God’s hands

After Jesus died, beliefs about what sort of being Jesus was were all over the map, even among the most devout. They said he was divine, but a little less so than God. Others insisted he was the human incarnation of God, equal to God because he was God. Some preferred to think of him as an exceptional man who understood and embodied the wisdom of God; if he was divine, it was only in the way that each of us has the potential to be because we are all expressions of the divine. When I read about this spectrum of opinion, I was surprised because I had imagined everyone was on the same page at the beginning and it was only more recently that thoughts splintered and diverged.

As early Christendom spread, this lack of consistency grew troublesome. Preachers were going out into the countryside teaching their own interpretations and some people were worshipping Jesus as a separate being from God, threatening the basic monotheism of Christianity.

Summoned by Emperor Constantine 325 years after Jesus’ death, the first official ecumenical council of Christendom convened in a city called Nicaea. The goal was to create a single “profession of faith” so that when the participants returned to their corners of the kingdom, they could explain Christianity using words identical to those used everywhere else. It was quality control. Christianity went corporate and the product needed consistency. The bishops voted on the wording, but even then it wasn’t unanimous.

The Nicene Creed of 325 stated that Jesus and God are one in the same; the revised Creed, created in the year 381, wrapped in the Holy Spirit as well. Today, some congregations regularly recite the creed in unison. I’ve said it myself on several occasions since I began my church-going adventures. It reads in part:

We believe in one God,

the Father, the Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth…

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,

eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, light from light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made,

of one Being with the Father…

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son,

who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified…

The “Trinity” continues to be a topic of debate among modern Christians and some denominations opt not to use it—at least not explicitly.

Whether one embraces the concept or not, it seems to indicate an undeniable truth. In developing an understanding of God, some people might envision an entity that is more concrete, perhaps inhabiting a body, while others prefer something that’s bigger and more amorphous.

From the Trinity, I see that people have been treading these same paths to God for centuries: one, a human incarnation of the divine, and the other, nothing but spirit. It seems to me they’re all heading in the same direction.

Perhaps some people need a mixture of form and formlessness, or will use one or the other at different times in their lives. I’ve thought of God as an endless plane of vibrating energy of which we are all a part, but I’ve also pictured God with arms and legs and hands I can hold. Because sometimes I just want a hand to hold, even if just in my imagination.

Even within a congregation that emphasizes one version over the other, individuals will work it out for themselves because it’s such a personal thing. There are bound to be evangelicals who ride the Holy Spirit to God, just as I’m sure there are Pentecostals who can’t get there without Jesus. And maybe, just maybe, a few Unitarians—a denomination that does not officially use the Trinity–hold that bundle close to their hearts.

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83 thoughts on “God’s hands

  1. Corinna, I just wish to establish that the whole belief system of the Unitarians is built on the concept of there NOT being a trinity—hence, “Uni….one God.” This is not a new concept, coming out of several corners of Christianity in Europe in the mid-1500’s. Although earlier Unitarian churches were biblical in nature, those here in the U.S. and Canada have evolved from those underpinnings. The one thing that I would say that we do agree on…..while having discussion on many other things!…the one thing is that we are NOT trinitarians. People died and were imprisoned protecting that belief…of course, not recently! In the mid 20th century, we joined together with the Universalists—-believers in Universal salvation. I suppose some of them might “hold that (trinitarian) bundle close to their hearts,” but not the Unitarians! Why would you have thought that there might be those of us who would believe in the trinity?

    Perhaps the Nicene Creed which was established in 325/381 might be seen as the same kind of marketing as we have been talking about with the mega/Jesus Churches. Look at the history. It was quality control….it was to keep everybody on the same page….it was to maintain the church’s power over the masses. No free thinkers…..no self-empowerment. Hmmmm. Just a thought from a Unitarian….One God. Or maybe God….or no God. Lots of diversity.
    Merrill

    • Hi Merrill, The line about Unitarians was just a suggestion and not really specific about the official trinity so much as the different ways we can conceive of God that I think the trinity demonstrates. As I understand it, Unitarians fought for the right not to have to accept the trinity as official church doctrine (and they succeeded in this) but, still, how we conceive of God is complex and personal–that was the point I hoped to make.

  2. Corinna,
    As you no doubt know, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not accept the Trinity Doctrine, and for good scriptural reasons. We strongly believe what the Bible says, and find too many scriptures that teach opposite of what the creeds say about the relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ. For example, the above creed says in part “True God from true God”. Yet, Jesus says in prayer to his Father (and why would he pray to anyone else if he actually were God?) at John 17:3 “This means everlasting life their taking in knowledge of you, the ONLY TRUE GOD, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” Clearly, Jesus refers to the Father as “the only true God” and does NOT include himself in that expression, since he goes on to say ” ‘AND’. . . Jesus Christ”. This is coming right out of Jesus’ mouth. Yet the creed says “True God from true God”, as if BOTH the Father and Jesus Christ were the “True God”. JWs believe what Jesus said RATHER than the creeds of men.

    The Athanisian Creed says in part, speaking of God and Jesus Christ: “none is greater or less than the other”, yet Jesus Christ himself said at John 14:28 “. . .the Father is greater than I am.” Who should we believe? Jesus Christ himself, or the creeds of men? Jesus said at John 8:28b “. . .I do nothing of my own initiative, but just as the Father taught me I speak these things.” And verse 42b says: “. . .Neither have I come of my own initiative at all, but that One sent me forth.” There are so many other verses of scripture that clearly show that Jesus is subject to his Father, and not equal.

    I know that Trinitarians counter with a half-dozen verses they think prove the Trinity, but each one of their so-called “proof scriptures” can be explained by the Bible itself, such as John 10:30 which says “I and the Father are one”. If we turn to John 17:20-22 Jesus tells us in what sense the two are One, (in unity and purpose). Please read it for yourself in whatever translation of the Bible you have. You might note that with every one of the so-called “proof scriptures”, only TWO persons are mentioned—not three. Actually, there is no verse in the entire Bible that teaches, explains, or even suggests such a doctrine that God is made up of three Persons. There are so many other verses I could recommend reading that make the Trinity Doctrine Scripturally impossible. Keep in mind, JWs are champions of what the Bible actually teaches, not what man’s doctrines teach. I might also mention that virtually all pagan civilizations prior to Christ’s time (Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks, Babylonians, etc.) had their false three-in-one gods and/or goddesses, which made it easier for the church of the 4th century to make converts of these pagan people who were used to worshiping their gods in triads.

    Chuck

  3. Corinna, you have done quite well with your research and have been able in a short space to articulate the struggle to be able to state the essence of Christianity. Great job! Actually, these issues that arose during the early years of the church showed that people were thinking and trying to figure out– because the faith was spreading across language and culture– how to unite people from the east and west. These councils were forced by divisions.

    For example, Alexandria was a very important, sophisticated cultural center in the ancient world. Many gnostic groups originated from there, and it was also home to many of the best Christian thinkers. Arius, who was a presbyter from Alexandria and steeped in Greek philosophy, held the belief that because Jesus was “begotten,” and was the mediator between God and humans, he was inferior to God, that is he was a created being. Many people were following Arius. (Others, in our time, have adopted that teaching, too, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Islam.)

    This was splitting the church (and Constantine’s Empire) and thus it became one of the issues at Nicaea.

    The argument was over the word which you stated above as “Being” (or “substance”). At Nicaea, it was determined that Jesus Christ is “the same substance” as God, not “similar to” God. Therefore, Jesus is not subordinate to God the Father. There is a difference between human beings, who were “made” the children of God through adoption (us), and Jesus, who was “begotten” the Son of God. That’s why Jesus is more than a good teacher whose example should be followed. That’s what the Nicene Creed says.

    One of the big struggles has always been how to know God, who is invisible. According to the Bible, Jesus was sent as God in the flesh to help us see, know, be reconciled to, and ultimately to be presented holy before God. That’s a mouthful, and another huge topic!

    I know there are people who perhaps will disagree with these things the way I have articulated them. One thing we can see when we look at history is that there are many differing opinions; there always have been. Perhaps we can find comfort in that rather than division, and realize the value of the discussion because we all learn about each other, appreciating the spiritual quest.

    • Thanks, Ginger, for providing more detail. I, personally, find all the differences fascinating. Taken together, they give a full picture of what people have been struggling with for so long. It seems to me most of the battle was trying to put words to ideas that are very hard to put words to–but the effort to do so was a sincere attempt to communicate the ideas to people.

  4. Hi All—

    Since Patti’s in lost somewhere in the wilderness, I guess I should speak up for the traditional Trinitarians. Chuck and Frank, you are correct, there has been a lot of contention, going back centuries, about the nature of God, even among those who believe in the Trinity. One of the prime causes of the Great Schism in the 11th century was the Western idea of a Trinity of unique but equal persons, versus the Eastern Orthodox version that sees the Holy Spirit as proceeding from the Father, but not the Son. Chuck is also correct in saying one can find Scriptural passages that seem to reject the idea of a Triune God. But, as we’ve seen in many posts, the Bible is full of apparent contradictions. Trinitarians believe, taken as a whole, the New Testament confirms the Trinity’s existence. In the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to Himself as the great “I Am”, the name God used for Himself in Exodus. And of course, there is the famous passage at John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, He sent His only son…”.

    We believe, as an article of faith, God became man through Jesus, to bring about His Kingdom on earth and in heaven. As Paul said, He became man in all things but sin. In doing so, He shattered the idea of God as an amorphous spirit with no real connection to the universe He created. Clearly, the New Testament states God is Spirit, without a body as we understand the term. The idea of a God as a benevolent bearded old guy belongs on the Sistine chapel’s ceiling. But that is all the more reason to believe God became man, to express His perfect love for us, a love so perfect it created a third Person, the Holy Spirit.

    I know all of this sounds a little preposterous to those not brought up in a Trinitarian church, but as we say, it is a “mystery of faith”, one we cannot fully comprehend here on earth but believe in nonetheless. As the Bible says in many places, His ways are not our ways, and His being is beyond human understanding.

    As I’ve said before, I believe those who do not share this belief are in no way excluded from God’s grace nor are they somehow “flawed”. As both Patti and I have stated, we don’t presume to know how God thinks. I do think, however, belief in the Trinity is necessary to be a Christian, at least in the sense that you believe Jesus is divine. There may be ways to see Jesus as less than God but still believe in His special relationship with God, and therefore define oneself as Christian. We probably won’t know who’s closer to the truth until we meet Him, but then again, I think any human definition of God is flawed and limited. I am sure we’re all going to be waiting for one another, astounded at how far short we fell in defining Him.

    • Tim….Hi! I’m back from the wilderness, and boy am I glad you, Walt, and Ginger are here explaining something so complicated, so well. I would only add to Chuck that Jesus was the one who promulgated the third branch of the Trinity. “I will send you the Comforter….”

      Now I am going back to enjoying all these posts for the few minutes I have before i go say the Nicene Creed. 🙂

      Yours in Christ

  5. Well, Corinna, it looks like you not only stuck in your thumb and pulled out a plumb from the theological pie, but have stuck in a few legs as well! I applaud your trying to put it together. Tim, as usual, you have made some telling points. I would call myself a trinitarian, but I’m not sure I would go along with all the creeds as articulated. A couple things have been sticking out to me during the past couple years, which I think even Chuck would agree with (Chuck?). One is that Jesus came to teach and show us who God is. He gave corrective teaching on God’s perspective about much of what the Jewish leaders were teaching, and his life demonstrated who his Father is by all that he said and did. My last sentence is a bit unclear as to Jesus’ “nature”, but that is intentional. A second thing is that Jesus presented himself in a way that the Jews considered blasphemous, that he in some unclear way was presenting himself as more than just a human anointed by God as Messiah (Christ). His immediate disciples (the twelve) were slow in recognizing that he was more than what they were expecting as Messiah–a human king who would deliver them from Rome and others. Many of my trinitarian brothers and sisters, in their efforts to defend the “deity of Christ” have I think overlooked some of the more obvious things that Jesus was about; and hence added to the divisions within the church.

    The creeds not only put people on the same page, but they tended to “cementify” people’s understanding of scripture into a system that most of us peons have been afraid to veer from. I suppose I’m coming to a place in life where I’m less afraid to be honest and uncertain. You all have helped to confirm me in some of this thinking. Hope this makes sense. And Tim and Ginger, I also hope you’re not looking for a stake to tie me to 🙂

    • ps: I think it would behoove us to take a lesson from what Jesus said to Peter (in Matthew chapter 16) when he made his confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God: “Blessed are you….for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven.”

      pps: I just put up another post on my blog.

  6. Hi Corinna,

    On this:

    “After Jesus died, beliefs about what sort of being Jesus was were all over the map, even among the most devout. When I read about this spectrum of opinion, I was surprised because I had imagined everyone was on the same page at the beginning and it was only more recently that thoughts splintered and diverged.”

    “As early Christendom spread, this lack of consistency grew troublesome. Preachers were going out into the countryside teaching their own interpretations and some people were worshipping Jesus as a separate being from God, threatening the basic monotheism of Christianity.”

    Actually, if you dig deeper into the history of 1st/2nd Cent Xianity, I think you’d find there was very little agreement as to what constituted core Xian beliefs. Why? Many Xian congregations in far-flung lands adopted different beliefs, and accepted differeny gospels from a wide selection of works written on Xianity (written some 30-100 years after Jesus death, offering quite different accounts of Jesus’ life). A Xian in Egypt was not likely to accept the beliefs of one living in say, Greece.

    So instead of growing from a single root into branches of a tree, Xianity was more like multiple plants growing next to each other, competing for share in the marketplace of ideas (same with the gospels, much like how a spate of “me, too” books pop up after a first trend-setter proves successful, eg vampire-themed teen novels, or Harry Potter series. The Book of Mark was the one that created the genre of Jesus-themed writings).

    And as you describe above,the threat of different flavors of cultic Xianity required stamping out of the “weeds” by the Holy Roman Empire, to provide some official policy to address the in-fighting amongst worshippers of Jesus, some 350 years after he died.

    That would be like official policies being set as dogma in 2013, for a historic figure who died in 1660.

    Legends grow with decades or centuries (eg James Gang, Annie Oakley, Geo. Washington and his cherry tree incident, etc).

    The interesting thing is that many of the forbidden and outlawed gnostic beliefs survived in a few passages, which only adds to the room for confusion. As you learn more, I’d recommend reading some of these gnostic gospels, the books they didn’t want you to read (they literally were burned, and owners killed; copies were found intact hidden in a cave in 1945, and provide interesting insight into the diverse ranges of beliefs amongst early Xians).

  7. Corinna—

    Building on what you, Walt, Dave, et al. have said, I would also recommend a couple of books written by Bart Ehrman, who is a distinguished professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. You’d think a man with his job would be a Bible-spouting fundamentalist, but he’s actually an agnostic and an excellent scholar. I’ve read two of his books, Misquoting Jesus and Jesus, Interrupted, both of which concern the evolution of the modern New Testament canon. As Dave and you have mentioned, he discusses the other non-canonical and gnostic books, as well as inconsistencies in the existing Gospels. For example, before Gutenberg invented the printing press, Scripture had to be copied by hand, and mistakes and misquotes were inherent as copies upon copies were made, especially where the original Greek was carelessly translated into Latin and other languages. There were also plenty of chances for writers to sneak in their personal spin on some of the passages, usually to make them conform to then-conventional wisdom. He concludes its almost impossible for us to know what the “original” Gospels looked like, if there ever were such documents. Since the Gospels started as oral traditions and weren’t written down until at least 25 years after Jesus’ death, there really is no way to tell what an “original” would be. I find his books both compelling and challenging.

    Given all these inconsistencies, you might wonder why I, or anyone else, would out any faith in the New Testament at all, or why I would read books that appear so diametrically opposed to what I believe. First of all, I see nothing wrong with occasionally challenging my tightly-held concepts. Only by questioning can we find answers, and I believe the truth never fears a challenge. Second, if you accept that the Bible isn’t one book, but a compilation of many books written by different people, in different circumstances, writing for different audiences, then you begin to see how the message developed over time. Third, I find it somewhat comforting to know some of the more troubling passages in the New Testament may have been inserted by people with an agenda. Many of Paul’s misogynistic writings were inserted by church “elders” much later, to reinforce their own prejudiced views of women’ role in the church. Finally, there is plenty of equally rigorous scholarly work out there that refutes some of Ehrman’s opinions.

