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  • Bible Study and Peacemaking 2008 Bible Study and Peacemaking from our 2007 Annual ReportFebruary 17, 2008  by J. B. Adams III        Our Bible Study time on late Wednesday afternoons remains a part of our ...
    Posted Mar 17, 2009, 10:22 PM by Melanie Adams
  • Bible Study and Peacemaking 2007 Bible Study on Peacemaking  The highlights of the Year.  Part I,   by J. B. Adams III    Our Wednesday Bible study, began as a “Seasoned Citizen’s” Project and moved to ...
    Posted Mar 17, 2009, 10:26 PM by Melanie Adams
  • Bible Study and Peacemaking 2006 Reflections on Our Bible Study on Peacemaking                      The highlights of the year 2005 and Introduction to 2006.                          Part II,   by J. B. Adams III    The “Report” is really a reflection ...
    Posted Mar 17, 2009, 10:24 PM by Melanie Adams
  • 02/27/2005 Bible Study Annual Report
    Posted Dec 26, 2008, 5:44 PM by Melanie Adams
  • 02/27/2005 Pastors Birds Eye View
    Posted Dec 26, 2008, 5:43 PM by Melanie Adams
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Bible Study and Peacemaking 2008

posted Mar 17, 2009, 10:21 PM by J. B. Adams III   [ updated Mar 17, 2009, 10:22 PM by Melanie Adams ]

