appears to be Syrio-Aramiac and not Arabic, that the Qu’ran repeatedly emphasizes that it was written in Arabic, that the Qu’ran appears to use the Ethiopian version the Torah as a source, and that the Qu’ran, though it references many prophets, saints, the Virgin, and the Messiah, never names a known pagan idol or deity.

Why it has these features is unknown, or at least not described in Reynolds book. Rather, Reynolds spends most of it attacking the historicity of the Hadiths, which he argues were written to explain the Qu’ran to a later, and much different, imperial community.

An example of this can be found in the tale of Jonah, which is described in familiar terms in the Qu’ran

And Jonah was surely of those sent.
When he fled to the laden ship,
So he shared with others but was of those cast away.
So the fish took him into its mouth while he was blamable.
But had he not been of those who glorify (Us),
He would have tarried in its belly till the day when they are raised.
Then We cast him on the naked shore, while he was sick.
And We caused a gourd to grow up for him.
And We sent him to a hundred thousand or more.
And they believed, so We gave them provision till a time.
Qu’ran 27:139-148

This is a clear description of the biblical Book of Jonah, and even matches step by step of the veggie tales movie version of it. But later Islamic scholars, writing around the time of the composition of the hadiths, were confused where and when Jonah “fled.” The answer is explicit, indeed ridiculously so, in the opening of the Biblical book – no less than three city names occur in the first three verses

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
Jonah 1:1-3

The Qu’ran was written in a plce and time where everyone knew much of the Bible and quasi-biblical literature (the Cave of Wonders, the Torah, the Book of Samuel, the Psalms, the Protoevangelium, the Gospels, and the Letters of Paul all seem to be familiar to the author of the Qu’ran), but by the time the Hadiths were written this knowledge had been lost, and the cultural difference between Muslims, Jews, and Christians had become to vast that using the Book of Jonah as a reference was now out of the question.

A consequence of this view — that the Qu’ran is an ancient text but that the hadiths were written long after to explain to the Qu’ran — is that we now very little of the emergence of Islam. Almost Muhammad’s entire biography may be incorrect, as it is based on hadiths written hundreds of years after his life.

It also means that some odd aspects of the Qu’ran, such as using pronouns without previously identifying the noun, become even more vexing

For instance, in this passage (which begins the book, “The Israelites,” in this passage), who is “His servant,: and what are the “Mosques”

In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

Glory to Him Who carried His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Remote Mosque, whose precincts We blessed, that We might show him of Our signs! Surely He is the Hearing, the Seeing.

And We gave Moses the Book and made it a guidance to the Children of Israel (saying): Take no guardian beside Me —

The offspring of those whom We bore with Noah. Surely he was a grateful servant.
Qu’ran 17:1-3

In the hadiths, the answer is clear: the references are to Muhammad, Mecca, and Jerusalem.

But Said suggests, the answer can just as plausibly be Elijah, Jerusalem, and Mt. Sinai.

Another example is the “Satanic verses,” where Muhammad approves prayers to three….   somethings…

Have ye thought upon Al-Lat and Al-‘Uzzá
and Manat, the third, the other?
These are the exalted “Gharaniq” whose intercession is hoped for.

The names Al-lat, Al-Uzza, Manat, and the word, “Gharaniq” are words unknown before hte publication of the qu’ran. What is interceding?
Most texts will say these are goddesses, but no other pagan gods or goddesses are mentioned in the Qu’ran.  Numerous prophets, angels, and saints, though, are mentioned.  Perhaps Al-lat, Al-Uzza, and Manat are the names of prophets, angels, or saints?

Perhaps they as silent to history as St. Kilda.

Perhaps they are guardian angels?