    Ehrman named the concluding chapter of Jesus, Interrupted, “Is Faith Still Possible?”, and he answers with a very affirmative “Yes”. He also stated his agnosticism grew from seeing a lifetime of worldly injustice, not his study of Scripture. If you read the message that still shouts above the misquotes and misinterpretations, it’s the message we’ve been discussing here for so long. Jesus gave us a whole new way of relating to God and to one another, without the mediation (or interference) of an elite priestly class who did the thinking for us. To me, the divergent views of the people on your blog are proof God does have a message for all of us, and it is up to each of us to 1) accept to reject that message, and 2) if we accept it, do so in a form that has meaning for his and furthers His purpose for our lives.

    • Hi Tim, I’ve learned a lot from Ehrman’s books. Not only are they scholarly, but they are also very approachable and fun reads. He often mixes in personal stories and his writing is not “dry.” For this, he is one of my personal heroes.

      • I got hooked on him watching a couple of his lectures from The Great Courses–he’s an instructor I think I would have enjoyed in college.

  8. Oops..that last sentence should be” 2) if we accept it, do so in a forms that has meaning for us and furthers His purpose…”

    • Thank you for that essay, Tim. I think that last bit is the part that’s pertinent for us all. God (or who/whatever – I think of it as “goodness”) has a message for us all. It has to have individual meaning to each of us and that’s what I’m hearing from all these varied replies. Each of us getting meaning and putting our own ‘spin’ on things. Something else I read (and I’ve been reading much on this topic lately) mentioned “. . opening us to the stirring within that calls us to deeper attentiveness, gratitude and experience of interdependence”. We ARE in this together, no matter what path we are on and when I read the ‘lessons’ people submit I am getting that message, louder and clearer! I’m off to school this morning and, of course, running behind but just HAD to put in my two cents’ worth. . . .hope you all have a good day – I think I’m ahead of most of you by at least three hours!

      • Carmen,
        I like the quote from your recent reading: “opening us to….a deeper attentiveness, gratitude and experience of interdependence.” That is certainly much of what this journey of spirituality is for me. Some here in Corinna’s followers have a hard time believing that there may be more than one way in this search for goodness…but I have been gratified that so many others seem to understand that concept….and to accept, if not embrace the idea. That has been a good discovery for me.

        I wish you a good end of the year, Carmen. As a retired teacher with 35+ years behind me, I know that this is not the easiest time of the school experience! I am thinking about you. Merrill

        • Merrill, I should clarify – I am a substitute at the local High School but I am busy; because I’m 55 and have ‘been around’ I seem to get many days, which is great; I really enjoy it. I like to think that I am a mentor for some of the students but who knows?
          I find myself looking forward to reading what some of my mentors (and they don’t necessarily have to be older than me!) are saying on this Blog – the different ‘flavours’ are definitely appreciated!
          I find myself asking, “What’s wrong with just simply acknowledging that yes, Jesus was a man who lived on the earth. He was a good, just, kind, respectful, humble person who did his best to love everyone so can’t we just agree that HE’s a good mentor?

    • James said:

      “Just stick to the ultimate authority on God and his relationship to mankind…the Bible. All the rest is opinion!”

      Here’s an idea: wouldn’t it be great if God were to inspire a book that expressed His Divine Will in a clear and concise unambiguous manner, such that there would be absolutely NO QUESTION of “proper” interpretation?

      Hint to God: next time, consider using a language that actually contains vowels, punctuation marks, and please limit the use of literary devices (idioms/metaphors/analogies/parables, etc) that require an understanding of the historical/cultural context for the time the work was written. Those kinds of things lose their meaning with time, which only lead to ambiguity and leaves passages susceptible to alternative interpretations; hence any work using them will probably need a “do not use after” date. 🙂

      As an example, I offer the Book of Job 1:1, which despite popular belief, likely WAS originally intended as a PARABLE, not to be taken as the historical record of a human who actually lived.

      From bookofjob dot org:

      “A New Adam

      Here we meet a new Adam. He is a mature human being, the man whose name is Job. (Job 1:1) The author places some emphasis on this point because the Hebrew text begins with the word for man “ish”, “a man there was”. This is a significant change in the normal Hebrew word order of verb-subject-object. Here the order is object-subject-verb. [2] The significance is found in the fact that there are only two genuine parallels to this inverted syntax and they are found in the opening lines of Nathan’s parable (2 Samuel 12:1) and Joash’s fable (2 Kings 14:9). [3] This syntax is an introductory Hebrew formula or idiom for the parable that follows, akin to the modern introductory phrase “once upon a time”. Thus, the author The Book of Job is telling the reader from the start that this book is and should be read as a myth or parable about humankind.”

      [2] Alden, R.L., The New American Commentary: Job (Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1993) p. 46.
      [3] Clines, D.J.A., Job in The International Bible Commentary (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1979) p. 9.

      Now, unless the person is an Oxford scholar who specializes in ancient Hebrew literature traditions, then they’re likely going to miss that teensie-weensie detail that the Book of Job is TELLING THEM it’s a myth, up front (that is, if the opening scene in Heaven doesn’t give them the hint that we’re into the realm of fantasy).

      So keep that kind of stuff to a minimum, as it’s quite possible that even the hallmark line of a fairy tale (the classic, “once upon a time”) is going to get lost in the evolution of contemporary linguistic usage.

  9. I realize that this post is specifically about the Trinity… which can be a very difficult thing to grasp. However, without the belief that the Bible is the final authority, one cannot begin to understand the nature of God, let alone what the Trinity is all about. We could all “talk” till we’re blue in the face about what our different beliefs are, but what are we really trying to accomplish? Are we all trying to get along and co-exist while trying not to ruffle any feathers? My goal is to speak the truth in love. Jesus came and died for our sins. He is offering salvation as a free gift. He doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). But…He also says that the gate is narrow (Matt. 7:13-14). There is only ONE way to salvation. John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This might sound offensive and exclusive to some of you, but it’s so easy. ALL are welcome to accept the free gift of salvation. How is that offensive or exclusive?

    • Jo, I am not sure I would use the word “exclusive,” but frankly I do not believe that you know the truth any more than I do. You have your beliefs. Good for you. You think you and your believers are the only ones who will be “saved,” what ever that means. You are the ONLY ones on the right path. Well, I don’t mind ruffling your feathers at all. You can post your beliefs and your bible verses, which you seem to think give your ideas validity. But in the end, you can only hold up faith as a basis for your rightness. This is your path. Good for you. But I DO find your righteous attitude offensive. Most people responding to this blog have been very respectful when responding because they understand the reality that other people have chosen different spiritual paths……and they have pondered that it is just possible that this is how it has to be…..perhaps even should be.

      I understand that your belief system has no room for diversity. So be it. But don’t don’t deceive yourself. Christianity is just one way of believing in a World of broad religious diversity. And that will, no doubt, always be true…..although we can’t know the future. Perhaps we will all become “nones” or Buddhists or something entirely different.

      Your question: What are we trying to accomplish here? Your answer will no doubt be very different than mine. I am personally not interested in Christian indoctrination and bible verses….I am interested in hearing how religion has touched the lives and souls of people……and I have been very impressed and personally impacted hearing people’s stories…..and have been gratified to hear from Christians who also want to hear my story……No “Too bad for you, Merrill. You are going to burn eternally in hell with those beliefs of yours!” They listen, and they respond with love and support….which seems to me to be a MOST Christian behavior…and a beautiful human one, too.

      So yes, I am interested in getting along and co-existing. How else can we live peacefully together? I believe in fostering love and gratitude…… in understanding our interdependent nature. I am about being the best person I can be….living my best life. I know my journey is the right one for me. Please show some respect…… even though you think that I am wrong.

      As they say, Peace be with you.
      Merrill Thomsen

      • Dear Merrill,
        APPLAUSE!! . . .and I happen to believe you are RIGHT!! You know how I BELIEVE people live forever? In memories. . . and memories ONLY; a good thing. Since nobody has written home from the ‘other side’ yet, I’ll stick to my beliefs. . . self-righteously.

      • Merrill,
        I don’t ever recall specifically telling you that you were wrong or telling you that you are going to hell. I certainly never meant to make you feel like I disrespect you, because I don’t. I know for sure that I have not attacked you as you have chosen to do to me. So far, I have mostly been quoting Scripture verses. Those words are not mine. As has been stated before by other bloggers, God is the judge, not anyone else. It is, however, my responsibility as a believer to spread the salvation message. Only God knows your heart. If it offends you that I care enough about you to tell you what I believe to be true, then so be it.

        • Jo, I actually thought that you were inviting candor what with your talk of ruffling feathers…….your goal of speaking the truth. As I read back, I see that you were speaking of perhaps your ruffling feathers with your message instead of just trying to keep the peace among us all…..I apologize if I my words were perceived as aggression instead of personal opinion…….. I do still stand behind the content of my text, but will be more watchful in the future in applying a more respectful tone. MET

          • Merrill,
            Thanks! As Tim says in his post below, it’s ok to agree to disagree. I will continue to share Scripture as I feel led, but please know that I am not judging you or anyone else on this journey with Corinna. I am doing a lot of praying though and will continue to do so:-)

            Jo

  10. Corinna,

    This is certainly one of the most difficult of doctrines to wrap ones head around. Rather than leave a blog-length reply, let me humbly recommend a recent one that I wrote on the topic from my evangelical perspective. Reading all of the varied opinions here shows how controversial it continues to be. I don’t think I’m as cynical about the development of the trinitarian creeds as you are. I believe most of the early church leaders were simply trying to make sense out of their authoritative source of theology: the Bible. And their answer was not so much describing how it works as setting the boundaries of orthodoxy. If you’re interested, you can check out my thoughts at:
    http://markmaki.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-trinity.html.

    Thanks for letting me put in my two cents,
    Mark Maki

    • Mark, I read your post and listened to Ravi Zacharias speaking to his Mormon audience and it was really refreshing–Ravi is one I generally have to pay close attention to to make sure I’m following. (The nice thing about a podcast is that, when you realize something isn’t jibing or your mind is drifting, you can back it up a bit.)

      I believe as strongly as anyone in the trinity. As I said somewhere else, I just have questions about the way that’s been formulated in various creeds and pronouncements. Jesus’ life and teaching show me that he is indeed Immanuel (“God with us”), that seeing him is seeing the Father, and that he is our redeemer, the only one really worthy to take care of my sin and make me clean before the Father.

      Ravi’s statements about relationship helping us understand the trinity were refreshing to hear, especially as I’ve been thinking along the same lines. That there is relationship within the being of God makes all the sense in the world if indeed God is love, if he loves us, and if he wants relationship with us. That he has created us to want relationship (though some think they don’t) is also a reflection of the fact that we are made in his image. A “monistic” (?) conception of God would seem to preclude that God has relational desire, that he would make his creatures to be in families and communities. The picture of God being like a perfect earthly father/mother has helped me better understand what Jesus was trying to communicate to us about him.

      • ps: I wanted to add something, Mark, et al. One of the things that has been driving my reflections on the Gospels lately has been my awareness and grief over how we evangelicals are so divided that we are driving people away from Jesus. (That’s not what he intended for us, as indicated by his statements to his disciples, his prayer in John 17, and the teaching of Paul in Philippians 2.) I don’t think I’m ready to join up with the “ecumenical movement” which, it seems to me, may be willing to sacrifice truth in order to work with others. But it does seem that we have chosen our battles unwisely. One of the reasons why there is such a great broohaha over the deity of Christ is the lack of explicit teaching in the Scripture. Jesus didn’t refuse worship (and that, in an incredibly monotheistic culture), and he made all sorts of statements that reasonable people would understand as inferring his deity. He seemed to wait on people who were serious about understanding him to look and see and be willing to be taught by God rather than logical argumentation (as we are so fond of).

        • Corinna, since both Mark and Walt have referred you to Ravi Zacharias, I thought I’d point out that, although his reflections on the Trinity may be enlightening, you might want to check out his reflection on “Homosexuality”. (I can’t do that ‘link’ thing – as you know, I’m a technological dunderhead! – but just type in those headings and I’m sure it will pop up). I was referred to this particular gem by a Southern Baptist minister, who was extolling Zacharias’ virtues and introduced him as a ‘wonderful mentor’ to all Christians. I think if you watch the video (and be prepared to sit for awhile – he LOVES the sound of his own voice) you’ll see that his message is – IN MY HUMBLE OPINION – very UNchristian.
          P.S. After I replied to this link she had on Facebook (rather pointedly . . . I know, you can’t believe it. . .), both my comment and the offending video were removed – she got my point.

          • Thank you, Carmen. It’s always good to have the full picture. I don’t think one (belief in Trinity) should imply the other (homosexuality is wrong) but, still, it’s helpful to see the full spectrum of this person’s opinion.

  11. I guess it’s human nature to try to figure God out. We’re more curious than cats, aren’t we. My cats can’t leave anything alone. They have to smell it, nudge it, batt it around, hide it, find it again. Why can’t they just let it BE what it is? Well, they can’t because they’re cats. And we can’t just let God be God because we’re who we are. But I do find it annoying when we humans try to put God into a box, neatly pigeonholed or pinned to a board like a butterfly. God’s a mystery, and would we really want it any other way? Would we want a God we could pin to a board?

    I like how Corinna put it: “Perhaps some people need a mixture of form and formlessness, or will use one or the other at different times in their lives. I’ve thought of God as an endless plane of vibrating energy of which we are all a part, but I’ve also pictured God with arms and legs and hands I can hold. Because sometimes I just want a hand to hold, even if just in my imagination.” I think we’re more like the blind men in the story of the blind men and the elephant. Each one of us has hold of some part of who God is, and we sometimes think that’s IT, and we make a religion out of it. But God is so much BIGGER than we can know. I know THAT is true, and as long as I know that is true, I can’t really tell someone that they’re wrong about who God is, and I’m right. I’d rather listen to them telling me about their “part of the elephant”, and that’s what we’ve been doing here on Corinna’s blog. I keep going back to the line at the top of the page: “Mining religion for essential wisdom to live better”. That’s what Corinna is “trying to accomplish”. And that’s why I’m here too.

    Love you folks,
    Shelley

    • Hi Shelley:
      I think your question about pinning God on a board is one that most would answer “no” to, but inside, we’d really like to have him there. If we could fully dissect him, then our lives on this earth could be so much more comfortable, then we could live out our unruffled lives in “peace.” I feel like I’m just getting to know God, my Father, and, as in human relationships, it’s not quite so predictable nor is it always the way I want, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

  12. Jo, Mark, Merrill, Shelly and Carmen—

    I am as traditional a Christian as there is, in my choice of beliefs, denomination, and practice. I believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. I got to where I am through several years of discernment, prayer, and spiritual direction. I truly believe God guides me down this path because He knows the ways in which I will best be able to understand Him. Just as we, as adults, use teaching methods that best suit a child’s learning skills, (e.g. a visual learner vs. an auditory learner), He uses what best suits us. His goal is to bring us to His joy.

    If I believe God has lead me down the path that works best for me, then I must believe He leads those who seek Him down their own best paths as well. Seeking Him in a different way doesn’t make them wrong or condemned. It’s the seeking that counts. I keep coming back to this passage from Romans 2:

    “13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.”

    “The requirements of the law are written on their hearts”. Wow—Paul at his best! The passage tells us 1) God created us to, by nature, follow His law, and 2) leave the judgment to Him (“God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ”).

    A few years ago, I was reading one of Brian McLaren’s books and a section really hit me. When he was a pastor, one of his kids came home from school very troubled. She told him she was sitting in class and it suddenly struck her that many of her friends were going to hell because they weren’t Christians. Does it really make sense for God to condemn good people, who “have the law written on their hearts”? If I believe He has reached out to me and led me down the path to Him, I must believe He offers the same to all others. Its not for me to judge His ways or, as Shelly says, box Him in.