Bible Study and Peacemaking
from our 2007 Annual Report
February 17, 2008  by J. B. Adams III
    Our Bible Study time on late Wednesday afternoons remains a part of our Peacemaking Ministry of Reconciliation. When we first started, we looked at the chasm suggested in quote “men are from Mars and women are from Venus.” We looked at the histori cal prayer that can go back to the time of Jesus: “Thank God I am not a woman, a Gentile or a dog.” Since over 95% of our written materials are quotes from the Bible, we first looked at the wonderful dialogue between Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman who was all three of the caricatures in that prayer!
    If Christian reconciliation and peacemaking can break down the barriers between men and women, it can dissolve all conflicts. We looked at all the New Testament scriptures that bear on that subject and saw how the teachings and actions of Jesus created a new kind of equality that had only been prophesied in the Old Testament. But “the” Old Testament passage that laid a foundation for inequality has been given a radically new interpretation from contemporary scholarship. The passage is Genesis 3:16 and the profound insight goes back to the time before Hebrew was written without vowel points.
    The gulf between men and women in Judaism was carried over into much of Christianity in spite of the profound impact of first century Christianity for a strain of equality that was even prophesied of in the Old Testament. The gaining  of full equality in the early church was along with the patriarchal model best preserved today in Roman Catholic, Orthodox and many conservative Baptist churches: but finally achieved in mainline Protestant denominations.
    Must of the Biblical scripture justifying New Testament equality is preserved in texts that will be available on our future web site: along with the Old Testament prophecies that equality would come. The new information on Genesis 3:16 is on the web from Palmer Seminar here in Philadelphia. It suggests that the punishment of Eve to be ruled over by Adam was not the only interpretation of the Hebrew word “to rule.” If the reader vocalized other vowels into the three consonants, you got an entirely different word. 
    In fact, the KJV uses other vowel points with the three consonants that make up that Hebrew word “to rule” and translates the same three consonants word to mean “to be like” over 5 times. There are complicated Hebrew verb tenses that help to determine if the three consonants should be interoperated as “to rule” or “to be like”, but mostly the context determines which translation should be used. If the word did not appear in ancient lexicons in a verb tense that would always lend itself to be translated as “to be like” it would likely never be transla ted as “to be like” unless the context required it to be so translated.
    The scholar at Palmer Seminary did find an old lexicon that did use the verb tense that is always translated as “to be like”, but more important he found Arabic cognate equivalents that used the word as “to be like” as common usage. This Arabic cognate equivalent is proof positive, that in the sounding of the word, the reader determines for the hearers what the meaning would be. So after the Hebrew was written with vowel points, any confusion of “to rule” or “to be like” would no longer be tolerated.
    Before the recording of vowel points, a reader would vocalize it as he felt it should be read - according to context and the common interpretation of the reader and hearers. With the prayer, “Thank God I am not a women. . .” and with all the other non-Hebrew cultures seeing women as second or third class citizens, it is not hard to understand the ease with which the Hebrew would always want to vocalize it as “to rule” over. Like the new Hebrew nation wanted “a king like all the other nations, who would rule over them and lead them into battle,” so all the other nations, who20treated women as property, would lead some in Israel to eventually vocalize that word to mean “to rule over” women and eventually codified that reading with vowel points to make it permanent.
    If the context really suggests that “he would be like her” as a consequence of their sin, outside the garden where they did not have access to the tree of life, they would both have common sorrow: she with the death of children in child birth and he - after the sweat of his brow - would have sorrow of crop failure. (By the way “sweat of the brow” could also mean tears of sorrow because the literal Hebrew means is a runny nose.) They both were “to be like” one another in suffer with each other’s sorrow. With that interpretation, no longer would man or women be ruling over the other in patriarchal or matriarchal fashion.
    Our Bible study suggested that every Christian denomination or fellowship found some Scripture that was so profound that was almost totally overlooked by other Christians. Philadelphia is blessed by one denomination that found one scripture so profound that they chose to call themselves by the word in that scripture. But to understand how profound it was - and is - we have to see the full20context in which it is used. Jesus was talking about his sorrow and impending death. His disciples were still arguing about who would be the most powerful next to Jesus.
    With only a few hours for Jesus to live, the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke record the Upper Room information that lead to the transformation of the seder into the sacrament of the Lord’s supper. But the Gospel of John records a different kind of atmosphere that begins with the high priestly prayer of Jesus that we should all be completely one. Several denominations add to the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, the profound ritual of foot washing to show mutual humility. But one denomination lifts that foot washing conversation to a profound height by calling itself by the key word in that conversation.
    What Jesus, according to John, said to his disciples - who were still looking at ruling over others with force - was this: “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” What we call Quakers, they call themselves “Friends.” There20is no patriarchal or matriarchal commands among friends, but in truth it would take the disciples a while to fully understand the meaning of that thought. The earthly world today continues to have the need for a Priscilla and Aquila: who would teach the scriptures “more accurately” to all the Apollos"es" within the church today. What a profound revelation for our age of “politically correct language,” to discover that in the New Testament, the team of Aquila and Priscilla are mentioned four times (in that age when the man is always first), but in the New Testament twice the man’s name comes first and twice the woman’s name is first!
    It makes us want to believe in the Old Testament prophesy - that the disciples stated was fulfilled at Pentecost:  And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. It is one thing to pour out that spirit on all flesh including sons and daughters, but on men and maid servants too? That may make you want to look back at Genesis 3:16 to look again at the verbal translation of “to be like” as God’s real will and not “to rule” over. Such a translation would be a real revelation from God that might make the Judeo-Christian religion different from all the other religions of the world - even today.
    The very first theological position to be labeled a “heresy” by the early church had to do with a conflict between the Old and the New Testaments. Our Bible Study looked seriously at that “apparent” conflict in order to resolve the issues it raises. The view that was labeled heretical felt there was a totally different kind of God revealed in the New Testament through the life of Christ than  the warlike God of the Old Testament: Christ died for our sin rather than telling us to go out and commit genocide in God’s name by killing all the people of the land.