We don’t know. There is so much we don’t know.

mary mother of jesus in quran

I’m glad I read The Many Faces of Christ before The Emergence of Islam, because the Qu’ran’s scattershot approach to the Bible makes more sense in light of how the Bible was assembled. When the Patriarch of Constantinople denied God had a mother, though venerated the Virgin, the Qu’rans denial and veneration of the same is less surprising. Likewise, the Quran’s inclusion of apocryphal works (such as the Cave of Wonders or the Protoevangelium) but apparent ignorance of the Wisdom Books, also makes sense when one considers the state of the flux the biblical cannon was then in.

Letter to the Hebrews

If you see the Father, you will die

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
John 1:18

The Son is the way we can see that which would kill us to see

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
Colossians 1:15

We cannot bear the Father, not even His love.  And we wati for the Son to come again.  But until then, the Father, in the Name of the Son, sent the Holy Spirit to us

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:26-27

The Father

The Sigil of the Fire
The Sigil of the Fire of Fires

God, that ancient of days El, spoke the stars into existence.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Genesis 1:3

These fusion reactors are his warriors.

From the heavens, the stars fought
From their stations, they fought with Sisera
Judges 5:20


Such a being – who created the hottest fires in the world, and uses them as his warriors — keeps even the sea monsters for fishing

“Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook
or press down his tongue with a cord?
Can you put a rope in his nose
or pierce his jaw with a hook?
Will he make many pleas to you?
Job 41:1-3

While not fishing for monsters, He uses monstrous creatures of fire — the Seraphim — as his throne


He lives, seated on bio-mechanical living beings

I looked, and I saw beside the cherubim four wheels, one beside each of the cherubim; the wheels sparkled like topaz. As for their appearance, the four of them looked alike; each was like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the cherubim faced; the wheels did not turn about[b] as the cherubim went. The cherubim went in whatever direction the head faced, without turning as they went. Their entire bodies, including their backs, their hands and their wings, were completely full of eyes, as were their four wheels. I heard the wheels being called “the whirling wheels.” Each of the cherubim had four faces: One face was that of a cherub, the second the face of a human being, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.
Ezekial 10:9-14

And guarded — attended — sung to — by transdimensional monsters


In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the LORD, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying…

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
Isaiah 6:1-2,4

What else can be said of it?

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.

And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
Genesis 28:12-13

The Son

The Technician Ascends to the Fire of Fires
The Technician Ascends to the Fire of Fires

But there seems to be another person who is also God. Instead of the terrible, effortless cosmic war to create the universe, there is work with hands

Then the LORD God formed a man[c] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.
Genesis 2:7-8

This LORD surrounds himself not with terrible monsters, but with humans. Humans he calls family

And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
Luke 8:20-21

Humans he calls friends

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:12-15

The Righteous King of Peace, and Friends
The Righteous King of Peace, and Friends


The Holy Spirit

The Singularity, To Which All Things React
No man has seen a naked singularity. We can detect its presence, but who can pass the Event Horizon and return?

And then there is this… other…. thing… We may call it a “person,” and “God,” because it is identified with God and is not the other two — yet —

Here, the LORD promises his “Presence”

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.
Exodus 33:13-15

By “Presence,” Moses seems to mean the Holy Spirit of God, a presence of God that is itself God

Yet they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit.
So he turned and became their enemy
and he himself fought against them.
Then his people recalled the days of old,
the days of Moses and his people—
where is he who brought them through the sea,
with the shepherd of his flock?
Where is he who set
his Holy Spirit among them,
who sent his glorious arm of power
to be at Moses’ right hand,
who divided the waters before them,
Isaiah 63:10-12

And here, the “Angel of the LORD” is the LORD Himself. Proceeding from that which He is:

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring[b] all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
Genesis 22:15-18

And here, the “Name of the LORD” seems not to simply mean the Tetragrammaton, but a being of its own will — a being of fire

See, the Name of the LORD comes from afar,
with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke;
His lips are full of wrath,
and His tongue is a consuming fire.
Isaiah 30:27

This Presense, this Angel of the LORD, this Name of the LORD, He is the Father’s Ambassador, but from the Son too. We can have the Holy Spirit, because we could not withstand the Father.

