In this epistle Paul writes with discernible resignation: “…for I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith…” This obvious abandonment of hope leads some scholars to conclude the letter is a forgery, written by someone who knew something of Paul’s last days imprisoned in Rome.
Paul’s confinement is sufficient to cause one Demas to abandon him, leaving only Luke, but his restrictions are not so overweening that Paul cannot call for Timothy to bring Mark to him, or a cloak and some books he left with Troas in Carpus. Had there been no fire in Rome, Emperor Nero would have probably never scapegoated the Christians and it is likely Paul (a Roman citizen) would have been released to evangelize Spain.
The epistle presents a dilemma to many conservative bibliolaters who believe doctrine should come straight out of the book and not “tradition” because in 2 Tim 2:2 Paul specifically orders Timothy: “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
But Paul redeems himself to Protestants a few verses later when he says “Study to shew thyself approved unto God…rightly dividing the word of truth.” to the eternal bliss of the self-appointed bible interpreters who alone are capable of “rightly dividing” the Word.
In verse 3:16 Paul says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”. The Bible worshipers have a brain fart here and interpret the word “profitable” as “sufficient” in order to further deprecate Paul’s order to use oral tradition to commit the faith to following generations (an order which is reinforced in 2 Thessalonians 2:15).
Second Thessalonians is a followup epistle to the church at Thessalonika, where Paul lays out some more eschatology to Christians who were worried they missed the Second Coming of Christ. Paul assures them the Day of the Lord will not come until there’s a general apostasy that overtakes the whole church, followed by the appearance of the Antichrist who will claim to be the incarnation of God and sit in the Temple, of which, at the time of Paul’s death in 67 CE, still stood intact on Mt. Zion.
This letter therefore presents a problem to modern Christians, because thanks to Romans like Titus and Vespasian there is no more Temple in Jerusalem, and there won’t be another Temple unless the Jews can get the Muslims to move their nice Dome of the Rock mosque off the place where the Holy of Holies used to go. Every time the Jews ask them to do so, the Muslims always say no. The problem hinges on the fact that Christ said he could return at any moment without warning, like a thief in the night. As long as there is no temple, then the thief is kept at bay.
There are Bible Colleges where people spend years of their life figuring all this stuff out. The solution they found was to preserve Immanence with a secret Rapture of True Believers, wherein Jesus comes like a thief in the night and beams up everyone who believes in the Rapture. All atheists and even believers like Roman Catholics who believe in the risen Christ but do not believe in the Rapture will get Left Behind to suffer seven years of wrath from God. It is during the first half of that seven year period that the Temple will be rebuilt and the second half when the Antichrist takes over. Why seven years? Because Daniel mentions a prophetic “week”. Why do Christians get raptured out? Because Romans chapter 8 says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And so on.
The entire rickety house of cards was built to preserve the Innerancy of Scripture, and it almost works. The one fatal flaw in Rapture theory is that a restored temple would require a revival of the system of animal sacrifices that was set aside when Christ offered himself, once and for all, as the perfect final sacrifice. After all, how could the Antichrist desecrate that which was not sanctified in the first place?
JESUS DID NOT DIE, BY DEFINITION
1) Death is the irreversible cessation of all of the following:
(a) total cerebral function, usually assessed by EEG as flat-line
(b) spontaneous function of the respiratory system
(c) spontaneous function of the circulatory system
2) The life of Jesus manifested by (1a), (1b), and (1c) ceased on the
3) The cessation of the life of Jesus was reversed by the resurrection
4) Jesus did not die.
THE CONVERSION OF PAUL
My question for Christians: If Paul (arguably the greatest figure in Christiandom after Jesus himself) could not even get his own conversion story straight, how are we non-believers supposed to take your conversion story seriously?
TAKE ONE, ACTS 9 (Hearing, but not seeing)
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
TAKE TWO, ACTS 22 (Seeing but not hearing)
And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.
JESUS AS A FAILED PROPHET
“This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:32)
What are the possibilities and implications of this statement?