    Jo and Mark, I think God has led you down the paths that work for you, and to try to convince you your paths are wrong would not please Him in the least. But I also strongly believe God can lead others down paths that may seem unusual to me personally, but still make Jesus the way, the truth, and the life.

  13. Tim, if it makes anyone feel better I’ll tell you all this – I figure I have no idea where I’m going after death, but I’m pretty sure the only thing I’ll need is a handsled. I’m fine with it. . . and I don’t worry about being judged by God or (wo)man. . .
    As far as I can tell from the things people write on here, you’re all good people – with or without God.

            • Tim C
              I’d like to go back to your post of June 18th and comment on three points you made in that post. First I would like to make it clear that I am not trying to debate with you. In fact, I’ve appreciated your points made in your various posts. They normally (in my opinion) are well thought out and logical, though not always scriptural. You said:

              1). “The Bible is full of apparent contradictions.” I’ve heard that over many years. I know that many people, even many who profess to be Christians have said this, but I’ve yet to see a single so-called ‘contradiction’ that can’t be answered from another part of the Bible itself, or by studying the context and reasoning on it. If you would provide me with two or three of these contradictions, I’ll try my best to answer them.

              2). Concerning knowing God, as to whether or not he is a triune God, you said: “It is a ‘mystery of faith’, one we cannot fully comprehend here on earth but believe in nonetheless. . .His being is beyond human understanding.” Tim, I can agree with you partially, especially when you said “His being is beyond human understanding.” Since all of us are imperfect humans, and God is a spirit (John 4:24), at this point all we know of God is what we read in his Word, the Bible concerning his personality, his likes and dislikes, his love for mankind, his will and his purpose, and whatever else he chooses to reveal about Himself. That may become different in the new system of things that the Bible speaks of. However, both God and his Son have told us (through Scripture) much about each of them. In fact, we have more than enough information to determine whether or not he is a “three in one” God, OR the unique God the Father, and Jesus Christ is not God, but the wonderful unique Son of God. (see Matt. 16:15,16).

              In fact, coming to know God as well as Jesus Christ are requirements to gain “life eternal” as Jesus tells us at John 17:3. This verse says (KJV): “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.” Please note that Jesus said we must know God, AS WELL AS HIS SON, Jesus Christ. This helps me to understand they are complete separate Persons that we must come to know. If, as you said in your post, “His being is beyond human understanding” then we could never really come to know God, nor Jesus Christ if He is the “same God”. If God is “beyond human understanding” then to follow what Jesus said at John 17:3 in order to have “life eternal” would be an impossibility. I cannot fathom Jesus Christ telling us that it is a requirement to come to know God and Jesus Himself, and yet have it be humanly impossible to accomplish that. Perhaps you might reconsider your position on this. Perhaps I’m looking at your post differently than you meant. If so, I apologize and would appreciate your position in a clear manner.

              3). The final point I wish to respectfully rebut is your statement: “In the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to himself as the great ‘I Am’, the name God used for Himself in Exodus.”

              At Exodus 3:14 (KJV) we read: “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” Now, Trinitarians in general believe that at John 8:58, Jesus is applying the words “I am” to Himself, and that he is actually quoting from Exodus 3:14. These people believe that proves that Jesus is God, since he is calling Himself “I am”, just as Almighty God Jehovah did. But–is Jesus applying the name-title “I am” to Himself, thereby claiming to be God? Here’s what John 8:58 (KJV) says: “Jesus said unto them [the scribes and Pharisees], Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” Let’s look at this carefully:

              The English words “I am” here in John, are translated from the Greek words “ego eimi” “Ego” is the simple pronoun “I” and “eimi” is the simple verb, which can be translated “am, was, or have been” (see Strong’s Concordance for proof of this). If Jesus were actually quoting from Ex. 3:14, Jesus would NOT have used “ego eimi” but would have used the words HO ON, exactly like the Greek Septuagint has it at Ex. 3:14. For those who aren’t familiar with the Greek Septuagint, it was a Greek copy of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) that was translated into Greek for the benefit of Greek speaking Jews. Jesus himself used and quoted from the Septuagint most of the time when he quotes from the Old Testament. Many copies of this still exist today, and scholars have been able to examine them. At Ex. 3:14, the Greek Septuagint translates “I am” as “HO ON” which is the name-title meaning roughly “The Being”, and NOT “ego eimi”. If Jesus were quoting from Ex. 3:14, at John 8:58 we would find in the Greek manuscripts today “HO ON” instead of the simple pronoun and verb “ego eimi”. That’s what the manuscripts show Jesus said—NOT “HO ON”. The Hebrew equivalent to the Greek “ego eimi” (the simple pronoun and verb) is “ani hu”. That’s what appears in Hebrew copies of the New Testament at John 8:58, but at Gen. 3:14 Hebrew Bibles have “Ehyeh” which means “the Being, or the One who is”, the equivalent of “HO ON”. Check the Tanakh, printed by the Jewish Publication Society. This is absolute proof that Jesus was not quoting from Ex. 3:14 and applying a name-title to himself which belongs solely to Jehovah God.

              All Jesus was saying is that before Abraham was born, Jesus existed. Jesus is answering his opposers’ question about HOW OLD HE WAS with a statement concerning HIS AGE, NOT HIS IDENTITY! To show that many other Bible scholars and translators are aware of what has been presented here, please note the following renderings of John 8:58:

              “I was alive before Abraham was born!” The Simple English Bible
              “I have existed before Abraham was born.” Moffatt
              “I existed before Abraham was born” An American Translation
              “Before Abraham came to be, I was” Stage
              “Before there was an Abraham, I was already there.” Pfaefflin
              “I existed before Abraham was born.” Schonfield
              “Before Abraham was born, I was.” Lamsa
              “Before Abraham existed, I was” James Murdock
              “Before Abraham existed I was already what I am” Twentieth Century N.T.
              “I can assure you that I came into being before Abraham.” 21st Century N.T.
              “I am from before Abraham was born.” Richard Lattermore.
              “Before Abraham existed, I was already existing.” Biblia Sagrada, (in Portuguese)
              “I existed before Abraham was born” Metropolitan F.S. Noli
              “I existed before Abraham was born” Charles B. Williams
              “I was before Abraham was born” Samuel Sharpe
              “Before Abraham became, I, I am being” William Horner
              “I am here–and I was before Abraham” J.A. Kleist, S.J. and J.L. Lilly, C.M.
              “I have been when there had as yet been no Abraham” Isaac Salkinson and David Ginsburg
              “or, ‘I have been’.” New American Standard Version (editions 1960-p.1073, margin)
              “Before Abraham was, I have been.” A.S. Lewis
              “From before Abraham was, I have been” George R. Noyes
              “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been” NWT
              “The absolute truth is that I was in existence before Abraham was ever born!” The Living Bible

              When Trinitarian critics try to use what Jesus said at John 8:58 to “prove” their point that Jesus applied the divine title at Ex. 3:14 to Himself, they are either being dishonest, or they haven’t done their homework! Best wishes to you, Tim.

              Respectfully,

              Chuck

              • Hi Chuck,

                Chuck said:

                1). “The Bible is full of apparent contradictions.” I’ve heard that over many years. I know that many people, even many who profess to be Christians have said this, but I’ve yet to see a single so-called ‘contradiction’ that can’t be answered from another part of the Bible itself, or by studying the context and reasoning on it. If you would provide me with two or three of these contradictions, I’ll try my best to answer them.”

                Sure, I’ll bite, as there ARE contradictions. But first let me ask you this, just to get a sense of what moral framework you’re operating within:

                Genesis offers the account of Lot offering his daughters up to be gang-raped by an angry mob in order to protect two male visitors (who were strangers to Lot, passing through town; unbeknownst to him at the time, they actually were later revealed to be angels).

                So I ask: Is this the act of a righteous man, someone deserving of saving from the planned destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?

                (And let me just add that MOST parents who actually love their children would do ANYTHING within their power to protect their physical and emotional well-being (even if it’s only their lowly daughters, which were clearly viewed as expendables within the Hebrew culture in which the account is set). They’d do ANYTHING possible to avoid them being sexually-abused at the hands of strangers, and certainly wouldn’t offer them up or dangle them out, as if to use them for bait to protect others they just met.

                Now, you may or may not agree with that, which is I’m asking for clarification at this point….).

  14. Hi Chuck–
    First, thanks for the vote of confidence in my ability to travel forward in time (my post of June 18″)?!? I’ve been known to drive fast, but not that fast–LOL!

    And rest assured, no offense taken on your reply. I have a friend who’s a convinced Creationist, and we manage to get along, so I don’t mind a healthy disagreement. I guess I’ll start my reply back to front: My study Bible (Zondervan NIV) says that in John 8:58 Jesus is clearly (empathically is the word the editors use) stating His oneness with the Father by referring to Himself as “I Am”. Depending on which scholars you consult, you will find a fair amount of debate over the meaning of that phrase. As for not full understanding God’s nature, perhaps I should have been more clear, as you say. What I was trying to articulate is that, as you stated, God does indeed want us to know Him in the sense of how He expects us to live our lives according to His will, which He makes clear in Scripture (e.g. through the Beatitudes). But there are many passages that make it equally clear we can never totally know Him while we’re here on Earth. In the OT, when Moses asks to see Him face-to-face, God replies no man can see Him and live and allows him to see only His back. And, to paraphrase, how many times does the Bible state “God’s ways are not always man’s ways.”? Just tonight, I was reading 2 Corinthians, where Paul says he was taken up to the “third Heaven”, and there saw things no man could describe. So, what I was trying to say is that, as much as He wants us to love Him and know Him, He also tells us the best is yet to come, and that is something so wondrous an joyful its simply beyond our present ability to comprehend. I certainly wasn’t tying to say He’s hiding Himself from us in some way–sorry if I made it sound like that. Finally, I could cite many contradictions, but rather than stating them negatively, let me try to turn them into something affirming and positive. In the NT, Jesus tells us the old law was a “eye for an eye”, but the new is to “love your enemies”. Clearly, He is contradicting the old law, albeit for a new and much better covenant. Also, the OT says that some sins will carry down generations; Jesus says instead each of us must answer for our own sins. When I say there are contradictions in the Bible, the point I’m trying to make is that Jesus moved us from being under the burdensome law of the OT to the New Covenant. I don’t think these contradictions undermine the Bible’s authority in any way. I do think they’re there for a reason, which id to underscore our need to abandon the old Pharisaical way of looking at faith and to embrace Jesus’ call to obedience, service, humility, and love. In that sense, I agree with your first reply, that apparent contradictions can indeed be resolved through further reading and contemplation.

    Where I have to disagree with you, (and its okay to disagree, after all), is that my reasoning isn’t Scriptural. With all due respect, I believe its is. I’ve been reading the Bible and commentaries on Scriptures for many years, and from many points of view, and I never cease to be amazed at the broad range of opinions on its contents. The points of view I’ve tried to articulate on Corinna’s blog reflect my understanding of the words and meaning of Scripture. I’m the first to admit I’m no literalist (I’ve committed more than my share of sin but have yet to cut off a hand or gouge out my eyes). But I’m not a relativist, either. Jesus was indeed emphatic that He is the way to the father–there’s no getting past that. But I also remember His ways are not always our ways, and how He chooses to act in others’ lives isn’t my call.

    I hope I’ve clarified my earlier statements, (or maybe confused you even more). Despite all of the diverse opinions on this blog, we can certainly disagree about the Trinity and lots of other issues, but still reach out to each other in love and respect, just as you did in your reply. Thanks for the stimulating challenge so close to my bedtime–now I have something to ponder as I doze off.

    In Mutual Respect,
    Tim

    • Hello Tim,
      I really appreciated your response, and yes, you did clear things up beautifully. I can now agree with almost all of what you said. I, too, have been studying the Bible for a long time (56 years) and continue my studies to this day. There is so much to learn, but it’s the thing I love doing more than anything else! I’ve studied many commentaries on John 8:58/Exodus 3:14 too, and have found most of them to be efforts to fit Jesus’ words into their agendas. The simple way to accept what Jesus said is to look at it from what the Greek actually tells us (as in my post last night). Jesus simply does NOT say (let me mix up the English and the Greek) “Before Abraham was, HO ON [The Being]” Instead, he simply said, “Before Abraham was ego eimi [I am, I was, or I have been–Strong’s Concordance]. In other words, Jesus was answering the question of those religious leaders who were questioning Jesus on his AGE–NOT HIS IDENTITY.

      The very best (in my opinion) commentary I’ve read concerning John 8:58/Exodus 3:14 is from the book “Truth in Translation–Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament” by Dr. Jason D. BeDuhn. Dr. BeDuhn is Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Department of Humanities, Arts, and Religion at Northern Arizona University. He is NOT associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses in any way. He has a B.A from the University of Illinois, his Masters if from Harvard Divinity School and his Ph.D. is from Indiana University. As many scholars have, Dr. BeDuhn has a long list of honors/grants, professional appointments, publications, papers, and public lectures. His languages include: Coptic, Greek, Parthian, Middle Persian, Latin, French, and German. I purchased this book through Amazon. It’s published by University Press of America, Inc. and is an excellent, if not surprising, read.

      Dr. BeDuhn compared 9 translations including the New World Translation (JWs translation) both for accuracy and Bias and his results were astounding! I will note at the end of my post what his findings were. Admitting that every Greek/Hebrew scholar has his own bias and it is very difficult to not be led by bias, however he approached his study and his findings with that in mind–to eliminate or withhold his own bias and look strictly at the grammar and all related to the grammar to see which translation is the most accurate and least biased. Here are some excerpts from his section on John 8:58/Ex. 3:14 from page 103 to 112:

      “. . .Just as we do not say ‘John I am’ or “Hungry I am’ or ‘First in line I am,’ so it is not proper English to say “Before Abraham came to be I am.’ Yet all of the translations we are comparing, with the exception of the LB [Living Bible], offer precisely this sort of mangled word order. . . .When verb tenses or any other part of grammar is used in a way outside of usual expectations, we call it an ‘idiom.’ Because Greek idioms are different from English idioms, translators do not translate these expressions word-for-word, but rather convey the meaning of the Greek idiom in proper, comprehensible English. At least, that is what translators are supposed to do. . . .In John 8:58, since Jesus’ existence is not completed past action, but ongoing, we must use some sort of imperfect verbal form to convey that: ‘I have been (since) before Abraham came to be.’ That’s as close as we can get to what the Greek says in our own language if we pay attention to all parts of the sentence. Both the LB and the NWT offer translations that coordinate the two verbs in John 8:58 according to proper English syntax, and that accurately reflect the meaning of the Greek idiom. The other translations fail to do this. . . .It is clear that the translators of the nine versions we are comparing are familiar with this idiomatic aspect of Greek verbs, because they usually translate such expressions accurately into correct English. [Then BeDuhn gives two examples which I won’t type out in the interest of brevity] . . .This is exactly the same grammatical construct as found in 8:58, where these same translations (with the exception of the LB and NWT) suddenly ignore the larger grammatical construct and have ‘am.’ . . .Why would translators, whose job it is to make the Bible into comprehensible, good quality English, choose an awkward, ungrammatical rendering instead? Why do Bible translations which in thousands of other verses freely change word order relative to the original Greek, suddenly find a reason to follow exactly the Greek, producing an ungrammatical and syntactically strained sentence in this instance? Why does Bratcher himself, in the TEV, render John 8:58 as ‘Before Abraham was born, “I Am” ‘? The answer is theological bias.

