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.