1. The generation Jesus spoke of was the generation that saw the beginning of the signs of the end which began when (v.24) “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” This is the interpretation favored by Evangelical Protestants, and they use the capture of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War as the event to start the prophetic clock ticking. That’s why 2007, which was forty years later (forty years as a generation being defined by the wandering of the Israelites in the Sinai during the Exodus), was so appealing. The rapture is supposed to precede the end by seven years, which put it squarely in the middle of the projected chaos of Y2K. That didn’t pan out, so now the date-setters are going with seventy years (the threescore and ten years allotted to mankind in the Bible), making the end in 2037 and the rapture in 2030. Plenty of time to sell best-selling books and flood the shelves of Christian bookstores, if they still have bookstores in the end-times and not nanotechnology tattoos that just form readable text on your thigh.
2. Jesus knew the date of the end of the world, but didn’t want anyone to know it would be at least two thousand years later, because his followers might not then feel the urgency of preaching the gospel to the whole world as soon as possible. The Jesus in this scenario, aside from being deliberately deceptive, comes across as profoundly manipulative. He sounds absolutely Machiavellian, like a man who might come into Jerusalem riding on the back of an ass just because he read somewhere in Zechariah, “thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass” … oh, wait…
3. Jesus did not know the date of the end of the world. This has many more implications. For one thing, it falsifies his omniscience, which is presumably an attribute of God. And another thing, it makes him slightly other than his Father, whom Jesus asserts does know the Day of the Lord, putting lie to Christ’s claim to be one with his Father. Certainly it’s nice to say a husband and wife are “one” together, but if the husband has a secret mistress on the side, they are not really one. And if Jesus didn’t know the date of the end of the world, but erroneously thought he knew, then there’s another blow to his omniscience.
4. None of the above. The gospels were written either during or soon after the Jewish revolt, when Rome sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. The events were so traumatic they must have seemed like end of the world stuff to the early Christians, cats and dogs living together, the whole enchilada. The authors of the gospels thought it would be clever to put words in Jesus’ mouth to the effect that he had foreseen it all, so hurry up and join the Church so you can be ready for the climactic denouement when the whole history of mankind came to a violent end. The only problem with that plan was that it was just a local tussle after all.
I’m going with number four.
FOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CRUCIFIXION
1 Thessalonians 14-15 – For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:
1. Paul attributed the death of Jesus to the Jews, as indicated above, but why is that still an issue? The United States also attributed the attack on Pearl Harbor to the Japanese three-quarters of a century ago, but we found it within ourselves to forgive them.
2. Why cannot Christians (who pray to the Father of Jesus Christ to forgive their own trespasses) forgive the children of the children of the children of the Jews that killed Jesus two thousand years ago, particularly in light of the fact that Jesus himself forgave them while he was being executed?
3. If the day of the crucifixion is commemorated as “Good Friday” why are the Jews collectively considered “Bad” for making it happen, as Paul insists they did?
4. Suppose you went back in time and convinced the Jews that crucifying Jesus was a bad idea because he was really the son of God, and if they went through with it they would be reviled by Christians for all time, and the Jews had a change of heart and quit nagging Pilate to nail him up. Would Christians today have access to eternal life?
TO CUSS OR NOT TO CUSS
…what does the absolute and inerrant guide to all morality, the Holy Bible, say?
HEBREWS 6:16 Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.
JAMES 5:12 Above all, my brothers, do not swear — not by heaven or by earth or by anything else.
YOU BE THE JUDGE
John 5:22 “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.”
1 Peter 1:17 “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here, in reverent fear.”
JOSEPH HAD TWO DADS
Ol’ Jacob and Heli must have been fearless pioneers, considering the times.
Matthew 1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Luke 3:23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.
PAUL’S RULES FOR WOMENFOLK TALKING
1 Corinthians 11:4-5 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
Next Paul says, naw, on second thought, women can’t pray or prophesy at all.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 – Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
Figure it out Paul and get back to us.