      “Actually, ‘I am’ is a very uncertain rendering of the Hebrew expression in Exodus. But those who promote the significance of the parallel between Exodus 3:14 and the expression ‘I am’ in John say that the correspondence between the two is proven by the exact match in how Exodus 3:14 is translated in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (called the Septuagint) that was known to the New Testament authors and the wording used by John. A quick look at the Septuagint, however, shows this claim to be in error. The Septuagint of Exodus 3:14 has God say ego eimi ho on, ‘I am the being’ or ‘I am the one that exists.’ Plainly, ego eimi functions here exactly as it does in the mouth of all speaking characters throughout the Bible, as a first person pronoun subject, followed by the be-verb, to which a predicate noun is attached. God does not say ‘I am I Am,’ he says ‘I am the being.’ ‘I am’ sets up the title or identification God uses of himself, it is not itself that title. Separating ‘I am’ off as if it were meant to stand alone is an interpretive sleight-of-hand, totally distorting the role the phrase plays in the whole sentence, either in the Greek Septuagint version of Exodus 3:14 or in John 8:58. There is absolutely nothing in the original Greek of John 8:58 to suggest that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament here, contrary to what the TEV tries to suggest by putting quotation marks around ‘I am.’ . . .Inconsistency in translation is often an indicator of bias. . . .

      “In John 8:24, Jesus says to his opponents, ‘You will die in your sins unless you believe that I am (he)’ (ego eimi). He is not warning them to believe in his existence; they know he exists well enough, and in fact consider him a nuisance. When he tells them that they must believe that ‘I am (he),” their response shows the correct meaning of his expression. They ask, ‘Who are you?’ Their question only makes sense if ego eimi in verse 24 means ‘I am he.’ . . .If anyone needs proof that ego eimi need not be a quote from the Old Testament, and is not reserved as a title of God, here it is. Once again, our attention is drawn to inconsistency in how words are handled by biased translators. If ego eimi is not a divine self-proclamation in the mouth of the blind man of John 9, then it cannot be such a proclamation in the mouth of Jesus just a few verses earlier. None of the translations we are comparing, of course, have the blind man saying ‘I am,’ let alone ‘I AM.’ According to the reasoning of those who insist that the phrase must be understood as a declaration of divine identity, and so preserved in the ‘interlinear’ form, the blind man is also God. We’ll leave that problem to them. For the rest of us, it is sufficient to see in John 9:9 a clear example of the idiomatic use of the expression ego eimi in Greek speech. . . .

      “All translations except the LB and NWT also ignore the true relation between the verbs of the sentence, and produce a sentence that makes no sense in English. On top of this, we see the strange capitalization in the NAB, AB, and the TEV. These changes in the meaning of the Greek and in the normal procedure for translation point to a bias that has interfered with the work of the translators. It is Jesus’ claim to be superior to Abraham, and to have a superhuman longevity, not a claim to a divine self-designation, that enrages his audience. Jesus’ claim here fits perfectly John’s understanding of Jesus as God’s logos, or creative agent at the beginning of time, in John 1. Jesus’ argument in 8:58 is that he has seniority over Abraham, and so by the standards of Jewish society, he has greater authority than the patriarch. No one listening to Jesus, and no one reading John in his own time would have picked up on a divine self-identification in the mere expression ‘I am,’ which, if you think about, is just about the most common pronoun-verb combination in any language. . . .

      The LB comes out as the most accurate translation of John 8:58. The translator avoided the lure of bias and the pressure of the KJV tradition. The NWT is second best in this case, because it understands the relation between the two verbs correctly, even though the influence of the KJV has led its translators to put the verb improperly at the end of the sentence. The average Bible reader might never guess that there was something wrong with the other translations, and might even assume that the error was to be found in the LB and NWT. When all you can do is compare the English translations, and count them up like votes, the LB and NWT stick out as different in John 8:58. It is natural to assume that the majority are correct and the odd ones at fault. It is only when translations are checked against the original Greek, as they should be, that a fair assessment can be made, and the initial assumption can be seen to be wrong.”

      Interestingly, here is BeDuhn’s conclusion after looking at several verses that Trinitarians try to use to support their beliefs. From page 163 of BeDuhn’s book, we read: “While it is difficult to quantify this sort of analysis, it can be said that the NWT emerges as the most accurate of the translations compared. Holding a close second to the NWT in its accuracy, judging by the passages we have looked at, is the NAB. Both of these are translations produced by single denominations of Christianity. Despite their distinctive doctrinal commitments, the translators managed to produce works relatively more accurate and less biased than the translations produced by multi-denominational teams, as well as those produced by single individuals.”

      Tim, according to your post in answer to my last post, I was quite surprised to see how much we really do agree on several of your clarifications, and that we are not so far apart, at least on the points we discussed–except perhaps that at John 8:58 Jesus was not quoting from Exodus 3:14. I hope that this information quoted from BeDuhn might narrow the gap even further. All for now. Take care.

      Chuck

      • Chuck, thank you so much for sharing your research. Like you, I’m not afraid to look outside my comfort zone when it comes to Scriptural research. Throughout history, the amount of research on the Bible is astounding. I agree with you and Dr. BeDuhn; most research shares the bias of the author’s intent. Added on top of less than perfect translations from the past, there can be so much confusion on what certain passages truly mean. I’m glad I was able to clarify my views; sometimes, there’s just so much I want to get out it can be confusing.

        The only thing I’d like to add to our discussion is that it proves what many of us on Corrina’s blog have said before; we can discuss and debate, and still not resolve all of our differences (not that that should be our intent anyway), but never doubt the sincerity and goodwill of the blog’s contributors. I think Corrina has given us a wonderful opportunity to share thoughts and beliefs in a non-confrontational–yet challenging—forum. We owe her a huge debt of thanks.

  15. BTW, Corinna: Have you considered checking out any of the Eastern Orthodox churches (e.g. Russian, Greek, etc.)?

    • Hi Tim, I would if there were one in my area. Instead, for the purposes of this particular journey, I’ve had to rely on my memories of the Orthodox church I’ve visited in Dallas. I’ve never actually been to a Sunday service there but to every other life event (wedding, funeral, baptism where they slicked up the baby with olive oil so that evil stuff would slide off, which I thought was awesome).

          • Homewithin said:

            “Extra virgin, Tim.”

            Wow, as a non-Catholic I would’ve guessed it was only ‘virgin’ oil, as I thought the ‘extra-virgin’ type was reserved for children conceived by Immaculate Conception? 😉

            But speaking as the resident atheist around here, I almost feel obligated to live up to the stereotype, saying that I personally prefer baby with a nice, light drizzle of vinaigrette. Yum!

            What…. Is that comment crossing some unwritten line? (Said with a perfectly-innocent look on his face, as Dave decides it best to beat a hasty retreat, while dodging flying pots and pans….) 🙂

          • Ha! I think it was just good ol’ kitchen stuff. The priest rubbed it on my baby cousin’s chubby little legs and arms, but didn’t make a big deal of it. I asked after the ceremony what it was and what it meant and that’s when he mentioned the oil and slicking baby up for bad stuff to slide off. They also cut a little clipping of baby’s hair as a sacrifice to God because baby has nothing more to offer. I didn’t think to ask what they do if baby has no hair. Hmmmm…

  16. David,
    Thank you for that thought-provoking question. It’s something I have not really thought about, so it should be a good learning experience for me as I research it. I’ll pass my findings on to you in the next few days due to time restraints. Thanks again for the question. I hope I can find some answers that will satisfy both you and me.
    Chuck

    • Hi Chuck,

      Chuck said:

      “Thank you for that thought-provoking question. It’s something I have not really thought about, so it should be a good learning experience for me as I research it. I’ll pass my findings on to you in the next few days due to time restraints. Thanks again for the question. I hope I can find some answers that will satisfy both you and me.”

      Thanks for responding. Of course, the question I posed (in response to your assertion that there are no contradictions in the Bible) was this:

      “Genesis offers the account of Lot offering his daughters up to be gang-raped by an angry mob, in order to protect his two male visitors (who were strangers to Lot, passing through town; unbeknownst to him at the time, they later revealed themselves to be undercover angels who’ve come to destroy Sodom).

      So I ask: Is Lot’s offering his daughters up the act of a “righteous man”, someone deserving of saving from the planned destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?”

      I was just looking for a binary (yes/no) answer, which I wouldn’t think should be THAT difficult to answer, since the Bible itself provides the answer for you, in 2 Peter 2:7-9:

      “7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) 9The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished”

      So, what say you: is Lot a “just, righteous man” as apostle Peter says, or is Peter wrong?

      (BTW, it’s really not meant as a theological trap, but I actually HAVE looked into this issue quite a bit, and will share what I’ve found in a day or so; don’t worry if you don’t have time to research it yourself before committing to an answer, as a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will suffice.)

      Dave

  17. My favorite words in the bible” in the beginning was the word…” It sounds so beautiful in Greek too. also part of the oft quoted John. doesn’t the trinity, or at least the idea of Christ’s divinity in part flow from this, of course depending on how it is translated. Is it the word was god? Or the word was with god? Or both? Is the word Jesus or is it the whole tradition? It almost sounds like a koan. Perhaps that’s the point, to think and struggle with something a bit too big to put into words, and therein get a glimpse of the profound or divine.

    • Hi Lac, Those are lovely words. They seem to suggest a form coming from formlessness. I agree: one could ponder on that idea for a lifetime and what they suggest would change and morph.

  18. Wow. This has been a really, REALLY interesting set of posts. My mind is boggling, and I have to tell you that I’m glad I didn’t get involved in the scholarly, Scriptural interpretation part of this because my head would have spun off, lol. Thank you Tim and Chuck, and God bless you for even being able to attempt explaining some of this stuff.

    I have to admit that you were all in my mind today as I said the Nicene Creed, and all of you were in my prayers.

    Yours in Christ.

    • Welcome back, Patti! Of all the days, I didn’t make it to Mass today–I had a roaring sinus headache, so I missed the Father’s Day blessing, and blew my perfect attendance award!

  19. David,
    There are some things that can’t be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No”. I’m not a simple Yes or No kind of guy as you may have noted by some of my other posts. Sometimes I say too much, which is perhaps a fault. If I answered either yes or no, I would only be giving my opinion, which proves nothing. Instead I prefer to try to answer the question as best I can after researching it from the Bible. This particular question is not so easy to answer due to the lack of information the Bible gives us. I would venture a guess that nothing I report on here will be new to you, as you appear to have a good knowledge of the scriptures (possibly from your early training in a JW family??).

    Before going on, I might add that the point which was made previously had to do with “contradictions” in the Bible. I responded that there aren’t any real contradictions. Those that people normally bring up as contradictions can be shown not to be contradictions at all, but usually can be answered by examining the context, or explained by other verses in the Bible itself. In this case, rather than it being a “contradiction” it is really more of a troublesome occurrence that causes some people to doubt the Bible itself, and yes, there are some of those occurrences recorded in the Bible that cause pause until understood. This may be one of them.

    The case in point was when Lot offered to let the howling mob of Sodomites have his two espoused daughters for their lust in order to protect the lives of the two “men” whom he had as guests in his house (Gen. 19: 1-8). Another very similar case was when the old man of Gibeah offered his virgin daughter and his guest’s concubine to a similar mob, this time of Benjaminites in order to protect the Levite whom he was entertaining. But in this case when the Levite put his concubine outside the house she was at the mercy of the mob, to her death (Judges 19: 1-3, 10-28).

    Then we have another case where Abraham represented Sarah as his sister to prevent violent controversy over his wife. Sarah recognized Abraham as her lord and agreed to the arrangement, willing to take the consequences of the arrangement. She was willing to do her part to preserve the life of Jehovah’s prophet, with whom He had made his covenant. Abraham looked upon this as an expression of her loving-kindness to him, and Sarah viewed it in the same way (1 Peter 3: 5, 6).

    But critics don’t view it that way. They view Abraham as a lying, prevaricating, weakling coward rather than a cautious strategist in an enemy land filled with (human) wolves. Some critics have said that God wouldn’t have considered Abraham a righteous man since Abraham lied, saying Sarah was his sister, but he didn’t lie. Sarah was actually his half-sister. Since God saw good to keep Abraham in his covenant and to protect Sarah undefiled for her husband, we might see this as a strategy that had God’s blessing on it, especially since elsewhere in scripture Abraham is used to picture Jehovah God, and Sarah is used to picture God’s heavenly womanly organization that produces the promised Seed, the Christ (Isa. 54: 5-8; Gal. 3: 29; 4:21-31).

    If we call Abraham a liar and prevaricator, we should ask if Jehovah used a liar and a faithless coward to supplicate Him to heal Abimelech who had acted in his innocence? To understand God’s action toward his prophet Abraham, we should not just think of God’s faithfulness to his covenant with Abraham, but of the circumstances back there. Whether in Egypt or in Palestine, Abraham was in enemy territory and needed to be cautious. He wanted to live so he could carry out God’s purpose toward him, so he was wise in using strategy toward those who might be provoked to injure or kill him. He could have gone to war with them, as he did with 318 of his household slaves when he had once put to rout the armies of four kings from Mesopotamia who invaded Palestine and carried off his nephew Lot and his household. But Abraham chose to keep the peace with the inhabitants of lands where he travelled, and not go to war with them over his wife.

    Now, back to Lot. It’s interesting to me that rather than condoning or condemning Lot’s actions, the Bible simply reports what took place. This account (Lot offering his daughters to the Sodomites) is given in scripture without moral commentary or judgment by God. While today we would find appalling the attitude and (sometimes) treatment of women in Abraham’s and Lot’s day, prior to the Mosaic Law Code, often treating them as expendable, but back then it was commonplace. To offer Lot’s engaged daughters to a howling mob of Sodomites in order to protect the lives of the two “men” whom he had as guests in his house would be OUTRAGEOUS today! But, again, we need to look at the circumstances back there.

    A daughter was considered the “property” of her father until he gave her in marriage (Joshua 15: 16, 17; 1 Sam. 18: 17, 19, 27), and as such, she could even be used as security or sold into slavery, though not to a foreigner. (Ex. 21: 7-10; Neh. 5: 2-5). Until she was married, her vows were subject to her father’s annulment (Numbers 36: 1-12). This is still the case in some cultures today. We have at least two instances recorded where fathers offered their virgin daughters to depraved mobs in order to protect their guests (Gen. 19: 6-8; Judges 19: 22-24). While some critics have charged that Lot acted improperly, we really aren’t in a position today to condemn him. The Bible shows that God, who reads hearts, did not judge Lot adversely.

    When God sent two materialized angels to Sodom, Lot hospitably insisted that they stay in his home. That evening a mob of Sodomites surrounded the house crying out: “Where are the men who came in to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have intercourse with them.” Stepping outside, and closing the door so that he was alone outside facing the mob, he pleaded with them: “Please, here I have two daughters who have never had intercourse with a man. Please, let me bring them out to you. Then do to them as is good in your eyes. Only to these men do not do a thing, because that is why they HAVE COME UNDER THE SHADOW OF MY ROOF.” The angry mob pressed in on Lot, almost breaking in the door. As we know through the Bible account, the mob was unsuccessful. Jehovah intervened through the angels and struck the mob with blindness (Gen. 19: 6-11).

    Since the Bible does not expand on the account, we can only infer what might have been a couple of options of Lot’s thinking, based upon other scriptures and attitudes. For example, according to the Oriental code, it was a host’s responsibility to protect guests in his home, defending them even to the point of death if necessary. The “Big Book of Bible Difficulties”, by Geisler and Howe, page 48 substantiates that when it refers to “the Canaanite custom that guarantees protection for those coming under one’s roof.” Then it refers us to Gen. 19:8. Evidently the Canaanites also came under that same Oriental code.

    Heb. 13:2 tells us that Lot had at first entertained the angels, as you said, unaware that they were angels, but then at a certain point he may have realized these “men” were messengers (angels) from God. Lot could have felt that as much as he loved his daughters, he would be willing to sacrifice them if necessary, just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac, if necessary (Gen. 22:1-4). In offering his daughters to the mob, Lot could have been confident that, if it was Jehovah’s will, God would protect his daughters, even as God had already protected Sarah, and then Isaac. Apparently Jehovah did exactly that, so that Lot and his daughters were kept safe, not only from the deranged mob, but also from the fiery destruction that came on the cities (Gen. 19: 15-29).