    The conflict between that warlike god and the God revealed in Jesus Christ was resolved in some people’s eyes by amnesia for much of the Old Testament. Even Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, accused Islam of being a warlike religion without any reference to our Judeo-Christian heritage of the admonition to kill all the peoples of the land of Cannan: “put them all to the20sword.” Coming to terms with that issue requires real deep Bible Study. It also requires us to deeply inquire about the difference between inspiration and revelation. It also requires real understanding of the difference between God’s real will and his permissive will.
    Samuel was told to go ahead and grant the people that king they wanted: like all the other peoples of the land - but they were not rejecting Samuel; they were rejecting God as their king. We clearly see the conflict between God’s will and God’s permissive will. God’s people were to be a “peculiar people” and instead they wanted to be like all the other peoples. That was and still is the temptation of all God’s people today. Those who interpret “be ye separate, come ye out from among them” are taking that literally instead of figuratively, but we will touch at that issue later when we look at the “law.”
    The warlike god and/or the God revealed in Christ can best be understood, we said, by looking at how people are inspired to attribute to God their own wishes. A wag once said that we were created in God’s image and we pay God the same compliment by creating God in our image! A more scholarly statement of the same tendency is to point out the difference between what is “exemplary” and what is “cautionary” truth and revelation. The Spanish conquistadors took the admonition to kill all the people of the land literally (if they did not convert immediately) and some people used it to justify the use of germ warfare on the Native Americans or the atomic bomb in Japan. It is still an issue today in the suicide bombing going on in Palestine and Israel.
    God told Samuel to caution the people about the consequences of choosing a human king from the people, but they went ahead anyway. Our understanding of Christ the King is really a return to God as king of the whole world instead of an earthly ruler over geographical space. And the subtle difference between cautionary and exemplary revelation becomes even more telling as the subjects become more confusing. Perhaps the most profound exposition of the consequences for cautionary warnings came from Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address when he wonders if the consequences of the Civil War were that   “every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.”
    The God revealed by Moses in the giving of the “law,” make Moses the great “law giver.” This can be in contrast to Jesus the “great teacher.” But the Hebrew word “TORAH” should really be translated “teaching/law” - not just law. Yet we discover the temptation to translate TORAH according to the temperament of the translator: which really is all of us for we project into God our own understanding of the continuum between teaching and law. The Pharisees in Jesus time leaned clearly over to the law side of that continuum and today’s Christian Pharisees make Jesus words into new laws in spite of the teachings in Romans and elsewhere. But our Christian Taliban is little different from the Taliban of Islam who turn everything into law and obedience.
    Paul points out in Romans 7 not just the futility of the law, but that it can very well be counter productive:  15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
    Every parent knows a child can get into an attitude that causes the child to do the opposite of what he is asked to do, and many people in prohibition who seldom, if ever drank, started to do so just because someone said you cannot drink. When Christian want to “lay down the law” they are forgetting the teachings of Jesus, but it is all too natural to do so. Those people who believe we are not to question the  teachings of Christianity are only making it a book of rules or laws that generate the opposite effect in many people. If we are to be that peculiar people instead of like all the others our attitude to the law is one place to start.
    But turning Christianity into a law book of do’s and don’ts, is also to forget more that Romans 7. It is also to have amnesia for Paul’s statements in Corinthians and Ephesians: 1 Corinthi ans 6:12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 1 Corinthians 10:23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Ephesians 2:15-19  15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace.
    The peace which Christ brings was best summed up by Paul as he answers his own question: “Who will rescue me from this body of  death?” and his answer was: “ 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!“  So if we want to be free f rom the restrictions of life with it’s does and don’ts, commandment, ordinances and laws, we turn to the teaching of  Christ for insight into what is “beneficial” and “builds up” and learn how to tear down the dividing wall of hostility between us. That way we can live in love and peace with our God, all God’s creation - including our enemies - and ourselves, since we are often our own worst enemy.
    There are many other profound yet almost hidden truths we have learned from Scripture, but let us focus on two other sets of truths we tried to fathom in our Bible study. We mentioned above the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus in the 17th chapter of John which culminates the equalitarian concept of  “Friend” as the model for human relationships. But we must come to an even deeper understanding of our relationship to God. Jesus’ prayer states in John 17:20-23  20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
    If God does really love us “all” as much as God loved Jesus, we are confronted with two truths about our neighbor. One is a that we need to learn how to love that neighbor as a brother or sister and we need to learn how to love him or her when they are not really lovable. Since God loved us all “while we were yet sinners” and if God sends his rain and sunshine on the just and the unjust, we are challenged to be Godlike in our love. That is not easy. If we see it as a command, we become powerless to do it and are overwhelmed with grief and guilt by our failures to do it.
    But if we look at all the sinners in the Bible, that God loved and used to be a blessing to others in spite of their sinfulness, we gain hope that we too shall someday learn to believe in our hearts that God does really love us in spite of what we have done to ourselves and others. The struggle to believe - which the Bible suggests is the faith to accept that love -  takes us to the cross of Christ. Jesus told  at the beginning in John 3:14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, and again in John 12:32* And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
    As in Moses’ day, the children of Israel had to look at the snake that bit them. Yet the last thing we want to do: look at the sin that is hurting us and others. But before we can be really free to live again, we must look. By really looking at the hurt we bring to ourselves and others, we can begin to look at the truth=2 0that sets us free - whether it be environmental, social or personal. By really looking at the sin - say global warming - we can acknowledge the truth in the words of Jesus: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  In fact until we come to realize what we did not know or what our enemy did not know, we are powerless to really give or know what forgiveness really is. It is as true of personal sins as it is for sins against God’s world.
    When we look at Jesus on the cross, we discover the awful consequences of our ignorance and the extent of the hurt we have brought to ourselves and others. But what an “awe full” moment of accepting that God loves us in our suffering and the suffering of others - including our worst enemy - loves us all as much as he loved Jesus. In that moment we are filled with such gratitude, that the truth has set us free. And we know that in our Bible study in the future, we will remember the other teachings of Jesus, that  we so easily forget, yet his teachings will always set us free again.