TO JUDGE OR TO JUDGE NOT, THAT IS THE QUESTION…
“Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.” – Jesus, John 8:15
“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” – Jesus, John 5:22
Suppose Xena’s brother is killed by a demon. Xena wants revenge, but she learns the demon can only be killed by the Sword of Kumquat. The only person who knows the location of the sword is the Sage Rashomon. Xena and Gabrielle go looking for Rashomon, but he is imprisoned in a golden bubble which can only be broken by ringing the Bell of Adano. X&G go off to find the Bell, they finally get it and free Rashomon, but he says Xena can’t get the sword unless she has the Rainbow Key…
The sword, sage, bell, and key are Plot Coupons.
In Matthew, the Plot Coupons consist of checking off all the supposed Old Testament prophecies about Christ. Herod asks where Christ should be born, and the wise men say, “In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.”
Herod seeks the life of the Child, so Joseph takes Him and Mary to Egypt? Why? …that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Herod slays all the toddlers in Bethlehem. Why? Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Finally when Herod is gone, Joseph is free to take Jesus and Mary back to Israel. They settle in Nazareth. Why? …that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
Collect the whole set of Infancy Narrative Plot Coupons before your next Christmas Shopping.
Later Jesus himself takes to bagging Plot Coupons. He knows there’s a prophesy in Psalm 118 that one “coming in the name of Yahweh” would arrive in a procession complete with leafy foliage, a Plot Coupon Jesus combined with one in Zechariah that the King would come riding on an ass. He rented an ass and his followers laid down garments and palm leaves. The next day he did his famous cleansing of the temple to score the Plot Coupon from Jeremiah where he complains that God’s house had become a den of thieves.
As for the last Plot Coupon, the one that said, “For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet,” the Romans did the courtesy of helping Jesus nail that one down.
ON THE MULTIPLICATION OF MARYS
Mark gives their names as Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.
Matthew makes the second Mary the mother of James and Joses, and changes Salome to “the mother of the sons of Zebedee.”
Luke says only that “women” were present.
John says there were three Marys present, Mary Magdelene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the sister of his mother, Mary the wife of Clophas.
All four gospels agree that Mary Magdelene was there, so that is not controversial. But John specifically identifies the second Mary as the mother of Jesus, and indeed elsewhere in the gospels we learn that Jesus had brothers named James and Joses (which is another way of saying Joseph Jr.). An early Christian tradition assigns two sisters to Jesus, named Salome and Mary, which makes it entirely possible that Mark is talking about only two women, Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ mother, Mary, who is also mother of James and Joses and Salome.
That leaves us with the absurdity of the third Mary being the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus, as though Saint Anna and Saint Joachim ran out of ideas for names when their girls were born.
But the mystery disappears when one realizes the name Clophas is derived from the Hebrew word for “replacement”. Elsewhere James is mentioned as the son of Alphaeus, the Greek form of Clophas, in order to distinguish him from James the son of Zebedee. Someone, either John or a later redactor with an agenda to promote the perpetual virginity of Mary, tried to cover up the fact that after Saint Joseph died childless (being neither the father of Jesus nor his brothers James, Simon, Joseph, Judah, nor his sisters Salome and Mary) the mother of Jesus married his brother (name unknown but nicknamed Clophas or Replacer) according to the kinsman redeemer law in the Torah. As a result of their fiddling with the text they actually created a third Mary that never existed, one who was married to Clophas and was Mother Mary’s sister.
Going by the gospel of John, Mary was a widow two times over. Even Clophas the Replacement Husband was dead by the time of the crucifixion, because Jesus handed his mother over into the care of the “Beloved Disciple” that some believe was the apostle John, but was actually the second oldest son of Mary, James the Just, who not only became head of the family with the death of Jesus but became head of the Church.