The Holy Spirit, Wings of Fire Reaching to the Rims of the Wheel
The Holy Spirit, Wings of Fire Reaching to the Rims of the Wheel

The Presence of the LORD, the Holy Spirit of God, the Angel of the LORD, the Name of the LORD are ways of describing the indescribable — that God that proceeds from God the Father, and Our Lord the Son, who we can approach, without being consumed in fire.

Preparing the Blood of the Sacrifice

The Priests Prepare to the Sacrifice, for the Blood of the Covenant
The Priests Prepare to the Sacrifice, for the Blood of the Covenant

The Letter to the Hebrews is unique in that it takes hand of both ends of the Torah — the ancient worship of El and The LORD Genesis, the priestly devotions of Deuteronomy — and shows they are necessarily both of the same religion. The religion of Abraham. The religion of Christ.

Like many have before, the author of Hebrews notes that blood is a moral detergent, and that “the blood of the covenant” was re-presented by the High Priest in the Temple… a contemporary occurrence in the author’s time

When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance
Hebrews 9:6-7

Blood is used as a moral detergent throughout the Torah. Moses bound the young Bull for sacrifice, and

Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
Exodus 24:5-8

But in the intellectual and Pharisaical tradition, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews asks — why is blood a moral detergent? Why must it be present for a command to be valid?

Because as Moses said, the blood of the Bull is the blood of the Law.

In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood.
Hebrews 9:16-18

But there is an imperfection. Not only was a bull sacrificed to the Bull El, goats were sacrificed…

He [Jesus] did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean
Hebrews 9:12-13

The Sigil of Azazel
The Sigil of Azazel

.. sacrificed to AZAZEL

“[High Priest] Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.
Leviticus 16:6-10

Thus the Law is an imperfect sacrifice — from a mortal High Priest, mediated against through creatures like the Burning Bush and Azazel. The dead cattle and dead goats are not what God is after

For I desire steadfast love[a] and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6

The imperfect blood of a dead, imperfect law, mediated by imperfect creatures.

The Lord did not want sacrifice, and it is not even clear if the Aaronic priesthood was ever valid.

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless
Hebrews 7:18

In the regulations concerning priests, the Torah reads:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron, saying, ‘No man of your offspring throughout their generations who has a defect shall approach to offer the food of his God
Leviticus 21:16-17

What man is without defect? The modern eye is probably drawn to the first or last entry in this, one of many lists of defect

or a hunchback or a dwarf, or one who has a defect in his eye or eczema or scabs or crushed testicles.”
Leviticus 21:20

Hebrews’ hammers at the imperfection everywhere in the imperfect sacrifice, mediated by Azazel and the Burning Bush.

But the Gospel According to St. Matthew, the most Hebrew of the gospels, seems to dwell on the middle peace. A defect as small as one in the eye prevents mediation between God and man

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
Matthew 7:3-6

Would a Perfect Priest walk the Earth?

The Lamb in the Center of the Wheel, the First Born of All Creation
The Lamb in the Center of the Wheel, the First Born of All Creation

Bread and Wine

If there was a Perfect Mediator, He could He could bless both God and man.

After his [Abram’s] return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Genesis 14:17-20

Hebrews gives an explanation to this passage

This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.
Hebrews 7:1-3


The Perfect Priest, the Perfect Sacrifice

The LORD, begotten by the Father, was made perfect, on Earth, in His suffering.

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 5:7-10

This allows a Priesthood to be strong and worthwhile, a perfect priest, forever

For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
Hebrews 7:28

God does not wish sacrifice, and with the perfect priest, it is no longer needed, for God Himself will not remember those sins

As the Prophet Jeremiah wrote,

No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
Jeremiah 31:34

Call Upon the Name of the LORD

Except, not really..  As the letter to the Hebrews says,

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”

then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Hebrews 10:16-17

The Prophecies of Jeremiah were voiced by jeremiah, but they were by the Holy Spirit.