Bible Study and Peacemaking 2007

posted Mar 17, 2009, 10:15 PM by J. B. Adams III   [ updated Mar 17, 2009, 10:26 PM by Melanie Adams ]

Bible Study on Peacemaking 
The highlights of the Year. 
Part I,   by J. B. Adams III

    Our Wednesday Bible study, began as a “Seasoned Citizen’s” Project and moved to 4:30 PM to include others. It has become the spiritual highlight of the year. It is not possible in so short a space to summarize a one and a half hours - once a week - Bible study, but it is possible to give a bare bones outline of our “Peacemaking” study.
    To quickly focus on the issues of Peacemaking - and what it is not - which grow out of Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemaker for they shall be called the children of God.” [NRSV], we went to the words of Jesus from Luke 12:51* Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! Or the other version from Matthew 10:34* “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
Peacemaking Versus Peacekeeping
    There is a huge difference between peacemaking and “peacekeeping” for the victors almost want to impose their “peacekeeping’” on the vanquished and end up substituting one form of injustice for another. It is the unresolved “peacekeeping” which the liberals of our denomination did to the ultra conservatives in our churches after we accepted the full equality of women in the denomination. The liberals fought to remain in the denomination when the fundamentalists fought to drive them out, but liberals in turn drove out the fundamentalist over their touch stone of liberal orthodoxy, but more of that later as to how “we violate the image of God in others and ourselves, accept lies as truth, exploit neighbor and nature .. . . [and still need to learn] to unmask idolatries in Church and culture, to hear the voices of peoples long silenced, and to work with others for justice, freedom and peace.”
    Peacemaking from the Hebrew word “shalom” is more than the absence of war and conflict. Peace keepers are interested in keeping down the conflict in the hope that something - anything - will resolve the difficulties. “Peacemaking” is aimed directly at ending the divisions though specific procedures and practices. It is not repression and leaving to chance or happenstance the resolution of problems. When Jesus suggested that no one enters the kingdom of God except as a child, he may have been pointing out how children can fight and make up when all the attitudes are out in the open, but the parents continue the fight long after the children are reconciled.
    The Hebrew word “shalom” or peace means "well being” and fullness, complete  health and even prosperity. One part of the body cannot be healthy while another part is sick. One part cannot be joyful while another part is sad or tortured. So peacemaking at its best is the bringing of true health and happiness to all of humanity. “You ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee!” So in our Bible study we looked an many passages where the English Bible used a different word to translate “peace” that limits our understanding of the vast breadth of meaning for shalom.
Scripture Alone
    Our Bible study was confined to scripture alone, but we did risk the only sin that the liberals of the church really work at avoiding: the sin of proof texting! If you wonder why liberals quote scripture so little - even when it is to their advantage to do so - it is so they will not risk committing the first unforgivable sin of proof texting. (We will look at the other unforgivable sin later.) We brought scripture together from everywhere in the Bible to apply to a given subject.
    Our criteria for picking out scripture and bringing it together was really very simple: Revelation 22:18 I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19* and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. The Old Testament parallel is Ecclesiastes 3:14* I know that whatever God does endures for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. So we look at all the scripture on given subjects that most conservatives and liberals had taken from the Bible by ignoring it.
    We looked at the confrontation between Jesus and Peter in Matthew 16:23 “But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”” Then the division s between Peter and Paul and Paul and Barnabas from Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. Acts 15:38, 39  But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.
    We looked at how Jesus could  not tell his disciples what they were not ready for any more than he can tell us what we are not ready for: Mark 4:33b Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. John 16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
    And we looked and how Jesus would not let his disciples preform mission journeys that their own prejudice would destroy.  Matthew 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans,”  But as they grew under his leadership he could finally include in the great commission: Mark 16:15* And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.
Both Men and Women
    The “whole of creation” especially means both women and men. The society thinks that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, so our Bible study moved to peacemaking between men and women. Most of the scripture texts we used had been shared with our sibling church through the pastor of Christ Liberation Fellowship. Since their denomination does not ordain women, they fall into the same theological camp as the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, the Southern Baptists, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and even Islam.
    That is a pretty large section of our world society. As Presbyterian we may disdain to relate through the Local, State, National and World Council of Churches with religious bodies who will not ordain woman, but many will not touch with a ten foot pole our sibling churches who do not ordain women. The tragedy of not making peace with our sibling Presbyterian churches was pointed by Louisville when they stated there are still 300 PC (USA) that have yet to ordain a women elder. The fear/hatred that the other shoe will drop - that they will either leave or be driven out, makes it one of the many  900 pound gorillas no one in our Presbytery wants to acknowledge. When we or they say from 1 Corinthians 12:21 “I have no need of you” I think we miss something.
    Our peacemaking Bible study is looking at that gorilla to see where in scripture it came from. If one pivotal point in the history of Israel was in 1 Samuel 8:19 But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, 20 so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 1 Samuel 8:7 And the LORD said to Samuel, “Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.
    When Samuel tried to warn in 1 Samuel 8:11, 13, 16 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots;  He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work.”
    If Israel was to be a peculiar people and yet they wanted to be “like nations,” don’t think that was the only thing they took from all the other nations. If a=2 0king has those powers over his subjects, why should not every man be such a king over the few subjects he has: women, slaves and children. If Abraham could try to pawn his wife off as his sister to save his own neck, why should not Lot be allowed to consider pawning his daughters off in Sodom to save the male messengers.
A Peculiar People
    So if the “peculiar people” of old want to mimic the people of their day, who is to say if we are mimicking the people of our day. The Bible study helps us look at the temptation to use power and authority over others. Jesus states in Luke 22:25, 26 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. And in John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
    How is it then that men can try to command a kingly role over women, or the counterpoint in the matriarchal society and use authority to demand submission? If there is no difference between a male chauvinist pig and a female chauvinist sow, it is incumbent on the “peculiar people” to have something else to offer as an alternative society which is call the kingdom of God. The good news of the gospel is mutual submission to all by all: a very radical doctrine. If NASA tried it and succeeded on getting a man on the moon in spite of military authoritarian egos, and corporate power structures that will not share proprietary patents, why should the church not be anxious to share the message of the kingdom that is based on friendship rather than authoritarian conforming power.