1 CORINTHIANS 13
It is no big secret that I am, let us say, extremely woman-centric, and as a consequence of that I do not like the apostle Paul very much. I think brother Paul’s side interests, were he a 21st Century evangelist, would not coincide with mine at any point and would probably run more to professional wrestling, Spike TV and hacky-sack circles. Nevertheless, the thirteenth chapter of the first epistle to the church of Corinth, which nearly everyone agrees was written by Paul and not a follower, is a landmark in Western literature. Sometimes he hit home runs.
This chapter is Paul’s great write-up on love. He uses the word agape throughout. The King James Version renders this as charity, and that is perhaps very close to the mark. Agape is unconditional love, freely given, which is of a sacrificial nature. It is the kind of love Jesus commanded his followers to give to their enemies. It is the kind of love that exists between a parent and a child, and in a marriage when two people bury their egos in service to one another. In fact, the NIV translation is often quoted at weddings:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
In the First Century Church, when the Apostles were still alive, scripture records that they did many miracles including healing the sick and even raising people from the dead. These powers seemed to end with the close of the Apostolic Age and I believe this loss was predicted by Paul in this chapter:
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
Although the context of the whole chapter is agape love, some believe that the complete New Testament was “that which is perfect” which was to come and do away with the special powers of the Apostolic Age, especially tongues, which were a way to evangelize until the written word could go out. Paul was the first Christian writer, and John was yet to write his gospel and epistles and Apocalypse.
But Paul wasn’t exactly a big fan of the written letter, and the basis of his teaching was an unwritten Torah of Christ, a New Covenant written directly on the conscience of believers as prophesied by Jeremiah. And Paul believed that within his lifetime (or very soon thereafter) a glorified Jesus would return and take direct control of the world. That is the only thing Paul could have meant by “that which is perfect”, not a book. Paul was telling people not to center their life around what was just a stop-gap measure (scripture, tongues) to plug the gap between the resurrection and the parousia.
This is the part of the Bible where Paul says, “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. ” Yet how many churches would not survive without women teaching Sunday school or in various office and volunteer positions where we not only speak, but also give instruction?
Not only that, but fully two-thirds of the butts in the pews these days are female. We control the purse strings, and that is an opportunity to wield a far greater power than merely to stand on a few isolated verses in the Pauline epistles to justify an artificial and sexist hierarchy of Church authority and turn the body of Christ into another He-man Woman Haters’ Club.
Why are women reluctant to convert our check-writing power into a more equal role in the Church? Because we are better at listening. We have heard the gospel and the message has made the journey from our head to our heart. The Son of God surrendered everything, his equality with the Father, his blood, his very life. To truly follow Christ is to lay down power, not take it up.
But why does Paul forbid women to speak? He says, “For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”
In other words, Adam knew better than to eat the fruit of the knowledge of Good and Evil. He already knew it was evil to eat it, but did it anyway. That is willful sin.
The woman, who was “deceived” according to Paul, therefore did not know it was evil to eat it and fell victim to the half-lies of the serpent. Hers was a sin committed out of ignorance, not willful rebellion, yet Paul says her sin was greater!
Then Paul generalizes the ignorance of Eve to all women (which is what we call sexism these days), and disqualifies us for teaching authority in the Church. Nice guy.
Paul’s Epistle to the church at Colossae in Phrygia, Asia Minor (14 miles from Laodicea) is one of the “prison epistles” that also include Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon. Written from prison in the 50s CE, Colossians mentions some the same people that are named in his letter to Philemon: Timothy, Aristarchus, Archippus, Mark, Epaphras, Luke, Onesimus, and Demas. Tychicus is named as the bearer of the letter, just as he is in Ephesians and Philemon, which means Paul might have written all three letters at one go. On the other hand, the letter falls into what scholars consider the second tier of Pauline authenticity, the Disputed Paul group, meaning it might have been forged by a follower of Paul after his death.
Paul never got the chance to visit Colossae, because he went from prison in Caesarea (57-59) to house arrest in Rome (60-62). Paul appears to have stayed in Rome after being released from house arrest until his death between 64 and 67 CE, there is no evidence he ever traveled to Spain as he indicated he wanted to do. But there’s wasn’t much to see in Colossae anyway, even in the 1st Century. Colossae was a village kind of like Forks, Washington, famous only because of those vampire books.