And again

Today, if only you would hear his voice,
“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,

Psalms 95:8

But really

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,”

Hebrews 3:7-8

The Father is a Fire, good in the sense a Bull can be good, visible in the sense a black hole is visible, incomprehensible to human minds and unseen to human eyes.

The Son has walked the Earth, but in his human nature comes to this place, or that, in this time, or that, and so much of what He has to say we cannot bear right now.

But in He, Sent by the Father in the Name of the LORD,


To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the Name of the LORD
Genesis 4:26


And everyone who calls
on the Name of the LORD will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
there will be deliverance,
as the Lord has said,
even among the survivors
whom the Lord calls
Joel 2:23


For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.  For “everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:12-13

The Good Bull

Is the Bull Good?

tdaxp’s note: This is a speculative piece, like The Fire of the Angels. My reaction to Paul’s letters to the Colossians and Mullen’s The Assembly of the Gods may be useful for context.

God who brings him out of Egypt,
is like the horns of a wild ox for him;
he shall devour the nations that are his foes
and break their bones.
He shall strike with his arrows.
Numbers 24:8

Then take all the fat on the internal organs, the long lobe of the liver, and both kidneys with the fat on them, and burn them on the altar. But burn the bull’s flesh and its hide and its intestines outside the camp. It is a sin offering
Exodus 29:13-14

Sitting in the cab of the F-100 pickup truck, watching my grandpa with the whip, the phrase “The Bull is Good” did not occur to me.

Cruiser the bull

But if it had, here would have been my evaluation of it.

“The Bull” clearly exists. The definition of a bull — what a bull is — is an adult male Bos taurus. The white charolais standing on the gravel might be wished away through some metaphysical definition of “is” — but the act of bull that had led us to that road, led my grandpa to the whip and me to the horn — was unarguable except by the obstinate.

Likewise, the Bull clearly had the capacity to be good, of having a right or desirable quality, at least in the context of himself. The pride, strength, and anger of his design – the protectiveness and the adventure of it — was unmistakable. The bull’s actions weren’t random. There was a design.

Nor was the question if the unhuman way in which the bull was “good” – the alien conception of motivation and drive that led the fence to crash before him – the human conception of good. The bull stood naked, with no shelter or work or history – and was unconcerned with these. “Is the bull good in a human way?” might even be a meaningless question, for it is not certain if a bull could even be human.

Rather, the question is “is the bull good in an inhuman way?” Is the manner in which he crafts the clay under his feet into a path and speaks the the fear into my heart through his nostrils inhuman? He — if not this white charolais, one indistinguishable to it to the seven year old in that pickup — had crippled others like my grandfather. Perhaps he would take away the one I love now.

But I’d seen the calves that were his offspring. I’d seen the way — at a distance, but with the design clear – he had watched as he entered my grandparents (his??) pasture. He was a good cowherd. At least, to his own bullish morality.

Now, what if the Bull’s Calf had come to me, and, like Balaam’s donkey, opened its mouth?

What if the Calf had said, “Love one another, as I have loved you“?

What if He then said, “I have more to say, but you cannot bear it now.

What if the Bull told the Calf to walk down a garden path. But at the end of the path was not flowers but a dead tree. Not a feedlot but a slaughterhouse.

What if Calf then said, ‘My Bull, my Bull, why have You abandoned Me?”

white charlais calf

What if then he was taken to a kosher butcher who followed the law, pierced His slides while the blood drained out, propped Him onto a meat hook, and prepared the Calf into Veal?

What if, after three days, the Veal had once more become the Calf. True Bos taurus from true bos taurus. And the Calf said, “Did not the one on which cooking oil was poured have to suffer these things, to enter into His glory?”

(I don’t know. Why did He?)
(Because the Bull willed it.)

Is the Bull good?

Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon

Jethro, priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, was concerned.


The LORD had humiliated the Egyptian gods. He was greater than Ashtarte and Ba’al, Yamm and Mott. Greater than the other gods, The LORD must be El (God) Himself.