    The angels did NOT say that by making the offer of his daughters to the mob that Lot no longer was considered righteous. Instead, they aided Lot and his family to escape when God destroyed those cities that didn’t even have 10 “righteous persons” in them (Gen. 18: 26-32). This would show that Lot and his two daughters were in the “less than ten” persons who were considered by God righteous enough to be spared at the destruction of those evil cities. Neither did God criticize Lot who was tormented at even observing the lawless deeds of those Sodomite men. In fact, as we know, Jehovah, who can read hearts, pronounced Lot to be a “righteous man” (2 Peter 2: 8, 9). These are some points to consider, based on what little information we have to go on.

    • Hi Chuck,

      Thanks for the reply.

      Chuck said:

      “This particular question is not so easy to answer due to the lack of information the Bible gives us.”

      Ahhh, but it gives you all the information needed to answer, as it did your moral decision-making for you, and you even cited the answer, given in 2 Peter:

      “In fact, as we know, Jehovah, who can read hearts, pronounced Lot to be a “righteous man” (2 Peter 2: 8, 9).”

      So is “yes” your FINAL answer? Or do you dare to disagree with YHWH? 🙂

      Chuck said:

      “The angels did NOT say that by making the offer of his daughters to the mob that Lot no longer was considered righteous. Instead, they aided Lot and his family to escape when God destroyed those cities that didn’t even have 10 “righteous persons” in them (Gen. 18: 26-32). This would show that Lot and his two daughters were in the “less than ten” persons who were considered by God righteous enough to be spared at the destruction of those evil cities.”

      Close, but not quite: YHWH agreed to spare the ENTIRE CITY if 10 righteous persons were found inside, so the fact that Lot et al were given an opportunity to escape before S&G was destroyed (an opportunity they lingered at, having been forcibly by angels in order to save their lives) doesn’t automatically mean they were judged as “righteous”.

      Well, I HAVE looked at the issue, and will share my research with you within a day.

    • (Corinna, I apologize ahead of time for the lengthy side-track, as I really need to get my own blog! 🙂 I’m working on it, but want to address Chuck here….)

      Hi Chuck,

      So here’s the answer, based on my extensive research on the issue of 2nd Peter’s eyebrow-raising characterization of Lot as “righteous”.

      Let’s start by reviewing 2 Peter 2:7-9 (NIV):

      7 “And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) 9 The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished”

      OK, we get the point: per Peter, Lot was “a righteous man with a righteous soul” (“righteous” is repeated, in case the reader missed it the first time), who is “Godly”, and “just”. This is in keeping with the idea that God punishes evil-doers and saves the righteous; since Lot was saved at the hands of angels, he must’ve been “righteous”, right?

      But is that conclusion in keeping with the original story of Lot, found in Bereshit (Genesis)?

      Let’s consider the evidence, returned to the source in Genesis:

      (This is not based on only MY understanding of the Lot account, but is a culmination of views expressed by many sources, including Jewish rabbis, both present-day and past. When it comes to literary interpretation of the Torah, I tend to trust those who’s forefathers actually WROTE the story, and speak the language in which it was originally written; hence they’re less likely to miss the subtle details that often gets lost in translation and with time.)

      1) The account opens with Lot and Abraham (as well as their herdsmen) quarreling over limited resources (grasslands, water) for their livestock. Note this occurs in the arid hill country, where resources are limited.

      Righteous Abraham tries to resolve the conflict, suggesting they put some distance between their camps (implication being, Abraham is politely suggesting to his argumentative and quarrelsome nephew that it’s time to part ways).

      Genesis 13:8-9 (NIV):

      8 “So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”

      Hence, Lot is suggested to be contentious (not “just”), and if there’s conflict, it’s likely not coming from the “righteous” Abraham, who’s the protagonist of the story.

      2) When Abraham offered Lot his choice of land, Lot greedily picked the more-desirable fertile plains of Jordan (this was BEFORE YHWH destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah), leaving the leftovers to Abraham:

      Genesis 13:10-11 (NIV)

      10 “Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east.”

      In choosing, Lot violated the social norms, picking what he desired (as indicated by the words, “Lot chose for himself”). Instead, Lot was expected to shown respect for his elder, his uncle, deferring the decision back to Abraham, letting HIM choose which he preferred. Abraham was being polite, and Lot took advantage of his polite nature.

      Hence, Lot is shown to be greedy, putting his own best-interests ahead of others, even a relative. Hence, Lot is NOT “just”.

      Note this episode occurred in the hill country, where Abraham had earlier built an altar to YHWH. Higher elevations (Hebrew word bamot, ‘high places’) were desirable by “righteous” and “Godly” men, since it afforded an opportunity to be closer to YHWH (eg Moses ascended Mt Sinai to receive YHWH’s tablets). Abraham was left with Canaan, and we’re told he constructed an altar at Hebron (3,000 ft).

      Hence, Lot is depicted as choosing greater material wealth (the fertile well-watered plains vs arid, dry hills) over having a closer relationship with God (plains vs mountains).

      In the passage above, note how the plain of Jordan is compared to TWO locations:

      a) ‘the Garden of the Lord’, and,

      b) ‘the land of Egypt’.

      This is no accident, but is done to reinforce the point that not only does the fertile plain offer Lot an opportunity to maintain a relationship with God (‘the Garden of the Lord’ being a reference to the Garden of Eden, where Adam “walked withYHWH”), it ALSO offers greater prospects for material wealth (the reference to the opulent riches associated with ‘the land of Egypt’). Note how God is mentioned before material wealth; that priority will soon reverse in Lot’s mind.

      Hence, Abraham would’ve been able to live on the fertile plains below without sacrificing his relationship with God, as opportunities for communion would be available in the ‘Garden of the Lord’. However, Lot greedily chose the plains for it’s more-desirable wealth (fertile vs arid), valued over the spiritual concerns. And of course, the city of Sodom was below, as well, serving as a symbol for sin; living in the plain placed Lot in closer proximity to ‘sin crouching at his door’, so Lot was choosing to re-enter a land in which he previously been captive, and needing to be saved from, by Abraham. Lot thus chose to take the first step towards “returning to his own vomit”, as the Bible says.

      Hence, Lot’s decision is neither “just” or “Godly”, but moving away from God, sacrificing communion in the name of seeking great material wealth.

      3) And with the entire fertile plains of Jordan before his eyes, where does Lot choose to pitch his tent (ie take up temporary residence)? NEXT to the town of Sodom, nearby the “wicked sinners”?

      Genesis 13:12:

      12 “Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain, but pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.”

      (Some translations render the Hebrew word ‘near’ not to convey a sense of physical proximity to Sodom, but to suggest Lot’s orientation or leaning towards it, ie ‘pitching his tent TOWARDS Sodom’, indicating Lot’s affinity or desire. Either way, the meaning is the same: it’s intended to show Lot taking baby-steps back towards “Ungodly” Sodom.

      Of course, Lot eventually gives up the pastoral nomadic life-style favored by “righteous men” (like Abraham) altogether to live INSIDE the walls of the city of Sodom, surrounded by the wicked sinners. But notice the lack of any mention of his proximity to the “Garden of the Lord”: Lot is slowly moving away from communion with YHWH in order to live amongst the people of Sodom, apparently not even mindful of his separation from God.

      Is this an action of a “Godly man”?

      4) Lot is now found ‘seated at the gate’ of Sodom, when there isn’t any mention of his serving in any official capacity, or having been appointed to do so; remember that not only elders and judges “sat at the gate”, but idle townspeople also sat at the gate to engage in gossip, get the latest news, etc.

      Genesis makes it clear that Abram and Lot had left the land of Ur in Chaldea, so Lot is an immigrant in the land, an alien, a non-native foreigner residing within the walls of Sodom.

      While sitting at the gate was an honor bestowed on local town elders, Lot was an OUTSIDER who perhaps fancied himself a “just and wise” man (and likely was frustrated that no one else could recognize his wisdom). Hence the accusation later arises from a mob member, accusing Lot of ‘acting as if he were a judge’, when Lot likely wasn’t . Note that Lot doesn’t defend himself by saying he IS a judge, since he knows they know he’s not.

      Hence, the foreign-born Lot is not entrusted by the people of Sodom to “sit at the gates” in any official capacity, although the story shows him fulfilling the role (one that typically involves determining which sojourners are allowed to enter the city gates, or advising travelers of the local rules/customs).

      Speaking of local customs, it’s important to consider the fabled reputation of Sodom and Gomorrah:

      Hebrews conceived of ancient Sodom as a region that had been blessed by YHWH with an overwhelming abundance of natural resources, such that inhabitants were wealthy men of prosperity due to fruitful land on which they dwelt. One talmudic depiction relates that if someone in Sodom wanted to buy a vegetable, they could simply pull it from the ground and shake off the dust, separating out the gold for which to pay for it! The land was said to sprout loaves of bread, etc. Hence Sodom was depicted as the land of plenty.

      But as a result of such easy living, Sodomites soon were spoiled by their wealth and lost their fear of Heaven: they became materialistic, greedy, and selfish, worshiping their pagan Gods (which was an abomination in the eyes of YHWH). THIS was the sin for which they were destroyed, and their legendary inhospitality shown to sojourners and the less-fortunate was only an expression of their greedy, selfish attitude.

      This point is made in Ezekiel 16:49-50:

      “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.”

      As Susan Neiman points out in her book, ‘Moral Clarity’, the Sodomites were depicted in legend as not just being immoral, but deliberately anti-moral, intentionally inverting the rules of law:

      “According to one Jewish tale, gang rape of strangers wasn’t an accidental occurrence, but was actually prescribed by Sodom’s laws. According to another legend, helping strangers was punishable by death–a fate suffered by one of Lot’s daughters, who was burned at the pyre for giving bread to a poor man, and by another nameless maiden who was smeared with honey and left on a bee-infested rooftop for doing the same. Even it’s taxes were claimed as perversely regressive: owners of two oxen were liable for one day’s civil service, while those with one ox were assessed for two. Sodom’s crimes were all the worse for being thankless, for the city was showered with wealth…. Sapphires lined the streets in place of stones, and each street was shaded by seven types of trees: grape, pomegranate, fig, walnut, almond, apple, and peach.”

      In Hebrew oral tradition, one tale says Sodom was reputedly so stingy that singing birds weren’t heard within it’s walls, as the inhabitants didn’t want wild birds to peck even a single grain of their wheat! (There’s some of that legendary Jewish sense humor on display…. You almost want to say, “bud-da-bing, crash! ” after a “your momma’s so fat” set-up like that!). So instead of simply ignoring moral law, Sodom inverts it, turns it upon it’s head.

      But regardless, Lot is an outsider who chose to live under the topsy-turvy rules of Sodom, knowing full well of their reputation (Lot had lived there previously) but now is trying to impose YHWH’s standards of moral behavior on the inhabitants of a foreign land with foreign deities. Thus Lot voluntarily placed himself (once again!) into a dangerous situation, surrounding himself with a threat he could’ve easily avoided by not moving into the town of Sodom.

      The warning to original hearers of the tale is clear: don’t mix with foreigners, but if it can’t be avoided, DON’T attract attention to yourself, and don’t mix socially with Gentiles! Try to exist ‘off the radar’, as much as possible. That’s an important message, considering that Genesis was likely compiled when the Jews were in exile in Babylon, held captive against their will in a foreign land with foreign rules, and Lot was offered as an example of what NOT to do, how NOT to behave when surrounded by foreigners.

      4) Lot is shown to be vainglorious, selfishly seeking to protect his reputation as a gracious host, even placing his desire above the safety and well-being of his own family. The Bible says to not make a showy display of one’s charitable works: that goes DOUBLE, if you voluntarily chose to live in a town where local customs prohibit it!

      That’s why the angels declined his offer initially, saying they’d stay in the street (so as not to violate local customs); however, Lot STRONGLY insisted they stay in his house, so relented (if only to pipe Lot down, and usher him from the public square so as to not draw needless attention to himself).

      Lot’s unquenchable thirst for ego gratification led to the betrayal of his own daughters, in a vain attempt at seek status in the eyes of his fellow men (which existed only in his own mind: the town’s people likely viewed Lot as a pretentious self-absorbed blow-hole so full of himself that he insisted on trying to impress them with his customs, which ran counter to their local customs).

      That’s likely partly why the mob insisted upon learning the identity of the strangers: Lot was a foreigner who allowed wayfarers into the town against the rules, hence placing the entire town in jeopardy. The mob literally wanted to question them to determine their motives (and translating “to know” as “having sexual intercourse” with them is likely a forced interpretation, but it’s a bit off-topic here; besides, it’s a minor point, as the sin of Sodom is not depicted as homosexuality per se, as much as their focus materialistic greedy nature which arguably was expressed as rape). All the more ironic is that the mob’s suspicions actually WERE valid: the visitors actually WERE serving as the spies of YHWH, with nefarious plans to destroy the town.

      Hence Lot is depicted as a lawless person who thinks rules don’t apply to him, and is someone who shows a lack of respect for cultural norms (as shown by not respecting elder Abraham’s right to decide, and now, shamelessly flaunting his disregard for the laws before the inhabitants of the city in which he chose to live).

      5) Lot lied to the mob about his daughter’s virginal status (later revealed to be a LIE, when son-in-laws (!) briefly appear, only to be killed off to allow for the later incident of incest). So not only was Lot LYING, but it was a bald-faced LIE, one that actually insulted the intelligence of the crowd: wouldn’t they KNOW that Lot’s daughters were married?

      Lot said: “Please, my brothers, do not act badly. Please, here I have two daughters who have never had intercourse with a man. Please, let me bring them out to you. Then do to them as is good in your eyes. Only to these men do not do a thing, because that is why they have come under the shadow of my roof.”

      Hence, Lot is caught in a bald-faced LIE. Do “just” men lie?

      6) Even if not true (some will excuse Lot’s words by saying his daughters were only ENGAGED to be married, which is a strained translation, at best), Lot publicly touted his daughters as virgins, a morally-reprehensible and indiscreet act in most cultures (at least, those that value keeping personal matters private).

      Indiscretion is NOT a trait association with “righteousness”. Lot’s a big blabbermouth who only added the insult of embarrassment to the emotional injury of placing his daughters in harm’s way.

      7) Lot is a hypocrite, asking the mob not to sin to protect HIS honor, then compelling them to sin:

      Lot said: “Please, my brothers, do not act badly. Please, here I have two daughters who have never had intercourse with a man. Please, let me bring them out to you. Then do to them as is good in your eyes. Only to these men do not do a thing, because that is why they have come under the shadow of my roof.”

      Lot starts by pleading with the mob not to “act badly” (based on Lot’s status as a gracious host, not recognized as a value respected in Sodom), but then tells them to do with his daughters “as is good in YOUR eyes”. That’s a betrayal of YHWH, where men are NOT supposed to exercise their own morality (what is good in their eyes), but instead defer to YHWH’s superior moral code.

      That’s the MAIN SIN of Lot: pleading with the mob to use their own flawed sense of morality, thus actually encouraging them to sin.

      (Although, it bears considering that Lot likely was not advertising the virginal status of his daughters to a group of homosexuals to make them more enticing as rape victims (what nonsense! Gays don’t like sex with women, virgins or not), but to make them more enticing as human sacrifices to be offered to the local pagan Gods (which is an even MORE reprehensible act; that offer is so outrageous, it’s COMPLETELY off-the-immorality-scale. It also violates later Mosaic Law given to the Children of Israel by encouraging the worship of false Gods, since remember that Sodomites were worshipers of pagan Gods. For Lot to offer his own daughters for sacrifice to a false deity is morally-reprehensible, that YHWH should’ve smitten Lot on the spot, if he were in fact a “just” God.)

      Is Lot “Godly”, “righteous”, or “just”?

      8) The story implies Lot allowed his daughters to marry evil Sodomite men, since the sons-in-laws were later killed in the destruction of Sodom, along with other evil-doers. Lot’s allowing his daughters to marry followers of older Gods violates later laws that discouraged one’s daughters to be given as wives to non-Jews; while those laws clearly don’t apply to Lot, the moral hazard of doing so is clearly depicted.