In this letter Paul asks the Colossians to exchange this epistle with the one he wrote to the Laodicean church, a letter which no longer exists today. The implication is that together with the lost epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (which preceded First Corinthians, call it Zeroth Corinthians), some of the Word of God has been lost. God was not able to preserve everything He wanted to say to us mortals.
In the very beginning there was no New Testament. Paul was the first Christian writer, and his letters would circulate from church to church throughout the northeastern Mediterranean area. No doubt many were lost. For the lost ones which are mentioned in the letters which survived, forgeries were made. But not even the forged Letter to the Laodiceans, known and rejected by the Church Fathers, survives today.
In discussing creation, Paul mentions four of the nine angelic ranks: Thrones, Dominions, Principalities, and Powers. All things were created by Christ, and for Christ, he says.
Paul says that through Christ’s death believers are reconciled to God, but only “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel”. This makes salvation conditional. Protestants who believe in the doctrine of Once Saved Always Saved do not memorize this verse. Catholics accept it at face value. They believe salvation depends on the state of the soul at the time of death.
There is another part that makes this epistle more popular with Catholics. Paul says he now “…[R]ejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church…”
In other words, Paul’s own sufferings are added to the sufferings of Christ to win a more complete blessing for the Church. When combined with a passage in Hebrews that says, “…[O]thers were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection…” Catholics developed an elaborate theology called the Treasury of Merit, in which the sufferings and death of martyrs redounds to the benefit of the Church as a whole. All this puts a white-wash on the most plausible explanation based on taking the letter at face value, which is that Paul was truly deluded into thinking he was a kind of second Christ, one who came for the gentiles.
Protestants, of course, focus on Christ’s words on the cross that “It is finished!”
In addition to reinforcing the idea of conditional salvation, Paul also seemed to think the gospel had been preached to everyone: (Colossians 1:23) If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister…
The Second Epistle of John has fewer verses than any other book in the Bible, and almost as few words as his Third Epistle. Unlike 3 John, this epistle is not addressed to a single individual despite appearances. When John (the “elder”) greets the “elect lady” he is not addressing a literal woman but a certain church. This is supported by the final verse, which says, The children of thy elect sister greet thee. In Revelation 12:17 John uses the imagery of a woman and her children to paint the Church: And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
There is a theory that the elect lady is actually Mary the mother of Jesus, who, it is believed, was given by Christ himself into John’s keeping at the foot of the cross (this belief is in error, Jesus had brothers James, Shimon, Judas and Josy, a sister Salome and another sister who could have taken care of their mother) . If John needed to speak to Mary it would have been in person rather than with a formal letter, and since (it was believed) she would be living in his own house, or at least in a nearby household that was maintained by John, he would hardly need to tell her in a letter to refuse admittance to false teachers as he does in verses ten and eleven when he commands:
If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
In verse eight he says, “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.” This reveals that the “elect lady” is a plurality rather than a single person, and also that this plurality should attend to their own righteousness that they keep their crown in heaven. Of all the persons in the world, one would think that the mother of Jesus would not have to worry about her reward in heaven.
Second John also differs from 3 John in that it actually contains doctrine. The errors of Doceticm and Gnosticism had crept into the church in the latter half of the First Century. Some said that Jesus never attained incarnation, but only had the appearance of flesh, because they were scandalized that Divinity would soil itself by associating so closely with mere flesh. Others said that Christ was raised as a spirit only, and did not experience a bodily resurrection. John made a point of addressing these issues in his Gospel, when he declared that Jesus was the Word, co-equal with God, made flesh, and described him eating fish and bread with the disciples after the resurrection, which a spirit could not do.