    Our peacemaking Bible study looked at how the disciples treated women, children and non-Jews and how Jesus told Parables about Samaritans, women seeking a coin, and children as the basis for kingdom entrance. The Rabbinic prayer of thanking God they were not “a women, a Gentile or a dog” focuses all the prejudice of that age with the Canaanite woman who wanted Jesus to heal her Gentile daughter. Those with no humor saw Jesus’ response as un feeling and they would rather worship the woman, But those who remembered that prayer could see his playful spirit that tenderly confronted his disciples prejudice.
    While that passage is open to multiple interpretations, the authoritarian left is faced with their own dilemma. We are to all be of one mind: as long as it is their mind. For to allow multiple interpretations would mean that other passages could have multiple interpretations: including those who still believe it is possible to force wives to be subject to their husbands. It might allow for a democratic family and even a wife as head of men. If sin permeates all of society, yet God loves us while we are yet sinners, why should the only unforgivable sin - higher even than proof texting  - be so terrible as to necessitate removal from the church? It could allow “local option” for a family or a church not to ordain women, but it cannot happen when one group has authority over another.
Taught Accurately Yet More Accurately
    Our Bible study addressed that issue with Acts 18:24-26 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, well versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and expounded to him the way of God more accurately.
    If we have lived by that scripture in the PC (USA), we would have been “more accurate” in our teaching instead of relying on power and authority to drive the Apollos’ s out of the church. Instead we justified the ordination of women on anthropological, sociol ogical, psychological and politically correct reasons that come frorm the very society we are to be distinct form. The unique references to Priscilla and Aquila and then Aquila and Priscilla, in which each time the first name is changed to the second named of the couple hints at the breaking of male domination of a rigid society.
    Our Bible study looked closely at the many stories that broke the mold of the first century church as a male dominated society. Saul of Tarsus was so incensed that the followers of “the Way” destroyed the basis of the patriarchal Jewish family structure, that he went out to arrest “both men and women” That the women should be subjected to the same arrest can only be interpreted as their doing the same thing as the men who deserved arrest: where women were not allowed in the main part of the synagogue. Both should be arrested since there is no liberation of the oppressed woman until the oppressive man is liberated from his need for authoritarian oppress.
Neither Male Nor female
If it was not spelled out as clearly as I am here making it, then listed to how Paul, after his conversion, addresses the subject from our Bible study quotes: Galatians 3:27-28  “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Or look at how even Peter addresses the gentiles - before he backslid and needed to be confronted by Paul: 1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be=2 0subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Is the only place a man need not be humble is in relation to women at home or in the church?
    Or in today’s world are women allowed to be arrogant against whose whose conscience will not let them ordain women or those who honestly believe a man is to be head of his household. If Peter could back track about eating with gentiles, are there no Paulines who can confront as Paul did and are there no Priscillas and Aquilas who can teach the Bible  more accurately: unless they have the power to run them out of the church if they fail to heed their teaching?
    We look at Paul’s restatement of the Peter principal of equality in submission, we find the reason behind the principal: Galatians 5:6* For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love. If it was from love that we drove our siblings out of our denomination, what about the others growing up in those churches where there is no one to support women in their call from God to serve God in ordained eldes or ministries? If it is my way or the highway, when it come to strategies of share the good news of God’s kingdom to oppressed women, is not that exactly with the fundamentalist tried and failed to do. So are we looking with pride on our power and authority to drive “them” out of he church?
The Truth that Sets Us Free
    Our Bible study looked at  John 8:32  “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  We could see how we are little different from Peter backtracking or rather playing both sides of the street by going out to defend Jesus from the arrest with a dagger clocked in our garb. So we draw the dagger forgetting that the truth is a two edged sword - that cuts in both directions and it is always the innocent servant who gets hurt. And then our own embarrassment keeps us on the fringe of things when we can no longer be helpful. But the truth that sets others free, is also the truth that sets us free as well.
    If Jesus is “the way the truth and the life”, then the truth we learn in scripture can bear witness to the truth of what Jesus said about his sending the Holy Spirit to bring to remembrance “all that I have said to you.”  We looked at how powerful is the need for the promised Holy Spirit because the synoptic gospels all stated that without a parable he did not speak and his disciples always resented the fact that they did not understand what he was driving at. The few times when they did understand, they jubilantly said so: John 16:29 His dis ciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech!
    If it happened to the disciples, is it any wonder that many Christians today still fail to grasp the meaning of the radical equality Jesus brought into the world. Luke 18:34 But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. John 12:16* His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. If we can have compassion for the disciples who lived with him and still misunderstood Jesus, can we not find compassion for those who continue to misunderstand his message: that if God as king (or queen) does not order us around, how can we order others around: instead of witnessing to what the Holy Spirit can do for the church.
Milk or Solid Food
    In our Bible study we looked at what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:2 “I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready.”  So why should we feel we no longer have an obligation to share the truth “more accurately” with those who still do no understand the radical equality of the kingdom of God? If we say “their” eye is not a part of the body of Christ because they“see men; but they look like trees, walking,”  or if some Christians need a second touch from the master’s hand to see the kingdom of God as it really is, I suspect the second touch will involve answers to the questions: if God is the same yesterday, today and for ever, how can we account for the glacial slowness of the progress of peace and justice for women? Do we see now as a “fullness of time” prophesied in the Old Testament?
    Those questions of why the “progress” in the New Testament church from radical equality to a return to “unequal” submission is part of the focus of our Bible study in the weeks ahead. We did look at how in Samuel’s time both men and women in Israel internalized a “kingly” concept from the people of the land, but how did the followers of the Way return to it over time. Our Bible study saw the first step when it took the mutual submission from Ephesians 5;21-22 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. but started their admonitions with the 22 ver se: Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.
    They jumped down to Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”  First, they overlooked the phrase “in the Lord”  and then they applied it to wives instead of children. It was missing or replace in Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord.  With the added significance of Ephesians 6:5 and Colossians 3:22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything,”  it is not hard to see how the Judaizers in Paul’s day would want to return to the obedience to Torah models of the Old Testament and want women to also obey “in everything.”  If the submission so eloquently lauded by Southern Baptist women is so great, why should not men also learn from it? That is what New Testament mutual submission in the kingdom of God is all about.
    Our Bible study will take us further down the road to see more of the truth that sets us all free.