      Lot allowed his daughters to marry worshipers of false Gods. Is that actions of a “Godly” man?

      9) Speaking of which, those same son-in-laws thought Lot was pulling their legs when he warned them of the imminent destruction, so they didn’t take him seriously (they likely thought that Lot had been hitting the bottle again).

      Lot is depicted as being viewed by relatives as a man who’s not to be taken seriously, as if he’s acting the fool, once again.

      “Righteous”?

      10): Lot lingered behind, as if he didn’t want to leave his accumulated material wealth behind, and didn’t want to flee Sodom with just the clothes on his back.

      In fact, Lot and family had to be FORCIBLY REMOVED from their home by the angels, being dragged by their hands out of Sodom before it was destroyed. They didn’t flee voluntarily: they were DRAGGED. And notice that although YHWH is described as “showing mercy to Lot and his family”, the reason behind YHWH’s showing mercy is not (yet) revealed.

      Do “righteous men” cling to their material wealth over saving their own lives?

      11) Asking for angelic permission to stay in the nearby town of Zoar, Lot’s request was granted; the angels agreed not to destroy it. However, Lot demonstrated a lack of faith in YHWH and angels by instead fleeing to a mountain cave, as if he was afraid that the angels would change their mind and destroy him along with Zoar. (Note that the cave is where the incest occurred).

      Do “Godly men” display such lack of faith in YHWH and angels?

      12) Lot got drunk and passed out (this was BEFORE the invention of date-rape drugs like Rohypnol, which could be slipped into his wine, so he HAD to drink to excess). And not just ONE night, but TWO nights in a row!

      The implication is that Lot was an alcoholic, prone to drinking to the point of blacking out. “Godly”? “Righteous”?

      So in the Genesis account, EVERY ACT of Lot intentionally makes him out to be a selfish, vainglorious, skeezy, oafish, morally-reprobate drunken ungodly fool. The ONLY arguably-redeeming act displayed by Lot is inviting the angels into the house and offering them food and shelter, but even THAT act reveals Lot’s selfish motives, since the angels likely realized Lot’s obsequious display would only inflame the locals, since Lot was brazenly flaunting local customs.

      (The parallel is made between Abraham’s and Lot’s showing of hospitality to visitors, simply to demonstrate the importance of considering the environment surrounding one’s actions, ie the action of Abraham was “righteous” within the context of the region where he stayed, whereas Lot’s showing of generosity is wildly-inappropriate given HIS different environment.

      Hence, the story is actually a sophisticated lesson, a study in situational morality, examining how the same acts carried out under very quite different cultural environments can be perceived by others quite differently, and either viewed as righteous or foolish. That’s a cautionary tale, a warning, valuable to people held captive in Babylon and other foreign lands, of the need to consider how we look to unbelievers.)

      However, the REAL reason for this relentless string of attempts to assassinate Lot’s moral character is finally revealed, as the account concludes in Genesis 19:38:

      36 “So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. 37 The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. 38 The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi ; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.”

      There it is: the answer is given in a twist ending, a literary trope that explains everything that came before: the sons of Lot’s incest are revealed to be the founders of the Ammonite and Moabite tribes.

      The Lot depiction is DESIGNED to be a series of thinly-veiled slurs aimed at the Israelite’s inbred distant-relatives, intended as an insult within a culture where to suggest someone is conceived by a drunken incestuous father (a long-standing taboo in Near East culture) is inflammatory and insulting. It’s MEANT to be deprecating, an insulting depiction of Lot.

      Why does this diatribe against Lot (and hence the Ammonites and Moabites) appear in Genesis?

      The “Children of Lot” remained a source of conflict and trouble for the Children of Israel (who by contrast, are the DIRECT descendants of Abraham, via Jacob). The Children of Lot are NOT members of the 12 tribes of Israel, the Chosen People of YHWH, only their distant kin. Hence, the depiction of Lot is intended to stir contempt and hatred for the Ammonites and Moabites within the Chosen Ones, a story to be used as justification to bar them from assembly in the Temple, wage battles against them:

      Genesis 23:3-4

      “3: No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, not even in the tenth generation. 4: For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim to pronounce a curse on you.”

      The Children of Lot are accused of having displayed the same lack of hospitality of their ancestral Sodomites by failing to offer bread and water to the Children of Israel who were exiting from captivity in Egypt (just as their ancestors failed to offer bread and water to sojourners visiting Sodom). Hence, the insinuation is made that the trait of selfishness and greed still survives in the progeny of Lot.

      (Although, as with the Flood account, the saving of “righteous” Lot makes YHWH look like a boob, eg why do the undesirable traits live on though a “righteous” Lot, if the town’s people were evil and “unrighteous” and were killed? As with the Flood account, 2nd Peter’s someone’s continuity error is showing.)

      Hatred and exclusion requires a justification (even if only on trumped-up charges), and the story of Lot serves exactly that purpose: it’s an excuse for Israelites to exclude their distant relatives from the Temple, although they cannot simply be slaughtered off in a genocidal campaign (as the other inhabitants of Canaan were under Joshua’s campaign), or their land taken away from them: after all, they WERE distant kin-folk (as Abraham pointed out to Lot when the story began).

      The story also provides a back-story to explain the current-day arid desert appearance of the area, allowing the opportunity to slip a moral tale into the explanation.

      But the question remains:

      Why was Lot saved from the destruction of Sodom? Was he actually a “righteous man” in the eyes of YHWH, as 2 Peter claims?

      There’s no need for speculation, since the answer is found in black-and-white, in Genesis 19:29:

      “So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.”

      There’s our answer: “God remembered ABRAHAM”.

      Lot was spared NOT on account of Lot’s “righteousness”, but due to the righteousness of ABRAHAM; God showed mercy towards Lot and his family as a favor to “righteous” Abraham, even IN SPITE of the despicable and unrighteous behavior displayed by Lot.

      The principle of “transferrable righteousness” was likely viewed as problematic to early Xians, since it’s NOT exactly in keeping with the then-ongoing debate as to whether individuals could be saved by “faith alone” (per Paul) or “faith plus works” (per Jesus), since the Lot story offered a 3RD route to avoiding God’s anger: NEPOTISM. The tale suggests that someone can be saved from God’s wrath simply by having relatives in high places (which was literally the case for Lot, since his decision meant Abraham returned to the mountains).

      Genesis 19:29 suggests it’s not WHAT righteous acts an individual performs, but to WHICH righteous person he are related. When it comes to salvation, whom you know matters!

      And THAT’S the message, the moral of Lot.

      According to Jewish scholar Nicolas Sarna, this revelation is not exactly headline-making news to Jews, since they’ve understood this for a few millenia:

      “This ‘doctrine of merit’ is not an infrequent theme in the Bible and constitutes many such incidents in which the righteousness of chosen individuals may sustain other individuals or even an entire group through its protective power.”

      In fact, the Jews relied on the concept of a relative who served as a go’el, a redeemer of one’s kinsfolk, someone who could pay off the debts of an impoverished relative so the poor person didn’t have to become a slave to pay off their debt. That’s the concept of redemption that Jesus spoke of, and the story of Lot could be seen as Abraham acting the role of the go’el (redeemer, or mediator) on behalf of Lot, delivering him from captivity in Sodom, not once, but TWICE (the first time, Lot was redeemed from captivity of men, and the second time, Lot was redeemed and shown undeserved mercy due to the righteousness of Abraham).

      And to those of you who say that you need to know Jesus to earn salvation, the Lot story above actually supports that idea! Xians SHOULD throw 2nd Peter’s amoral characterization of Lot as a “righteous man” out the window, as it’s not needed, and actually undermines Biblical morality: Xians already believe that WHO you know matters, since if you know Christ, he will appeal on your behalf to YHWH for your salvation as a mediator.

      Instead of using Lot as an example on one who survived destruction due to an intermediary (Abraham), Xians are forced to defend the actions of an amoral Lot via fruitless apolegetics, claiming Lot was saved due to his own “righteousness” based only on 2nd Peter’s claim. An accurate reading of the account says Xians SHOULD be pointing to Lot as an example of how even the most ungodly and morally-reprehensible character CAN be saved, based on another one’s “righteous”. Now wouldn’t that be preferable rather than having to excuse the clearly-despicable behavior of 2nd Peter’s attempts to elevate him to ‘Saint Lot’?

      Like 99.9% of modern-day Xians, the author of 2 Peter missed the subtle clues contained in the story, but instead placed his desired doctrinal outcome before what the text actually says.

      It’s a GREAT 2,000 yr old example of eisegesis in action, twisting the original words to fit inside the desired shape of a ‘doctrinal mold’ (or ‘box’, if Walt’s reading). 🙂

      Hopefully all are aware that the authorship of the epistle of 2nd Peter is widely acknowledged by NT scholars to be pseudonymous, i.e. written by an unknown author who ‘borrowed’ Peter’s name in order to support his own doctrinal agenda. After all, no one pays attention to “The Epistle of Joe Schmoe”, but an audience WILL pay attention to a work attributed to St. Peter. Think of it as a religious form of ID theft, a spiritual bait-and-switch.

      Most scholars suspect the author (‘Peter’) was an educated native speaker of Greek, a Xian living in the 2nd Cent CE. There’s many indications he relied on the Greek Septuagint, which reflects his (mis)understanding of the original Hebraic Torah. Of course, the “real” apostle Peter was an uneducated Jewish fisherman who would be familiar with characters found in the Torah, and wouldn’t rely on Greek translations or pseudo-canonical works. St Peter was said to have been crucified in 68 CE, long before ‘Peter’ wrote 2nd Peter.

      Ever since it’s emergence a half a century after St. Peter’s death, the authenticity of 2nd Peter has been questioned; however, the text proved useful enough to address then-current issues (eg it countered the threat posed by heterodoxical Gnostic beliefs, and addressed growing disappointment over Jesus’ delayed 2nd coming of Christ, explaining it as God giving people more time to repent of their evil ways and find salvation through “righteous works”, using the OT example of Noah and Lot for support). The epistle was eventually accepted as the genuine writing of St Peter, and later became canonized in the 4th Cent CE at the Councils of Hippo and Carthage.

      The problem is, ‘Peter’ didn’t understand the original motives that explain why Lot was intentionally depicted as an moral-questionable and unsavory character, and why Lot was NEVER intended to be interpreted as a “righteous man”, in the first place!. As you should see by now, Lot is the paragon of a shady morally-reprehensible man, a worm.

      Alternatively, ‘Peter’ DID understand the intent of the OT’s depiction of Lot, but he broke what didn’t need fixing, or worse: his efforts have actually hurt later Xians who’ve been forced to defend an indefensible Lot.

      So how did this come about?

      By all appearances, ‘Peter’ was influenced to declare Lot as “righteous” after reading the a deutero-canonical work, the ‘Book of Wisdom’ (also called the “Wisdom of Solomon”), which was canonized and included as part of the Greek Septuagint (although it never was canonized as part of the Hebrew Tanakh). The Book of Wisdom indirectly refers to Lot as being a “righteous man” (although specifically mentioning his name), thus including Lot along with his Uncle Abraham and cousins Jacob and Joseph. Hence the morally-flawed failed successor of Abraham is made out to be something he never was intended to be.

      Here’s “Wisdom of Solomon” 10:6-7

      6 When the ungodly perished, she delivered the righteous man, who fled from the fire which fell down upon the five cities 7 Of whose wickedness even to this day the waste land that smoketh is a testimony, and plants bearing fruit that never comes to ripeness; and a standing pillar of salt is a monument of an unbelieving soul.

      (NOTE: Sodom and Gomorrah were part of a five-city complex, called the Pentapolis in Greek; hence the reference to “the five cities”.)

      So Xians face a moral dilemma:

      1) Do they throw out 2nd Peter, acknowledging it to be the product of “lying scribes”? This involves coming to the painful realization that ALL scriptures are NOT God-breathed, and hence they’d have to admit that the “perfect” Bible is susceptible to tampering, as Jesus warned about.

      2) Do they throw out their personal morality and continue to try to excuse Lot’s inexcusable behavior, defending the indefensible by blaming the victim(s), etc, when EVERYONE ELSE on the Planet who’s not emotionally-invested in the Bible can declare morally-questionable behavior when they see it (incest, lying, haughtiness, greed, gratifying one’s ego, drunkenness)? Isn’t the Bible SUPPOSED to be the source of “perfect” unchanging morality that doesn’t bend in to ever-changing cultural definitions of morality?

      How is Lot’s behavior an example of “perfect” morality, again?

      And more importantly, how could so many Xians miss a clear-cut depiction of amorality, and not see it, when it’s laid out before your eyes? Rather than questioning it, they simply nod their heads, and accept someone else’s definition of “righteous”, without experiencing any twinge of cognitive dissonance? I am reminded of the failed-defense of those accused of committing NAZI war crimes: “I was only following orders”.

      (And Chuck, kudos to you, since you were bothered by the troublesome depiction of Lot.)

      If there’s any “good news” here, realize that Jesus referred to the destruction of Lot’s WIFE in Matthew, but he NEVER declared Lot as “righteous” (as 2nd Peter does). Although, it’s odd that Jesus didn’t use the account of Lot as an example of the importance of gaining salvation via a relationship with Christ serving as mediator: it certainly seems like a missed opportunity to explain concepts found in the OT, which Jesus would certainly be knowledgeable of, having been raised on the Torah (like most kids are raised on cartoons).

      But either way, the irony of Jesus’ constant warnings of “woe to you lying scribes” is noted, as the author of 2nd Peter also apparently didn’t understand THAT not-so-subtle warning of Jesus.

      Hence the 2 Peter author claimed Lot to be something never originally intended by the author(s) of Genesis, instead twisting the tale to convey a different message from the OT account, leaving those who REALLY know the moral of Lot (eg jews, rabbis, me) mystified at the “novel” Xian interpretation found in 2nd Peter.

      THAT’S only one ONE example of the “evolution” of Xian theology found in 2nd Peter: the same approach can be used to disprove 2nd Peter’s claim that Noah preached to mankind before the Flood, thus offering a chance for repentance and salvation (which is even MORE contradictory to the OT Genesis account AND Jesus’ words, both of which imply the exact OPPOSITE ).

      Walt and others, feel free to pipe in here.

      Dave

  20. BTW, in researching this issue, I looked at MANY apologetic arguments which tried to defend Lot, ie Mormons, 7th Day Adventists, etc.

    Out of curiosity, I checked out the JW version, where they too are locked into seeing Lot as a “righteous person”, reliant on 2 verses in 2nd Peter. Hence they also MUST defend Lot, at times engaging in speculation that’s not based on anything mentioned in the story (eg Lot tried to “shock” the angry mob by offering his daughters).

    w05 2/1 pp. 23-27

    Jehovah Always Does What Is Right

    Why Did Lot Offer His Daughters to an Angry Mob?

    11 In Genesis chapter 19, we find the account of what happened when God sent two materialized angels to Sodom. Lot insisted that the visitors stay in his home. That night, however, a mob of men from the city surrounded the house and demanded that the visitors be brought out to them for immoral purposes. Lot tried to reason with the mob, but to no avail. Seeking to protect his guests, Lot said: “Please, my brothers, do not act badly. Please, here I have two daughters who have never had intercourse with a man. Please, let me bring them out to you. Then do to them as is good in your eyes. Only to these men do not do a thing, because that is why they have come under the shadow of my roof.” The mob would not listen and almost broke down the door. Finally, the angelic visitors struck that frenzied crowd with blindness.—Genesis 19:1-11.

    12 Understandably, this account has raised questions in the mind of some. They wonder: ‘How could Lot seek to protect his guests by offering his daughters to a lustful mob? Did he not act improperly, even cowardly?’ In view of this account, why would God inspire Peter to call Lot a “righteous man”? Did Lot act with God’s approval? (2 Peter 2:7, 8) Let us reason on this matter so that we do not draw the wrong conclusion.