In this epistle he condemns such doctrine in no uncertain terms with a restatement of something he declared in his first epistle where he said, “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”
The Third Epistle of John is the shortest “book” in the bible by word count, with 299 words, but the preceding book 2 John has fewer verses (thirteen) while 3 John has fourteen verses. The Apostle John wrote this letter to a certain man named Gaius (a layman who was a member of a church in Asia Minor) as credentials for a traveling party headed by one Demetrius. John wanted Gaius to receive this party into his church, and he is confident that Gaius will do so.
He contrasts the famous charity of Gaius with one Diotrephes, the bishop of that same Church, who did not receive John and his party of evangelists one time. Diotrephes used to shoot off his mouth and use malicious words against John, and not content with that, he proceeded to cast John and his party out of this church, which is something John won’t soon forget. In the meantime, John needs to do this end-runaround through Gaius so that his men will have somewhere to stay.
There are other Gaiuses named in four other places in the New Testament, but they (or he) were associated with Paul and Greece, not John and Asia. And Gaius was a popular name back then. Caesar’s full name, after all, was Gaius Julius Caesar.
There is no doctrine laid out in 3 John, it is strictly a personal letter, but the overall theme is the importance of hospitality, especially when it comes to men who were working to spread the gospel. John was writing from his home base in Ephesus. Gaius, for his part, seems to have been a wealthy man. John did not think it would impose unduly on Gaius to put these traveling preachers up for a spell.
Some scholars believe that the John who wrote the second and third epistles was not the same John who wrote the first epistle and the gospel of John. They make a distinction between John the Evangelist and John the Presbyter who wrote these short letters. But there are certain repeated characteristics of Johannine writings which come out clearly here, such as his catch-phrase, “thou walkest in the truth”. Also, John typically wrote with an extremely clear, ultra-simplistic, almost condescending tone, with a teaching style that reminds one of a parent speaking to a child.
“Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God…”
“…and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.
John also says he had many other things to write, but he’d rather tell them face-to-face than commit them to paper, which is unfortunate because two thousand years later all we have is the paper. I was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, and it was emphasized to me (upon pain of knuckles) the importance of oral tradition, placing it at least on the same level of written scripture. But I have never heard an oral tradition of the things John said he didn’t commit to paper because it was more important to speak them in person, and that channel would have been subject to the distorting dynamic of the classic “Telephone Game” in any event, the same way we have been handed our set of dogmas about Mary. Luther didn’t get everything correct, but in this one he did.
Jesus had two disciples named Judah (Y’hudah), one was surnamed Iscariot and was the famous betrayer, the other one was simply (as spelled out in John 14:22) the Judah who was not Iscariot. Because he has been overshadowed and overlooked throughout history, Catholics have made him the Patron Saint of Lost Causes. Often you will find a prayer to St. Jude in newspaper classified ads asking him to intercede in the sale of a house or the like.
He was known as Judas the brother of James in Luke and Acts, and since James was the brother of Jesus, that makes Jude the Judas who is identified, with Joses (Joseph Jr.), Simon, and at least two sisters including Salome, as siblings of Jesus. But there is a Thaddeus in the list of the Twelve contained in Matthew and Mark, and Jude has traditionally been identified with him to make everything work out.
Jude urges his readers to “Contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” This postulates that the entire deposit of Christ’s doctrine was delivered and closed by the time he wrote, with no further revelation possible. When he says, “remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” he seems to be locating the apostles somewhat back in time, and excluding himself from that group, which suggests the work is the usual forgery.
He uses the same language that the author of 2 Peter uses to answer concerns that the Lord seemed to tarry: “How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts…’ This is so close to 2 Peter 3:3 (which reads “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts”) that many believe the author of 2 Peter used Jude as a source.
There is a doctrine among Protestant circles that Christians are “saved” (past tense), and can never lose their salvation, which gives God very little to do on Judgment Day. But Jude asks the reader to recall “how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not” as well as the angels who “kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” Jude is saying, sure, no one can take us out of the hand of the Lord once we have been grasped by him…except ourselves, by falling into unbelief.