He said, “Praise be to the Lord, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians.”
Exodus 18:10-11

But this was not concern. His son-in-law, this man Moses, was blessed by the LORD. The LORD, God of Gods, would become the new family god. Jacob, the grandson of their common ancestor Abraham, was an ancient whose prayers must still be answered.

Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.”
Exodus 18:11-12

No, the concern was more organizational. The corporate structure that Jethro’s son-in-law had chosen was complete unsustainable. Indeed, it had led to the idling of a disturbing number of his own followers, because the greatest blocking issue had become Moses’s time

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”
Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”
Exodus 18:15-16

Jehtro chose his words carefully. In some respects he was Moses’s superior — his father-in-law after all, and his former employer. But these were Moses’s men who were idled, not Jethro’s, and Jehtro’s goal was that of program manager’s everywhere: influence without forc

Jehtro opened with a three-point outline: the current organizational structure needed to change, it decreased the efficiency of Moses’s corporate organizatoin, and was impossible to maintain

Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.”
Exodus 18:17-18

What followed next was a reorganization of the Israelite judicial, legal, and religious systems, one that would survive for centuries until the last Judge, Samuel

Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.
Exodus 18:19-26

A Once Holy Man


Jehtro was dead.

Aaron, his brother, was dead.

And what is the Holy Spirit trying to tell us?

In more blessed times, when the LORD still spoke to Moses face-to-face, the Holy Spiriture makes it clear when it is the LORD speaking

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 18:1,19:18

But whose words are this curse?

These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan—that is, in the Arabah—opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab
Then the Lord said to me,
you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.
Deuteronomy 1:1, 2:2, 21:23

Moses, who survived the Massacere of the Innocents on the Nile, had ordered the Massacre of the Innocents at Midian.

Now he cursed the the LORD who once spoke to him face-to-face, like a friend.

Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt.

He once interceded with God on their behalf

Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them…

In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”

The LORD replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked.
Numbers 14:13, 19-20

But now, he cursed the house for God that Israel himself had built

and do not erect a sacred stone, for these the LORD your God hates.
Deteronomy 16:22

Israel, Israel! Does the LORD truly hate His own house?

Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the LORD will be my God
Genesis 28:18-21

Does He hate the icons of the beloved and sleeping?

So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.
Genesis 35:19-20

More on Judges


Moses was introduced with a question: a question which implied his nationalist character and his own power

The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”
Exodus 2:13

Paul’s first recorded words also form a question. But one more in keep with the character of Job, perhaps than Moses

He asked, “Who are you, Lord?
Acts 9:5

Its interesting to keep this in mind, as Paul’s reorganization has lasted around five times longer than Moses’s.

Moses succeeded in creating a cult of personality. We know relatively little about his functionaries, jus that they were “capable” and “trusthworthy,” and the organizatoin tree. Moses — ostensibly quoting the LORD — adds that they must “follow justice”

Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.
Deuteronomy 16:18-20

And, later, another passage, with an odd addendum

Suppose two persons have a dispute and enter into litigation, and the judges decide between them, declaring one to be in the right and the other to be in the wrong. If the one in the wrong deserves to be flogged, the judge shall make that person lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of lashes proportionate to the offense. Forty lashes may be given but not more; if more lashes than these are given, your neighbor will be degraded in your sight.

You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.
Deuteronomy 25:1-4

Blessed is He, who is hung on a tree


The LORD was hung on a pole.

It had a crossbar.

Nails were used.

But the curse on those hung from frees was not the only mistake of Moses’s that Paul needed to correct. The disasterous Judge system had to the discrediting of the prophet institutions of Israel, and military-military contact between Heaven and Israel led to a short-lived (if spectacularly effective) military dictatorship

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Joshua 5:13-15

The Judges betwen Moses and the Kingdom were unable to safeguard Isreal militarily or religious. In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. And the last judge inagurated Saul as king.