    13 To begin with, it should be noted that rather than condoning or condemning Lot’s actions, the Bible simply reports what took place. The Bible also does not tell us what Lot was thinking or what motivated him to act as he did. When he comes back in the “resurrection of . . . the righteous,” perhaps he will reveal the details.—Acts 24:15.

    14 Lot was hardly a coward. He was placed in a difficult situation. By saying that the visitors had “come under the shadow” of his roof, Lot indicated that he felt compelled to provide protection and refuge for them. But this would not be easy. Jewish historian Josephus reports that the Sodomites were “unjust towards men, and impious towards God . . . They hated strangers, and abused themselves with Sodomitical practices.” Yet, Lot did not shrink back from the hateful mob. On the contrary, he went out and reasoned with those angry men. He even “shut the door behind him.”—Genesis 19:6.

    15 ‘Still,’ some may ask, ‘why would Lot offer his daughters to the mob?’ Instead of assuming that his motives were bad, why not consider some possibilities? First of all, Lot may well have acted in faith. How so? No doubt Lot was aware of how Jehovah had protected Sarah, the wife of Abraham, Lot’s uncle. Recall that because Sarah was very beautiful, Abraham had asked her to identify him as her brother, lest others kill him in order to take her.* Subsequently, Sarah was taken to the household of Pharaoh. Jehovah, however, intervened, preventing Pharaoh from violating Sarah. (Genesis 12:11-20) It is possible that Lot had faith that his daughters could be similarly protected. Significantly, Jehovah through his angels did intervene, and the young women were kept safe.

    16 Consider another possibility. Lot may also have been trying to shock or confuse the men. He may have believed that his daughters would not be desired by the crowd because of the homosexual lust of the Sodomites. (Jude 7) In addition, the young women were engaged to men of the city, so relatives, friends, or business associates of his prospective sons-in-law might well have been in the crowd. (Genesis 19:14) Lot may have hoped that by reason of such ties, some men in that mob would speak up in defense of his daughters. A mob thus divided would not be nearly so dangerous.*

    17 Whatever Lot’s reasoning and motives, we can be sure of this: Since Jehovah always does what is right, he must have had good reason to view Lot as a “righteous man.” And judging from the actions of the crazed mob of Sodomites, can there be any doubt that Jehovah was fully justified in executing judgment upon the inhabitants of that wicked city?—Genesis 19:23-25.

    @@@@

    Of course, at the end they sidestep the issue of why Lot was saved, and instead focus on why Sodom was destroyed. Hence they’re missing out on the richness of a carefully-crafted story which offers many layers, due to a “lying scribe”.

  21. David,
    Thank you for your extensive reply. At first reading your information seems quite compelling. It will require considerable research on my part to agree or deny your well thought out and presented allegations, which at this time I neither accept nor reject. I’ll get back with you as soon as I’ve had the time to research the matter. Thanks again.
    Chuck

    • Hi Chuck,

      Lemme know what you find: I’m always open to consider new ideas….

      I find the tale of Lot’s deliverance from Sodom to be fascinating, as there’s so much complexity to it, with many moving parts that transcends a superficial reading (eg “it’s about the evils of gay sex”). If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that little details mean a lot, esp when considering a document that was written in another culture in an ancient language that’s loaded with symbolism (eg the passage in Genesis 13 where Lot chooses to head to Sodom: Abram has made a point of presenting the options as “going to the left or right”, and even though it’s not stated in the Bible, it turns out that Sodom was off to the left from their vantage point on Ai. Hence Lot’s decision is symbolic of heading in the direction of the dark, the evil (an idea that contains vestiges in language, reflected by the left eye in Latin being called, ‘oculus sinister’ in Latin; the abbreviation ‘O.S.’ is in use in the medical field).

      Pretty interesting that so many clues in the text all point towards Lot intentionally being depicted as the Unchosen One, the “prodigal nephew” who was in line to inherit Abraham’s wealth and blessing had not YHWH blessed Abraham with a son, Isaac. Instead, the last we see of “righteous” Lot is him living in a cave with his two daughters and their inbred sons (no doubt getting ready for their appearance on the “Jerry Springer Show” of their day).

      An interesting tid-bit to consider is that Jesus is a descendant of Haran (Lot’s father, Abram’s brother) through David’s great-grandmother Ruth (a Moabitess), and hence a descendant of Lot. Solomon’s wife Naamah, mother of Rehoboam and ancestress to all of Judah’s subsequent kings, was an Ammonitess and thus also a descendant of Lot. Perhaps the early Xians felt it was unacceptable for there to be an alcoholic incestuous ancestor polluting Jesus’ lineage (just as some rabbis disapproved of Lot being portrayed in a bad light, being that Lot was ), so felt the need to act like those unflattering characterizations of Lot found in Genesis don’t exist by simply declaring Lot as “righteous”?

      I’m actually starting up a blog of my own (which will be very welcome news to Corinna, I’m sure, since I won’t have to clutter her comments sections anymore with long posts that have been described as “screeds”). 🙂

      As it happens, I lost about three days of work due to a website bug, so now have to figure THAT mess out before I pour much more time into building what can disappear in a blink of an eye….

      Oh Patti, I’m a bit confused by your non-sequiturial response: does that mean you give a thumbs-up to drunken molesters who offer their own children to angry mobs to be gang-raped? You’re welcome to offer your opinion, as it’s not THAT hard of a question to answer…. 🙂

      And as a supposedly amoral and godless heathen, I can tell you without even the least bit of hesitation what MY answer is: it’s immoral/unrighteous (and I don’t even have to first look up my answer in a book to tell me what my opinion is). 🙂

      PS on the “angels” question, I think the answer would likely depend on the dance: would that be tango or jitterbug? 🙂

      • David,
        I’m fascinated by your writing style and occasional humor. If you ever give up medicine you might try stand-up comedy. (This is meant to be a compliment—not a put-down.)

        I had researched the points you made concerning Lot and was prepared to give a very lengthy reply (as I usually do), but after really thinking about it, I feel it’s not necessary to go to that length, so I’m condensing my reply. The whole issue of Lot being greedy, or a drunkard, or whatever else he was can be summed up in a few paragraphs.

        My research tells me that you may be correct in some of your assertions about Lot. He may well have shown greed when he chose the prime land, even though Abraham gave him the option to do so. While the scriptures record two nights of Lot’s drinking too much, I would hesitate to call him (or anyone else) a “drunkard”. I could find no other account where Lot drank too much. Drinking too much on two occasions does not constitute him a drunkard, unless it was habitual, and there is no scriptural evidence of that. You have interpreted certain things recorded about Lot, however sketchy and incomplete, that you believe eliminates Lot from being “righteous”. We are limited in information about Lot in the scriptures.

        When we add our own ideas or suspicions from limited information, at best these are only deductions which may or may not be accurate. This we DO know. At Gen. 23:7b, Jehovah says: “. . .for I shall NOT declare the wicked one righteous.” While Jehovah may not have had Lot in mind when he made that declaration, the principle remains true. Lot was never on the low level of wickedness the Sodomites were. Gen. 13:13 tells us: “And the men of Sodom were bad and were gross sinners against Jehovah.” This is the primary reason Jehovah chose to destroy these cities, because of the “gross” sins committed by “gross sinners”. The sexual perversion related in Chapter 19 was an example of the gross sins of the men of Sodom. The scriptures also tell us the people (both men and women) in general were violent, abusive, inhospitable, greedy, and unsympathetic toward visitors, widows, the poor and disadvantaged persons.

        Paul said at 1 Cor. 10:11 (and no doubt included these people of Sodom): “Now these things went on befalling them as examples and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” And if these examples were to benefit Christians at the end of that Jewish system (70 CE), how much more should these examples benefit us today! The people of Sodom did not repent and make changes, but evidently Lot DID, as can be gleaned from Peter’s inspired words at 2 Peter 2:7,8: “and he delivered righteous Lot, who was greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people in loose conduct, for that righteous man by what he saw and heard while dwelling among them from day to day was tormenting his righteous soul by reason of their lawless deeds.”

        Jehovah not only reads hearts, but knew all the details regarding Lot’s heart-condition and conscience, whereas we are confined to only what we read about him in the scriptures–which includes 2 Peter 2:7,8. Even before his heart was complete before God, he and his two daughters were spared the destruction that befell the city, so Jehovah must have not only read Lot’s heart, but knew that he was repentant (a possible supposition).

        Rather than to judge Lot as an unrighteous man, when the Bible says otherwise, we leave the judgment to God and Christ. We are also aware of others, such as David, who had great sins including adultery and murder, but yet Jehovah chose to forgive him when David came to see the error of his ways and repented. King Manasseh was another one who sinned terribly against Jehovah–even to the point where I, for one, might think it impossible for God to forgive him–but He did! Isaiah 1:18 records Jehovah’s words, which should be comforting to all of us: “. . .though the sins of you people should prove to be as scarlet, they will be made white just like snow.” And also Ps. 103:14, “For he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.”

        We can also think about Peter denying Jesus three times, yet his righteousness overshadowed this moment of weakness and Peter was forgiven. And another prime example of a changed course is that of the Apostle Paul and how he previously had persecuted Christians, thinking he was serving God to do so. Not only was he forgiven, but he was used by Jehovah in a wonderful way.

        You can judge Lot to have remained unrighteous when Peter says otherwise if that is what you want to do, but I choose to leave the judging to God and Christ. I also recognize that there is no “simple” answer to what can seem to be a dilemma to many. Thanks for taking the time to consider some other possibilities.

        Chuck

        • Hi Chuck,

          Thanks for your reply AND the stand-up comedian suggestion: I try to infuse a bit of humor into what I write, since otherwise it can get to be “too much”, too pedantic and dry. Of course, stand-up comedy requires a unique skill-set that includes talents I don’t have (a fact that would become apparent the moment you saw me in real-life, LOL)! Arguably I could be a starving comedy-writer (MAYBE?), but defo not a stand-up guy! I have utmost respect for those guys, since like any other performer, it looks oh-so-easy until you actually try it.

          But back to the topic at hand:

          I’ve spent a significant amount of time looking into Lot’s rehabilitated characterization in 2nd Peter since sharing the details with you here, and I’ve even written a three-part (!) article on my new blog on the topic, significantly rearranging/updating with new info as I wrote:

          Here’s part I/III:

          http://awgue.weebly.com/article-pt-1-revisiting-sodom-was-lot-supposed-to-be-viewed-as-a-righteous-man.html

          (The site’s navigation tab is found at the top right side of each page; that’s how you access the other parts of the series (a pop-up will appear if you hover over the tab). I’d also suggest reading the tie-in article about 2nd Peter’s dubious claim that Noah was a “preacher righteousness”, which contradicts the very details offered in Genesis 6, and even Jesus’ words.)

          Here’s a link to the home-page of my blog:

          http://awgue.weebly.com

          (and yes, the articles are written by me using a pseudonym, Adam W. Gueebly, a name derived from word play off the domain name, weebly.com, as well as my chosen sub-domain of awgue)

          Certainly the idea of God offering mortals “fair warning” and an the opportunity for repentance and salvation before the Flood (and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah) appeals to everyone’s sense of fairness, but an examination of both accounts and the beliefs of Judaism explains why it’s not found in Genesis: the concept is foreign to early Judaism beliefs, and it needed to be inserted as a necessary component of early Christianity.

          But as the scripture says, “make sure of all things”: the truth shouldn’t shy away from the light of examination and challenge, but should give believers an opportunity to strength their faith thru questioning.

          Regards,
          Dave

          • Thanks, Dave, for all your work, even though I don’t agree with all of it. It would be good for others to take note of our exchange and then comment. Best to you.

            Chuck

            • Hi Chuck,

              “Thanks, Dave, for all your work, even though I don’t agree with all of it. It would be good for others to take note of our exchange and then comment.”

              You don’t have to agree with me: you’re allowed to have your own beliefs, and there’s no party line to tow, LOL! We’re all free moral agents, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s ideas deserve equal respect; I tend to respect those who are able to defend their ideas and/or explain why they believe what they do.

              Along those lines, I wanted to address a few points you raised:

              Chuck said:

              “My research tells me that you may be correct in some of your assertions about Lot. He may well have shown greed when he chose the prime land, even though Abraham gave him the option to do so. While the scriptures record two nights of Lot’s drinking too much, I would hesitate to call him (or anyone else) a “drunkard”. I could find no other account where Lot drank too much. Drinking too much on two occasions does not constitute him a drunkard, unless it was habitual, and there is no scriptural evidence of that. You have interpreted certain things recorded about Lot, however sketchy and incomplete, that you believe eliminates Lot from being “righteous”. We are limited in information about Lot in the scriptures.”

              You’re missing my point, as the goal was not for Dave Perez to declare Lot as “unrighteous”, as much as to point out that ‘Moses’ sure spent a significant amount of effort depicting Lot as an extremely questionable character, and never explicitly declared Lot as “righteous” (a claim which he certainly didn’t hold back from making about Abraham, the patriarch of Israel). That silence is damning, although Moses was walking on thin ice knowing that Lot had relatives in high places with some pull with God (nepotism covers a multitude of sins). As Abraham said to Lot, “After all, we ARE family….” Any mafioso knows that familial connections are important, blood being thicker than water…. 🙂

              Chuck said:

              “When we add our own ideas or suspicions from limited information, at best these are only deductions which may or may not be accurate.”

              Funny, as when I was a kid growing up in the JWs, rank-and-file members were encouraged to get beyond the merely superficial reading, and the Society put out books (eg Aid to Bible Understanding) that encouraged members to understand cultural context necessary to reveal ‘hidden’ meanings which had been buried with linguistic changes due to the passage of time. Is there some specific error that you’ve spotted in my articles? Even though I didn’t offer footnotes, it’s all based on bog-standard understanding of Hebrew metaphors, symbolism, and word-play which often is used throughout the OT.

              Chuck said:

              “This we DO know. At Gen. 23:7b, Jehovah says: “. . .for I shall NOT declare the wicked one righteous.”

              Exodus 23:7 is the passage you were referring to.

              But that begs the question: why is ‘Peter’ assuming the role of God by declaring questionable Lot, the father of the worshipers of false Gods Molech (Ammonites) and Chemosh (Moabites), as “righteous”?

              You DO realize that the worship of Molech and Chemosh was synonymous with sorcery, adultery, incest, prostitution and sacrifice of children by fire; THAT’S the very reason Lot was the subject of derision in his depiction in Genesis, explaining how they came into existence, and warning Israelites (esp Jewesses) not to associate with their evil kin-folk relatives?

              Chuck said:

              “While Jehovah may not have had Lot in mind when he made that declaration, the principle remains true. Lot was never on the low level of wickedness the Sodomites were. Gen. 13:13 tells us: “And the men of Sodom were bad and were gross sinners against Jehovah.” This is the primary reason Jehovah chose to destroy these cities, because of the “gross” sins committed by “gross sinners”. The sexual perversion related in Chapter 19 was an example of the gross sins of the men of Sodom. The scriptures also tell us the people (both men and women) in general were violent, abusive, inhospitable, greedy, and unsympathetic toward visitors, widows, the poor and disadvantaged persons.”

              So that doesn’t explain why Lot chose to move there in the first place, does it? Why he chose to “return to his own vomit”, even after being liberated from captivity by Uncle Abram, making a bee-line back to sin?

              The argument that Lot was slightly better than Sodomites is unconvincing, as that it forces God into the position of adopting RELATIVE standards of morality, ie what happened to God’s ABSOLUTE standards of good vs evil? If such community standards of morality effect God’s decisions on one’s righteousness, then I’m moving to Las Vegas or downtown Detroit, since then I can make myself look better in God’s eyes!

              Chuck said:

              “The people of Sodom did not repent and make changes, but evidently Lot DID, as can be gleaned from Peter’s inspired words at 2 Peter 2:7,8: “and he delivered righteous Lot, who was greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people in loose conduct, for that righteous man by what he saw and heard while dwelling among them from day to day was tormenting his righteous soul by reason of their lawless deeds.”

              I’m not following you: of what “sins” did the people of Sodom need to repent?

