“As a spiritual exercise…”

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.)  The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did. (John 14:12.) The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45: “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind. For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

As a Spiritual Exercise, back in 1989 I started experimenting with ways to “help” my FSU football team win its first national championship…

At first it was a matter of finding the right ritual sacrifice, in the form of exercise, and especially aerobics. (Initially, a series of wind sprints over a 3-mile course, with the goal of finishing the three miles in an ever-faster speed.)

It was only later – in the spring of 1992 – that I added the discipline of Daily Office Reading. And just as an aside, during that next football season – in the fall of 1993, and after much drama, with twists and turns of fate – the Noles squeaked by Nebraska to win that first national title. (In a game they were expected to win easily.)

In the 27-plus years that followed – 30-plus, if you go back to 1989 – FSU football won two more national titles. (For a more complete listing of such “wins,” see On my “mission from God,” and “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, including the image at left.) But there have been a number of heart-breaks as well, including losing the national-title game at the end of the 1996 season. (To our arch-rival Gators, no less.) And the past two seasons have been especially bad, with the Noles suffering back-to-back losing seasons.

On the other hand I’ve learned a lot of valuable spiritual lessons along the way. Then too, this spiritual exercise has given me great insight into how the original Children of Israel must have felt when they did all the right things – and yet ended up conquered and sent into exile. (The functional equivalent of having back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in a dog’s years, after establishing a 14-year college football dynasty?)

What brings all that to mind is the recent series of Daily Office Old Testament readings. Those recent Daily Office readings reminded me of all the twists and turns, the add-ons and “do not do” list of things that thwarted spiritual progress for Moses. And for his success on the field.

For Moses, his rules and regulations started with Leviticus 8:1-13,30-36, back on Sunday, May 10, and have been kind of jumping around ever since. (After starting at Chapter 8 – and after leaving Exodus 40, 18 to 38, on Saturday the 9th – they jumped from 16 to 19 to 23, and so on, “to this day.” Exodus 40, for example, goes into great detail on “Setting Up the Tabernacle.”)

In other words, I too have gleaned a list of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” over the course of the past 30-plus years. (Not unlike those of Moses, set out in Leviticus.) Rules like “Thou shalt not listen to Panzerlied* on your iPod Shuffle in the days leading up to a game.” Or “thou shalt listen to ‘We Are the Champions‘ whenever it comes up, on your Shuffle or the radio.” (Because it brings good karma.) Also, “Thou shalt have thy monthly church-tithe check in the office safe before a game starts at or near the first of the month.” And so on… Of course those rules haven’t guaranteed success, but neither did Moses’ rules and regulations, listed in Leviticus over the past weeks in the Daily Office.

So just like Moses – and especially like those who tried to follow his rules “to the letter” – for the past 31 years or so I’ve been “working with God,” trying to get Him to help my teams win. But again, it hasn’t always worked out. And so you could easily say there have been far more disappointments and heartbreaks. On the other hand, by combining my Ritual Sacrifice with Daily Bible reading, I’ve learned some valuable spiritual lessons.

For one thing – again – I’ve experienced how it must have have felt to those early Hebrews, who thought they’d done everything right. But then – for whatever inexplicable reason – they were disappointed if not shocked by how badly things can turn out. And feeling like saying to God, “You OWE me. I did everything You asked, and this is how you treat me?”

But along the way I’ve also learned that – based on my own experience anyway – there was and some kind of causality at work. That is, there was and is indeed some mysterious Force out there which responded to my prayers and sacrifice, ritual or otherwise. Though often not in the way I expected…

Another thing I’ve learned – over the past 31 years, and a host of both disappointments and triumphs. I’ve become convinced – by and through my day to day interactions with this “Force” – that the “factual accuracy” of the Bible is pretty much irrelevant to an advanced Christian faith. That is, to me, it doesn’t seem to matter if a so-called expert says he’s found the actual ark used by Noah somewhere in Turkey.