Jude quotes from the book of Enoch, “seventh from Adam”, which is not part of the Bible canon. 1 Enoch 1:9 originally reads, “And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly, and to convict all flesh af all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
But Jude softens it up a bit, soft-peddling the “destroy” part of the original passage by saying “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Since Jude is part of the canon, that makes this small part of the book of Enoch, with the redaction, canon too.
He also paraphrases an incident in a book that has been lost about Satan and Michael quarreling over the body of Moses. If the holy angel Michael did not rebuke Satan himself, but only said “the Lord rebuke thee” how much more so should we not rebuke human enemies of the faith but only pray for the Lord to make the rebuke. But at the same time Jude calls unbelievers “filthy dreamers” who “defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities”. Go figure!
- 1-2 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.
- 3-4 And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
Christian theology posits the need for a savior based on the sin of Adam in the Garden, which earned humanity a curse from God. In these verses, the curse is said to be ended, and humanity will enjoy a close relationship with God again.
- 5 And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
New Jerusalem is so wondrous that John can only tell us what it’s like by telling us what is not there.
- 6-7 And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
At least one saying was not faithful and true. Jesus did not “come quickly”. The sayings which must be “kept” are the commandments to the seven churches given in chapters 2 and 3. Those who do so are the overcomers.
- 8-9 And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.
The angel which brought this revelation to John of Patmos identified himself as a fellow member of the Church with John and forbade John from worshiping him. In Roman Catholic theology, this verse is interpreted to mean the angels are part of the Church Triumphant. In LDS theology, the “angel” is a glorified man, and a former Hebrew prophet.
- 10 And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.
What this means is the text of Revelation was to be spread far and wide immediately, as opposed to keeping part of it hidden as secret knowledge which some gnostic cult could later claim to have “discovered”, and it stands in direct contrast to the apocalyptic book in the Old Testament, Daniel. The reason was there was a sense of urgency when it was written. John of Patmos believed the remaining time was very short.
- 11 He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
The entire message of the Bible can be boiled down to three words: “Turn or burn”. Except not here in Revelation 22:11. It says let sinners remain sinners, and let the righteous remain righteous. Revelation is not an evangelizing work like the gospel of John, but a pep talk for the “saved”.
- 12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
In the theology of Revelation, rewards and punishments are based on what you do. Good people get good things, bad people get bad things. Mother Theresa would do well, yet some Evangelicals insist she is burning in hell because she never “accepted Christ” with a Protestant style altar call or the sinner’s prayer. No wonder Martin Luther thought about discarding this book from his new and improved Bible.
- 13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
This is one of the few passages in the scriptures to explicitly assign a divine nature to Jesus, equating him with God.
- 14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
This verse reverses Paul’s teaching in Romans 3:28 that justification is apart from the Law. It says people must keep the commandments to have access to eternal life.
- 15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
Apparently the blessed part of the new creation consists solely of the city of New Jerusalem, and if you’re outside of this city, you are with the wicked part of the new creation. This seems to cede the rest of the planet to the sinners.
- 16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
This is an interesting verse. Elsewhere in scripture the bright “morning star” was identified in Isaiah 14:12 as Lucifer, the devil, who was cast from heaven. So much for letting one part of the Bible interpret another.
- 17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
This is to fulfill what Jesus promised in the gospels, water that quenches the thirst once and for all. It comes from Zechariah 14:8, which says that living waters will go out from Jerusalem in the latter days.
- 18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
Protestants use this verse to beat Catholics over the head because Protestants believe that Catholics “added” seven books to the Bible.
- 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Catholics use this verse to beat Protestants over the head because Catholics believe Protestants “deleted” seven books from the Bible. It is important to note that doing so will result in the loss of salvation, according to the text. Salvation, according to Revelation, is not based on grace obtained by faith in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus, but in doing what John of Patmos tells you to do.
- 20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
This promise to come quickly was written in about 70 CE, and it is now 2014 CE.