              Where exactly did YHWH make his Divine Will known to the inhabitants to the cities on the plain of Jordan? Did I miss the part where the heathen Sodomites had their own version of a Sodomite Moses ascending Mt Sinai to receive YHWH’s laws, which defined what ‘sins’ are?

              Were they supposed to repent for not being the Chosen Ones, not being the children of Israel (an exclusive ‘members only’ group that hadn’t yet even developed, and which they weren’t invited to join: you had to be a born-in)? Remember, the story of Sodom is set LONG before God had handed down tablets to Moses on Mt Sinai, and long before Isaac and Jacob had even been born. It was long before YHWH had said, “Thou shalt not worship false Gods” (and how exactly the Sodomites would’ve KNOWN that their Gods were false Gods has yet to be explained). Needless to say, it was long before Jesus (and Paul) had come along, offering repentance and salvation to Gentiles.

              And similarly, what exactly was the sin that Lot should’ve repented?

              See, that’s the anachronistic error in the account: the Hebrew hearing the account of Lot in 500BC has to project THEIR system of law onto characters who weren’t held to THEIR laws. It’s yet another continuity error in the story line (ooops).

              Chuck said:

              “Jehovah not only reads hearts, but knew all the details regarding Lot’s heart-condition and conscience, whereas we are confined to only what we read about him in the scriptures–which includes 2 Peter 2:7,8. Even before his heart was complete before God, he and his two daughters were spared the destruction that befell the city, so Jehovah must have not only read Lot’s heart, but knew that he was repentant (a possible supposition).”

              The “Jehovah reads hearts” is also the explanation for why Noah didn’t need to preach before the Flood (as 2nd Peter claims): check Genesis, and God declared his judgment against ALL mankind BEFORE revealing his plans to Noah to destroy all living flesh, as he already had read the hearts of ALL men.

              So, that only begs the question: what’s the need to offer repentance and salvation IF God is able to read hearts and declare death sentences all on his own?

              Chuck said:

              “Rather than to judge Lot as an unrighteous man, when the Bible says otherwise, we leave the judgment to God and Christ.”

              No, the Genesis account actually stops short of declaring Lot as “unrighteous”, but does it’s best to bite its tongue from explicitly saying it; 2nd Peter takes the extra step of turning around and declaring Lot as “righteous”.

              Chuck said:
              ” We are also aware of others, such as David, who had great sins including adultery and murder, but yet Jehovah chose to forgive him when David came to see the error of his ways and repented. King Manasseh was another one who sinned terribly against Jehovah–even to the point where I, for one, might think it impossible for God to forgive him–but He did! Isaiah 1:18 records Jehovah’s words, which should be comforting to all of us: “. . .though the sins of you people should prove to be as scarlet, they will be made white just like snow.” And also Ps. 103:14, “For he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.”

              Are you using the, “but everybody else got away with it, too!” argument, AKA an appeal to popularity?

              Here’s the problem: these other “righteous” people who got away with adultery, murder, incest, drunkenness, etc are held out as being the ROLE MODELS in the Bible, and hence the behavior they exhibit is exemplary for humans to follow. When you declare a sexual molester such as Lot as “righteous”, you’re setting a dangerous precedent: believers will justifiably conclude that God forgave Lot, so why can’t I do it, too?

              2nd Peter’s upgrade of Lot undermines the concept of a perfect moral lawgiver, who’s better than secular morality of “foolish” mortals (the ones who outlawed slavery 250 years ago, etc)

              Chuck:

              “We can also think about Peter denying Jesus three times, yet his righteousness overshadowed this moment of weakness and Peter was forgiven. And another prime example of a changed course is that of the Apostle Paul and how he previously had persecuted Christians, thinking he was serving God to do so. Not only was he forgiven, but he was used by Jehovah in a wonderful way.”

              So like Paul, I can hunt down and kill others who believe in a different religion than me, but God will forgive me as long as I end up on the right team and repent of those murders before I die? Cool beans. 🙂

              Dave

  22. Hi Dave,

    I had hoped to get my reply off to you sooner. My wife and I attended our three-day District Convention (really wonderful information) and now I have a bit of time to respond. I fully agree with you that God’s standards are not “relative”, but the same for all. What I meant was that in my opinion we can’t compare Lot with the Sodomites, that, while far from being a perfect man, Lot’s sins were not on the same level as the men of Sodom, so we should not try to compare Lot to them. Of course it doesn’t excuse Lot for his missing the mark.

    You said: “Of what sins did the people of Sodom need to repent?” You are absolutely right in saying that this was pre-Mosaic Law. According to Paul, (1 Cor. 11:7) man was created to be both “God’s image and glory,” and is to conduct himself so as to reflect the glory of God. He should resemble, or be like, his heavenly Father as much as is humanly possible. To be otherwise would be to contradict and reproach the divine parenthood of God! (Mal. 1:6). Sin mars the reflection of God’s likeness and glory, making man unholy, unclean, or tarnished in a spiritual and moral sense. 1 John 3:8 tells us the Devil is the originator of sin and continued his sinful course. But can there be sin prior to law? Can something be considered a sin if there is no law against it? Paul helped answer that at Rom. 2:12 and Romans 5:12-14. From Adam’s deflection until Moses received the Law, mankind was not under any systemized law that specifically defined sin in all its forms. God had, however, given certain decrees, such as was given to Noah after the flood. (Gen. 9:1-7) as well as the covenant of circumcision given to Abraham and his household (Gen. 17:9-14). No law eventually given to Israel, or to mankind in general, could be perfectly kept by imperfect mankind, so, like Paul said, we “all have sinned”. Because there was no law given formally until the Mosaic Law Code, this didn’t mean men were free from sin. At Rom. 2:14, 15 Paul states: “For whenever people of the nations that do not have law do BY NATURE the things of the law, these people, although not having law, are a law to themselves. They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts, while their conscience is bearing witness to them and, between their own thoughts they are being accused [as with the people of Sodom] or even excused” [as with the people of Nineveh.] You might also read this from your version of choice, the NIV, I believe, which in my opinion does an excellent job in translating Paul’s words here.

    Having been originally made in God’s image, or likeness, man has a moral nature including a conscience. Even imperfect, sinful men, like those in Sodom, had a measure of conscience, as Paul’s words indicate. An example of this can be seen in the case of Cain. Although God had not given a law regarding murder, just by the way Cain responded to God’s questioning him, Cain showed that his conscience condemned him after he murdered Abel. (Gen. 4:8, 9). Then the same with Joseph. He showed he had God’s “law in his heart” when he said, regarding Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:7-9), who wanted him to lay down with her, “How could I commit this great badness and actually SIN AGAINST GOD?” Even though Jehovah had not yet condemned adultery, Joseph still recognized it was wrong, a “sin against God”.

    Sodom’s sin? Gen. 18:20 tells us simply that Jehovah said: “The cry of complaint about Sodom and Gomorrah, yes, it is loud and their sin, yes, it is very heavy.” While Jehovah is not specific here, chapter 19:5 is specific regarding the men entertaining homosexual acts with the two “men” visitors of Lot. How many of the men in that city specifically were engaging in homosexual activity specifically is not told, but certainly Lot’s two future sons-in-law were not included with the, no doubt, many homosexuals in that city.

    Some say, quoting the KJV and some other translations in the KJV tradition, that they just wanted these two men to come out so the people could “get better acquainted” with them, however, most modern English translations say words similar to that these men wanted to “have sexual relations with them”, such as the NIV which says: “They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.'” The NIV is about as clear as it gets!

    Also, to show that they didn’t just want to “get better acquainted” with them, verse 7 in almost any translation pronounces what these men wanted to do as a “wicked thing.” IS IT “WICKED” TO “GET BETTER ACQUAINTED (NIV) WITH THESE “MEN”? I think not. Then verse 8 (NIV) says: “Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. . . .” The NWT says, “never had intercourse with a man. “The NAB says: “never had intercourse with men.” And, all of my other 31 or so different versions say the same, or similar, clearly indicating that what was meant was that these men of Sodom wanted to have homosexual relations with these two “men”. So, what other sins the men of Sodom had against them we aren’t specifically told.

    No, Dave, the purpose of mentioning others, such as David, Manasseh, and Saul/Paul was NOT to use the “but everybody else got away with it” argument. I mentioned these only as good examples of Jehovah’s FORGIVENESS based upon sincere repentance (we can’t fool God), and Lot may well have been repentant so as to receive God’s pronouncement of being righteous, based upon Peter’s words. These also serve as examples showing us that Jehovah really does forgive people who sincerely ask for it. Some people believe their past sins are so many and so bad that they are unforgivable, yet we have these scriptural examples of persons who have done far worse and were forgiven. I’m surprised you didn’t understand the point I was trying to make.

    I disagree with your idea that wrongdoers in the Christian congregation today could use the argument that “everybody else got away with it, so why can’t I do it too?” Dave, in all the years I have served as an elder, not one person who needed discipline or correction has ever used the sins of others recorded in the Bible as an excuse for THEIR wrongdoing. Not once! Anyone who has studied the Bible with JWs to a point of baptism knows they can’t fool Jehovah and that they dare not use scriptural examples of wrongdoing and God’s forgiveness, to excuse their own conduct. If any have, they soon learn that does not work! The only reason persons are disfellowshipped today is because of THEIR OWN LACK OF REPENTANCE, which is often shown by the repetition of the wrongdoing over and over, while knowing the Bible’s standards and knowing they have sinned against God. No, Dave, while you are giving one of the most unlikely examples, (Paul) hunting down others who believe in a different religion than you or I do, no Christian is given license to do such, no matter how sincere or zealous he is! But, like Paul, if we did so, AND THEN we learned what God’s Word teaches about that, we repented and stopped the wrong practice, never to return to it again, according to the Scriptures, God forgives all, even the worst, kinds of sins. (Luke 24:47; Ez. 18: 30, 31; Acts 3:19; Prov. 28:13; Matt. 6:14, 15; Ez. 33:11). We remember, too, that God reads the heart and even the kidneys (Ps. 7:9; Jer. 11:20).

    You said: “Moses was walking on thin ice knowing that Lot had relatives in high places with some pull with God (nepotism covers a multitude of sins).” Moses surely knew that God does not play favorites. (Deut. 10:17; Lev. 19:15; then latter Paul wrote Acts 10:34, 35).

    Thank you for correcting Gen. 23:7 to Ex. 23:7.

    I don’t believe Peter ever “assumed the role of God”. As you well know, JWs believe strongly that “All Scripture is inspired of God…” (2 Tim. 3:16); therefore Peter wrote as a secretary what God inspired him to write. JWs don’t pick and choose what we “think” God inspired and what he didn’t in the books that, (we believe) under God’s inspiration and direction, became the complete Bible. Neither do we second-guess why Peter’s inspired words declare Lot as “righteous”. As far as Lot’s two sons and those who came from Lot’s posterity being worshipers of false gods, is Lot to be blamed and considered unrighteous because of the later deeds of his sons and grandsons, and because of the gods THEY CHOSE to worship? Am I responsible for the sins of my sons and grandsons? If you have children and grandchildren, are you responsible for their sins?

    Dave, I feel like everything that can be said, HAS been said on this subject and to continue it would be like “kicking a dead horse”. My argument can be summarized this way: Even though Lot may have been guilty of wrongdoing, as all of us are, God called him “righteous” for reasons we are not privy to–perhaps by his repentance at some point–so that much later, Peter was inspired by God to declare him righteous.

    In another post I asked you, that since you claim to be an atheist, what is your hope. While I don’t recall your exact words, your response was pertaining to changes in people in this time frame on earth. While a noble hope, mine goes beyond that. My hope is to see Jesus’ words in his model prayer actually fulfilled: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Millions have prayed those words over the centuries. JWs, (as you know) believe it is soon the time for those words to be fulfilled. We believe Jehovah’s ORIGINAL PURPOSE for this earth and for mankind will finally be fulfilled, to “multiply and fill the earth”. This earth will be filled with righteous mankind, redeemed by Christ’s shed blood, who will carry out God’s purpose for the earth and mankind. As a result, Satan’s and satanic men’s governments will no longer rule the earth, but (Matt. 5:5) “the meek will inherit the earth” and (Ps. 37:29) “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside FOREVER upon it.” Our “everlasting king” is Jesus Christ who will rule over the earth in righteousness forever! There will then be no more war, prejudice, theft, immorality, sickness, and even death will be no more (Isa. 25:8; 1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 21:4). The earth and mankind upon it will then be as God originally purposed it to be. That (among other things) is my hope. Had you stuck with the religion of your family it could right now also be your hope, however, Dave, it STILL can be your hope. You have so much to gain by not rejecting your God anymore, and allowing one of the mature brothers to help you and answer your questions and doubts. Not only will you gain your God, and the Bible’s hope that is laid out for us, but you will also gain your family back. Please forgive me if that’s not what you want to hear, but I felt the need to say it.

    Chuck

  23. Chuck, I know you addressed your comments to Dave but I’m replying. I’m not sure why I’m so terribly angry and very upset by this comment, but I know I am. I’m NOT apologizing if this is not the comment you want to hear, however. Perhaps you have not been following Corinna’s latest Blog entry but if you had been, you might realize just why this comment so incenses me. This kind of blatant “I know what to do to get to Heaven” pronouncement is the kind of thing that really irks me. Not only that, but the personalized emotional blackmail at the end is insulting, degrading and the height of fundamental arrogance. Really – how DARE you!

  24. Dear Carmen,
    I’m very sorry you were offended by my post to Dave. Neither do I know why you are “terribly angry and very upset” by my comments to Dave. Dave and I were having what I would call a very “healthy” exchange. No, I haven’t seen Corinna’s latest blog entry, however I will find it and read it. My post to Dave has nothing at all to do with Corinnas’ latest blog entry as I was communicating with Dave in the only way I know how since I don’t have Dave’s personal email. I understand from Dave that he’s starting his own blog, so perhaps Dave will let me know in his response how I can correspond with him through his blog.

    I really wish, however, that you would tell me what upset you so much, Carmen. Keep in mind that it was addressed to Dave, answering most of the points he raised to me previously. Maybe you missed Dave’s point a while back that he was raised in a Jehovah’s Witness family, but he had gotten away from it when he was a teen.
    I was trying to encourage him to “come home” so to speak by reminding him of our wonderful hope. I can’t imagine why you, or anyone else would be offended in my taking an interest in Dave and trying to encourage him.

    You said: “This kind of blatant ‘I know what to do to get to heaven’ pronouncement is the kind of thing that really irks me”. I’m sorry you are irked, but if you read my post again, you will see that there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in that post that suggests anything about “getting to heaven”. Not one thing. I was referring to life forever on EARTH, and only suggested to him to return to his God, Jehovah—-don’t you recall, he has made it clear on more than one post that he is an atheist? Why would my, or anyone else’s efforts to encourage another person to give God another try be offensive to you? That’s a mystery to me. And, yes, since I mentioned nothing of the kind about me knowing the surefire way of “getting to heaven”, yes, Carmen, you do owe me an apology–for the second time now. You seem to be looking at my comments from your point of view instead of trying to understand what I’m trying to say. The first thing I might suggest—(merely a suggestion, Carmen, so don’t take offense) is for you to look up the verses I shared with David. These verses will help to explain what I was sharing with Dave. I hope that, too, does not offend you–my mere suggestion that would help you understand what I was sharing with Dave, but if you are offended, I’m sorry. That wasn’t my intent.

    Emotional blackmail—How dare I? I’m sorry you feel that way, Carmen. I feel pretty sure that Dave doesn’t think of it that way, but rather just as it was intended to be—a reminder from his childhood days. I can’t think that Dave may have considered himself what I said to him in a personal, loving way, many times over the years. I’d be surprised if he hasn’t. And, after all, it was Dave that my comments were addressed to, not you, Carmen. I’m sure you had good intentions, and I thank you for that.

    Chuck

    • Chuck,
      Dave can take care of himself—-and his soul!–I am sure. But I will speak for many of the rest of us who really like Dave just the way he is. Open and honest…….authentic…….and he is very, very bright. These things serve him well.
      MET

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