Paul was aware of the parrlels, and even mischeviously quotes Moses’s odd oxen line in the context of judging

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves to be paid.”
1 Timothy 5:17-18

Ironically, Paul’s success had little to do with his actual advise. Many of Paul’s explicitly organizational recommendations are ignored

Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way— 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?
1 Timothy 3:2-5

What the core of Paul’s approach though was empathy, translating love of one another into understanding one another. We see that in how he talks to individuals based on their capacities, as well as the advise they give.

We see this within one person’s career, as 1 Timothy is addressed to a much younger person, if the same person, as 2 Timothy

The Letter to Titus is addressed to a more trusted lieutenant yet, who acted as a messenger of Paul and would have been responsible for adressing questions about meaning and intention

The First Letter to Timothy begins with a “mission-type order” that includes an objective, the goal of the objective, and a descriptio nof the adversaries that will be encountered

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
1 Timothy 1:3-7

Shortly after Paul combines flattery with an explicit analogy to war to emphasize that young Timothy is the Luke Skywalker of a celestial drama — and that his role, now is to obey

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well,
1 Timothy 1:18

An explicit view of the Church as a substitute family is prsented. The focus is on giving young Timothy clear and direct models for his interactions with others

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
1 Timothy 5:1-2

The Second Letter to Timothy, written to the same man years later, shows a closer relationship. The communication is more personal and evocative. Timothy has now been trusted with greater freedom of movement, including setting his own day-to-day objectives. Paul, likewise, drops the orders and moves onto memories of the good old days. Anyone who has seen the same upper manager talk, in one moment, to a lower subordinate and, to the other, to a colleague in another deparmtnet has seen this same shift

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
2 Timothy 1:5

Another way to see the transition is how these letters end. First Timothy, written to a junior subordinate, includes a gentle nudge to get a life and a concern about the long-term viability of zeal.

Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
1 Timothy 5:23

The Second Letter to Timothy, written to an older and more trusted man, forms intimacy in another way: through frank descriptions of trouble, both personal and judicial. Unlike in the first letter there is no order — but an honest description of the situation and implicit trust that Timothy knows when, and where, to proceed

Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.

Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.
2 Timothy 4:9-15

The letter to Titus is another rung up the pole, addressed personally to a comrade from the journies, sent to a hostile environment with the power to annoint bishops himself. The qualifications echo Jethro’s instructions to Moses:

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.
Titus 1:5-9

Amusingly for us, Paul also tells Titus how to write the sort of letters we saw in 1 Timothy!

Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.
Titus 2:6-8

The last of these letters, and the shortest, is written to a different character altogethere: a whale. An individual who contributes a disproportionate share of revenue to the organization, and thus is worthy of special concern to the organization.

The Prophet and the Apostle

Paul and Moses were once similar men. Both are fundamentally outsiders — Moses’s first language was Egyptian, and Paul — alone among the protagonists of the Bible — went to school. Both were critical in leading Israel – Moses led the Hebrews out of Israel, and Paul lead the evangelists to the gentiles.

Both also were organizational men, who set up the levels of authority that would long outlast them. Unlike Moses, who died bitter and alone, a murderer and angry with God, Paul was aware he would be emulated, and he ran the race to the end. Paul provided an example for thousands of years: his words to men of all levels, his ability to persuade without power, is something Moses could not match.

Moses left the dead in his wake. Only the men who would wrest power from him survived him.

Paul left behind friends. Those who already had lives. Those who would be changed by him, his words, and the Spirit

Moses’s staff has been destroyed. His laws recognized as a tool for diagnoses, not treatment. But the cross the law was nailed to still stands.


He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)
2 Kings 18:4-5

Happy Easter


Lord, Your father David, loving lambs but cold to men, decreed death on a man who stole even a lamb.

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
2 Samuel 12:5-6

But Your name is Mercy. You not only gave us life — You gave Your Life to make up all other sins too. You became a lamb, that that men might live

May we find You, so that we can thank you. Lord, stay with us.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
Luke 24:28-31

He is Risen


The tDAxp eXPerience