Or whether Jesus feeding the 5,000 is just a miracle, “taken only on faith,” or a parable whose lesson is that if we followed the example of Jesus, we could end world hunger “tomorrow.”

What matters is what you do with your faith and your life. What matters is how you follow the Bible and in doing so follow the example of Jesus. And for that matter His disciples, including Paul, that “Johnny come lately” who wrote like a lawyer, with so many lawyer-like convolutions.

In other words if you work with this kind of “canary in a coal mine” spiritual exercise you could end up with all the proof you need: That there is a God, who is willing to work with you, and a “happy ending…” All by and through the spiritual discipline of daily Bible reading, together with your own version of a “canary-slash-coal mine” way of keeping on the straight and narrow.

And incidentally (on that note), next Thursday, May 21, is Ascension Day. For more see 2014’s On Ascension Day and subsequent posts listed in the notes.

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The upper image is courtesy of Spiritual Exercise – Image Results. Also, the image to the right of the first full paragraph refers to the “Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola (Latin original: Exercitia spiritualia),” with the caption, “Exercitia spiritualia, 1548 First Edition by Antonio Bladio (Rome).”

A note on the post title. It’s similar in style to a Papal bull, that is, it’s “first few words of the text,” the incipit, i.e., “the first few Latin words from which the bull took its title for record keeping purposes, but which might not be directly indicative of the bull’s purpose.” See Wikipedia.

Re: Panzerlied. I first heard it in a 1965 film, see Battle of the Bulge (film) – Wikipedia. It’s a rousing song that goes well with road trips or picking up trash in a diesel-powered golf cart for the local branch of Keep America Beautiful. Unfortunately it has negative connotations having to do with the murder of “Jews, gypsies and fairies.” For more on the song see Wikipedia, or for a live version Panzerlied (Battle of the Bulge with english intro) – YouTube. For more on “Jews, gypsies and fairies,” see Slaughterhouse-Five Quotes | Shmoop: “The British had no way of knowing it, but the candles and the soap were made from the fat of rendered Jews and Gypsies and fairies and communists, and other enemies of the State. (5.14.4).”

See Thou Shalt Not – Image Results. And Thou Shalt Not (musical) – Wikipedia.

The causality image is courtesy of Causality – Image Results.

Re: Ascension Day. See also On Ascension Day 2015, Ascension Day and Pentecost – 2016, and Ascension Day 2017 – “Then He opened their minds.”

The lower image is courtesy of Canary Coal Mine – Image Results. This particular image accompanied an article, “I am the canary in the coal mine,” which explained the idiom, linked to coal mining:

The tradition at that time – to foretell the toxic environment down in the [coal] mine – was for the miners to take a canary down with them on their daily journey… The canary is very susceptible to the toxic gases that were common in the mines, and would die when the gases were at a toxic level – signaling to the miners that they had to immediately exit.

See also canary in a coal mine – Wiktionary, about a thing sensitive to adverse conditions, which “makes it a useful early indicator of such conditions; something which warns of the coming of greater danger or trouble by a deterioration in its health or welfare.”

In my case, if I was doing something wrong in my daily life, a loss by FSU or “another team of mine” would indicate the need to stop doing that! (Not unlike the old Henny Youngman joke, where a patient says, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” To which the doctor replies, “Then don’t do that!” See Henry Youngman Jokes – Henry Youngman One Liners Jokes.)

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mindas opposed to:


…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, [which] can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”    In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020

Saints Philip and James the Lesser – together in the “Basilica of the 12 Holy Apostles…*” 

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.)  The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did. (John 14:12.) The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45: “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind. For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

It’s Thursday, May 7, 2020, and we are now in the eighth full week of the COVID-19 pandemic. And since wisdom begins with the definition of terms – said Socrates, at right – I’ll clarify.