- 21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
TOP TEN CHRISTIAN EXTRA-BIBLICAL TRADITIONS
10. One third of all the angels joined Lucifer in the rebellion against God — The Bible says only that the dragon cast a third of all the stars to the earth. Equating stars with angels is a purely human interpretation made to defend the scriptures after we found out stars are really distant suns.
9. Sola Fide (Salvation by faith alone) — This goes expressly against James chapter two, which states that faith cannot save if it is alone, as well as Matthew chapter twenty-five where Jesus makes doing good works such as giving alms a criteria for salvation.
8. Pre-tribulation rapture — In Matthew chapter twenty-four Jesus says his angels will gather the elect “after the tribulation of those days”. In order to maintain the pre-trib tradition, the additional tradition of dispensationalism, dating back to 1830, redefines the elect to mean only a certain group of people who were “left behind” and converted during the tribulation.
7. The Deuterocanonicals are apocrypha — To evade the doctrine of free will and purgatory, the Protestant tradition embraces the Old Testament canon which was defined by Jews at the Council of Jamnia in 90 CE, which itself was embraced in reaction to the early Christians use of the Greek translation developed at Alexandria.
6. The Sinner’s Prayer — Nowhere does the Bible give the formula to”accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior” that Protestants say is the most important act a person can do in this life. In fact, Jesus specifically rejects those followers who merely say, “Lord, Lord” and refuse to do what his Father commands them to do.
5. The wine in the bible was really grape juice — Before the era of modern refrigeration and preservative chemicals, grape juice automatically turned into wine. This comes from the same teetotaler Puritan traditions that gave us the wonderful idea of Prohibition, making the Roaring Twenties a decade of speakeasies and Mob rum-running.
4. Sola Scriptura – Bible alone — Not only is this doctrine not in the Bible, it contradicts a command that is present, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, where Paul says to “hold fast” to the traditions received from the Apostles which were given in both written and oral form. To wiggle out of this one, Christians tell me that really isn’t a command from Paul, which of course leads to the necessity of listing which parts of his epistles to follow and which to ignore, meaning the introduction of yet another human tradition.
3. The New Testament canon — The table of contents of the New Testament is not part of the inspired text. It is purely tradition.
2. Sunday worship — The Sabbath is Saturday (Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown), and God even commands us to remember that fact and keep that period of time holy.
And the number one Extra-biblical Christian Tradition:
1. Trinity — Nowhere does the Bible teach the doctrine that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons yet one Divinity. Indeed, it says that the God of Israel is one, and even Jesus admits the Father knows stuff that he does not.
ROUND AND ROUND WE GO
There is one Word of God, but every denomination has its own list of which verses are literal, and which ones are merely symbolic. In the Catholic Church, the verses where Jesus says eat his flesh and drink his blood are literal, but those verses are symbolic to the Baptist churches. In the Baptist churches, the verses where souls are tormented by fire day and night forever are literal but to Seventh Day Adventists they are symbolic. In Seventh Day Adventist churches, the verses where God created the universe in seven days are literal, but to Catholics they are symbolic. Lather, rinse, repeat.
IT’S LIKE A SPIDER-MAN REBOOT
For thousands of years learned Jewish scribes and rabbis faithfully copied and studied their scripture, and never once gleaned a hint of the pre-incarnate Jesus in its pages. Then Christianity came around, putting forth a New Testament in which the authors retrojected the Son of God concept into many Old Testament passages, to the everlasting horror and disgust of the Jews.
But this wasn’t the last time it happened. Mohammad came along about six hundred years later with his Qu’ran as the New New Testament, making the New Testament of Christianity positively middle-aged. Mohammad claimed that the underlining theme of the entire Bible is submission to God and recognition that he was God’s final prophet, to the everlasting horror and disgust of both Jews and Christians.
And Joseph Smith Jr., a vagrant treasure hunter from upstate New York, came along even later to do the same thing, putting forth the Book of Mormon as the New New New Testament and claiming that he was God’s final, final prophet and the underlying theme of the entire Bible is “as man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may become” to the everlasting horror and disgust of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. And round and round she goes…