Bible Study and Peacemaking 2006

posted Mar 17, 2009, 10:11 PM by J. B. Adams III   [ updated Mar 17, 2009, 10:24 PM by Melanie Adams ]

Reflections on Our Bible Study on Peacemaking 
                    The highlights of the year 2005 and Introduction to 2006.                   
      Part II,   by J. B. Adams III

    The “Report” is really a reflection on20this year, as well as a summery of our “Peacemaking Bible Study” for last year that ended up with the statement: “Our Bible Study will take us further down the road to see more of the truth that sets us all free.” Last year’s “truth” traced the path from Israel’s destiny to be a peculiar people as “a kingdom of priest and a holy nation” - that others would want to be like - to Israel’s wanting “a king like all the other nations who would lead them into battle.” In the Bible records God comforts Samuel by saying, “They are not rejecting you [Samuel], but they are rejecting me [God] from being king over them.”
    But God had told Samuel to warn them what the earthly king would do “to” the people and to their children. since the king would always be a man - even though among the Judges there was a “peculiar” kind of a woman, Deborah - Israel followed the attitudes of the other nations about wives and children: if the king should have such absolute powers, then the king of each household should also have those powers over their own domain. The patriarchal family was now sanctified as the national family pattern for the social and political20life of Israel.
    In New Testament times, Jesus completely undermined - with his disciples - that patriarchal control attitude toward women in two ways. First, Jesus taught and treated women and children differently from what  was the view of society and of his own disciples. He even brought a band of women followers from Nazareth. No wonder Jerusalem religious asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Peacemaking between men and women, who still believe “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, had begun. The style of our Bible Study was to reproduce nothing by Biblical quotes, but to include scripture few others associated with each topic: that is to bring to remembrance “all” that Jesus had said or done.
    Secondly, Jesus ultimately undermined “kingly” authority by teaching and example. By teaching at the apex of his life, when he said  Luke 22:25, 26 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. And by example when in John’s account of the Lord’s Supper, after he washed the disciples feet he said in John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his mast er is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
    It would be nearly impossible for Christians to follow the patriarchal standard of Israel with that kind of pattern and teaching. We traced the breaking out in the New Testament of an equalitarian family by seeing how Saul of Tarsus - who perhaps more than any other leader of his day - recognized the radical consequences of the followers of the Way and arrested “both men and women” in his crusade even to Damascus to stamp out this sect that would have ultimately destroyed male dominance on which the nation was built. And as Saul of Tarsus become Paul, the Apostle, we read of his evangelical egalitarianism:“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:27-28 
    We cannot do justice in a few pages, what we did over a year of study, but we traced the implications of that teaching in Acts to where a husband and wife team are mentioned four times in the most equalitarian way: twice Precillla is mentioned before Aquila and twice Aquila is mentioned first. Their equalitarian way is summed up in a story that would made Yentel swell up with pride or envy: Acts 18:24-26 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, well versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and expounded to him the way of God more accurately.
    But why should we rehearse last year’s path in looking at our 2005 - 2006 year? Because we need to see how difficult it “was” and still ‘is’ for Christians to go against the culture. In our “Brief Confession” we warn about “idolatry in church and culture.” As Israel enshrined the patriarchal patterns of the surrounding nations as religious patriotism, so we need to find additional truths to set us free from the tyranny of confusing American popular patriotism with religious truths.
    To free Biblical truth from the tyranny of popular patriotism and politically correct thinking today (which not only includes the older “ male chauvinist pigs” but also the newer  “female chauvinist sows”). We looked extensively at Jesus’s use of Parables that would both reveal and hide truth at the same time: without a parable he did not teach. We looked at Jesus’ first sermon in Nazareth where they first praised him and then turned and almost lynched him for his unpatriotic reference to both a foreign woman and a foreign soldier.
    But the pivotal point in the sixteen chapters of Mark, is at the end of the eighth chapter when he asks his disciples, who do people and you say that I am? In theological circles this question is called “the open secret” and like all his Parables of profound truth both revealed and hidden. When Peter states, “You are the Messiah.” The very next words of Jesus are “And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.”  We saw his reasons for silence - on the Messiah issue - was because everyone wanted their kind of Messiah king: as in the time of Samuel - who would go before them and fight their battles. Only now it was against the occupation by Rome. Even his disciples were jockeying for power and authority on the way to Jerusalem. It may be the main reason the people turned on Jesus after Palm Sunday. It was the same reason they first turned against him after his Nazareth sermon, when he implied good things about the Syrian general and lowly Canaanite woman. Jesus would have been a one man M.A.S.H. team, who could heal and raise the dead (soldiers) in the fight with Rome, and they would never out run their food supplies, since he could multiply the loves and fishes as they were needed!
    Only the likes of a Paul could truly understand the need for reconciliation between Jews and Roman authorities - since he was both a Jew and a Roman citizen. Much of Paul’s  ministry was occupied with resolving these issues when it comes to both traditions, such as circumcision and dietary issues and other laws, customs and outsiders. It is those same cultural conflicts that confront the churches today in every country including America. Do we still have to love our enemy, or can we rain down fire and brimstone on Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, North Korea, Hanoi, Bosnia, Falllujah or wherever, as his disciples wanted to destroy the Samaritan towns that denied them public accommodations on the road to Jerusalem?
    In our Bible study this past year we looked extensively at the “mystery” of his “kingdom” that was both here and now and yet to come. It is here now for those who had eyes to see and ears to hear, and overlooked by those who were blind and deaf to another kind of world. In 2006 we are taking an in-depth look at Jesus’ idea of the “kingdom” as opposed to popular ideas of “heaven.” If we take the phrase from Matthew “kingdom of heaven” and abbreviate it to “heaven” and cut it off from all the teachings of Jesus, we read into the Bible from our popular culture.instead of seeing that where Matthew spoke of kingdom of heaven, Mark and Luke read Kingdom of God. “Heaven” was used as a substitute for the name of God so as not to risk us ing it in vain.
    Some of our Bible Study focused on biblical passages like Isaiah 55:8, 9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. So our reformed heritage acknowledges that even our best and highest thoughts are off the mark because we are tainted with sin when we play God and think we know it all. That was the temptation of Adam & Eve in the garden. It is stated in Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. So we know we cannot pass on to our children the knowledge we have forgotten.  Knowledge is something we need to constantly strive for. And Jesus affirms the importance of knowledge, when from the cross he prayed: “Father. forgive them for they know not what they do.” Therefore his followers must be “disciples” or learners who seek out what we do not know and then even acknowledge we still don’t know it all.
    So we are to approach everything in the humility to think that there are “facts” about every issue that we do not know and we must listed to a truth from others with whom we disagree and acknowledge that even though they don’t know it all either, they do know some part of the truth that we do not understand. It is not that there are two sides of every issue; rather there are many sides to all issues and truth cuts across all sides, for God’’s ways are above all our partial insights. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to bring to remembrance the things we can so easily forget.
    Humility - to not play God and act like we are a know it all - starts by a proper understanding of what it means to be God’s chosen people: Israel of old or the church is grafted on to the old vine. The temptation is to think we are all chosen because of some kind of superiority of mind or moral character or ethical sensitivity. But in our Bible study, Israel was reminded that our spiritual father, Abraham, was a wondering Aramean and not a stable20land owner. The emphasis was on his lack of qualities, since it was God and not a man or people who are to be honored as superior to other people on the earth.
    With Abraham and Sarah beyond child rearing capacity, the emphasis was on God’s miraculous gift of new life not their superiority or worthiness. And that theme is throughout the New Testament where the emphasis may not so much be on the worthiness of even a perfect sinless virgin, as the miracle of an unwed mother of low degree is lifted by God’s miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit that lifts her above all the high and mighty. So the hero or heroine is God and not Sarah or Mary nor the virtues of Abraham or Joseph. It is a gift not a reward for superior potential or performance.
    If we want to look at a rewards for superior potential or performance and proper punishments for inferior work or even evil deeds, you must look at the Biblical concepts of heaven and hell and see what the various parts of the Bible have to say about heaven and he ll. But in our Bible study we have been looking at them through the different lenses presented in the Bible in contrast to how the secular society brought their wants and wishes to bear on the way the Bible was translated and understood. While much of this part of our Bible study took place in 2006, we will look at it now in this report, since it is leading to what we will be looking at in the near future.
    Air Conditioning Hell is the title of the first portion of his part of the Bible Study and we were looking at it as a peacemaking project to learn how to make peace with people who would have a very different view than we might have on the subject of hell. Our ideas of hell is a compost of all the things we have read about it in the Bible and how other secular and religious writers have interpreted and expanded on those Biblical reverences. But we seriously took the warning from Revelation 22:19,19 and Deuteronomy 4:2 & 12:32 passages about not subtracting or ignoring anything that was in the Bible or adding to biblical truth by demanding ”the” proper interpretation: as if only one interpretation was permitted and implying not enough was written in the Bible to take into account contemporary thinking.
    We first looked at the Old Testament use of the term “Hell” as it appears in the King James Version of the Bible. We learned that the KJV uses the word “Hell” 31 times, so it is natural to think the New Testament idea of Hell had its origins in the Old Testament and there is a continuity between the two. But then we discovered there is an Engl ish word the KJV also used exactly 31 times. Low and behold it turns out that the English word “grave” was use 31 times in the KJV to translate the same Hebrew word “sheol” that they translated 31 times as “Hell” But our “ideas” of Hell does not include the ideas drawn from the English word “grave.” So the first question you must ask is why it translated “sheol” half the time with word grave and the other half time Hell? The second question might be: did they have ideas of their own which caused them to translate it one time this  and one time that way? Perhaps a third question would be, did they translate it any other time with another word that we also are not aware of - that would change our understanding even more? The answer to that question is yes. “Sheol” was also translated 3 time in the KJV as “pit.” The mystery of why they chose the third translation and could pit have just as well been used as well as Hell or grave.
When you look at translations of the Bible other than the KJV, to see their rendering of the Hebrew word “sheol ,” you have many startling discoveries that reflect their mind set of the other translators, just as much as you see it in the KJV. The RSV and the New RSV do not translate the Hebrew word, but instead transliterate by writing it as “sheol” every time. Even the conservative NIV has actually eliminated the word “Hill” from the Old Testament and prefer to use death or grave. The New KJV still uses the word “Hell” but only 19 times and even uses “sheol” 32 times, so even they are willing to use :Sheol” more times than “Hell.}
    In The KJV the word “fire” is mentioned in the Old Testament only one in a verse that contains the word “Hell” and only twice is “fire” mentioned on a verse that contains the word “grave.” The connections between the gave and Hell and fire are so few and in such an abstractly unconnected way. that they they give no idea of “hell fire” from the popular beliefs. But if you look at that one KJV set of ideas where hell and fire are connected, you might see an unusual twist that could be very enlightening. For it connects with one “set” of New Testament ideas about the “Hell” mentioned in the KJV teachings of Jesus. So if we are going to look at “Hell,” we have to look carefully at the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels of the KJV.
    As the KJV translated the one Hebrew word “Sheol” with three different English words because of their theological perspective, in the New Testament they translated two very different words - one Hebrew and one Greek - by the one English work, “Hell.”    Thus, they blended two very different concepts into one view and unified it back into their earlier Old Testament perspective. The Hebrew word was transliterated into Greek as “Gehenna” and the Greek word was “Hades.”
    In the Septuagent, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word “sheol” is often translated as “Hades” and it is the best Greek idea to come close to the meaning of sheol which could be seen as the place or state of the dead. To the Greeks=2 0Hades was a rather shadowy place that is not so good and not so bad, but it is really the only place of the dead - on the other side of the river Sticks in Greek mythology. In the words of Jesus there is  no fire ever mentioned there in the KJV New Testament or in other translations as well.
    If we are going to look for “fire” in relationship to “Hell” in the KJV teachings of Jesus, you have to look to the Hebrew word Gehenna. We learned in our Bible Study that the first and best of the teachings of Jesus, where” fire” and “Hell” are mentioned together is in Matthew 5:22 where he states “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. [1067. geenna geenna gheh'-en-nah].
    When you realize the 5th chapter of Matthew begins the “Beatitudes” and is called the “sermon on the mount”and gives real insight into his teaching on what the KJV means by hell. As you have to look at the beautiful surroundings when he said, ”3 Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . 4 Blessed are they that mourn . . . 5 Blessed are the meek. . . 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst. . . 7 Blessed are the merciful . . . 8 Blessed are the pure in heart . . . 9 Blessed are the peacemakers . . . 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake . . . 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
    The surroundings were this beautiful hill overlooking the gorgeous lake of Galilee, Jesus is saying blessed or happy”right now” are these people who are really in difficulty but still blessed. Elsewhere he spoke of the “lilies of the fi eld” who are better arrayed that Solomon in all his glory - for those who have eyes to see beauty all around them.
    But there is another hill and valley that everyone there knew all too well from their trips, if you lived in Jerusalem, every few days,. They knew it well even if you only went to Jerusalem on festive pilgrimages. It is where everyone went to get rid of their garbage and trash. It is where the stench of burning refuse drifted up and if the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, you got the smell up your nose and even on your clothes. Before the Hebrews lived there the pagans worshiped gods who required human and especially infant sacrifice. The thoughts of the place were so onerous to Jews, that no one would ever want to live there, so it was the city garbage dump. It was called Gehenna or valley of Hinon or Hell in the KJV.
    To people who knew their geography, they=2 0thought of it as symbolic of the rotten life after death of those who had done evil. Others saw it as symbolic of life here and now for those burning up inside with anger and vile thoughts and memories of those things they could never get rid of. When Jesus in the 22nd verse spoke about the all consuming anger with a brother, he was talking about the stench that permeated even the clothing you whworeere when you go there. Like a good teacher he was using visual images that even assaulted the nose and.everyone would understand. Choose the kind of hillside where you want to live: the personal hell of the valley of Hinnom or where you an enjoy the lilies of the field and the beauties of a lake at our feet.
    When Jesus reminds us we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, we are to remember that if we do not love ourselves, we cannot love our neighbor either. But the same holds true about loving our enemy, since often times we are our own worst enemy. As Pogo stated: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” So we are to love our enemy so that we can love ourselves when we have failed in our own best interests. When Jesus was speaking about the beam and the mote, he was helping us to understand something. The speck we dislike in another person’s eye is often because of our frustration and anger we too often hold against ourselves. What we see in ourselves, we dislike in them, so we project into them, our own shortcomings.
    The rest of this year we will continue “Air Conditioning Hell” as well as bring “Pie in the shy, by and by when you die” into the here and now - through the teachings of Jesus on the “kingdom of God.”  A “kingdom” where God’s sun and “Son” shines on the just and the unjust.. Here and now we are called to become more Christlike with all our brothers and sisters - Christian, non-Christian and un-Christian - through a “peacemaking” attitude that allows us to agree and disagree without being disagreeable. For when we look at the breadth of the disagreement that was tolerated in New Testament time, we find a model to look at “Roman” lifestyles with which we may not agree. 

Future topics
Loving neighbor and enemy
Our attitude toward other religions
Anger & Retaliatin
Airdonditioning Hell and Pie in the Sky by and by when you die
Chosen and other nations
John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

02/27/2005 Bible Study Annual Report

posted Dec 25, 2008, 7:10 PM by J. B. Adams III   [ updated Dec 26, 2008, 5:44 PM by Melanie Adams ]

02/27/2005 Pastors Birds Eye View

posted Dec 25, 2008, 7:05 PM by J. B. Adams III   [ updated Dec 26, 2008, 5:43 PM by Melanie Adams ]

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