To me, the pandemic hit full swing – the “stuff really hit the fan” – back on Thursday, March 12. That’s when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, and March Madness and college baseball were called off. About that time too the NBA, NHL and and other major professional sport seasons all ended. (For what those college sports mean to me, see June 2018’s “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, and February 2019’s On my “mission from God.”)

So my definition of the “First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic” has it starting on Sunday, March 15 and ending on Saturday the 21st. And the pandemic shows no signs of abating, which means we’ll get used to a “new normal.” (With social distancing, extreme caution and shortages of all kinds.) So what did people do in the Olden Days when disasters struck?

One answer comes from the 1759 novel Candide, by Voltaire. It opens with the hero – Candide – “living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise.” But from there things go downhill:

The work describes … Candide’s slow and painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes Candide [by] advocating a deeply practical precept, “we must cultivate our garden,” in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, “all is for the best” in the “best of all possible worlds.”

Or as Voltaire put it in another setting, “Life is bristling with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to cultivate one’s [own] garden.” (Voltaire’s Solution to a Life Full of Thorns.) And speaking of Eden – as in “a place or state of great happiness [or] an unspoiled paradise” – that seems to be what we used to have, before Covid-19. Or at least it seems so in hindsight…

Then there’s what historian Kenneth Clark said in his 1969 book Civilisation, about what some people did during a time of great upheaval. (Like today’s.) Writing about the violence brought on Europe by the Protestant Reformation, he said that whatever the long-term effects,

…the immediate results were very bad; not only for art, but bad for life. The North [of Europe] was full of bully boys who rampaged around the country and took any excuse to beat people up… All the elements of destruction were let loose.

So a great upheaval – with elements of panic and destruction “let loose” – can come from either other people (“bully boys”) or from nature itself. So what do we do, in the process of riding out this storm? Or as Clark put it, “What could an intelligent, open-minded man do in mid-sixteenth-century Europe?” Or for that matter, here in America this 2,020th “year of our Lord?”

His short-and-sweet answer, “Keep quiet, work in solitude, outwardly conform, inwardly remain free.” Which as a result of the European wars of religion created a figure new to Europe but “familiar in the great ages of China: the intellectual recluse.” (Which at this point evokes – to the writer anyway – the old Maynard G. Krebs repeated line, “You rang?“)

Yet another answer is to “Keep on keeping on.” As in, “to persevere,” which means to persist or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement. Which brings us to the discipline of continuing our Daily Bible Reading. And that includes but is not limited to tracking liturgical feast days. In turn, the last major Feast Day was Friday, May 1. That was the feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles(That link goes to the day’s Bible readings.)

I covered the day in Philip and James – Saints and Apostles (2016), and Saint Philip, Saint James, and “privy members,” from 2017. But for starters, the article Saints Philip and James the Lesser – New Daily Compass explains one reason why the two saints are remembered together:

The two apostles Philip and James the Lesser are remembered with a single liturgical feast because their relics, transferred respectively from Hierapolis and Jerusalem, were placed together in the Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles [“Santi Apostoli“] in Rome.

The 2016 Philip and James noted great confusion about this James (“the Lesser”) in part because of the number of Jameses in the New Testament. (It also explains the reference to “privy members.”) Fortunately we know a lot more about Philip, and especially that he serves as a lesson that God’s love is universal. As shown in the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.

The post starting by noting that as a eunuch the Ethiopian was beyond the pale – if not untouchable – from a “legal” standpoint. See Deuteronomy 23:1, which in the King James Bible – the one God uses – puts the matter rather delicately: “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.“

Yet Philip, guided by God’s Spirit, does not hesitate to share the good news of God’s love and salvation with this less than whole Ethiopian and to baptize him into the faith, to welcome him into the life of the Christian church. This new faith is for all, God’s love is for every human being no matter what disability or disease or affliction has come our way.

(See “Wesley Uniting Church.”)  In other words, the point of Acts 8:26-40 – Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch – is that God’s Love is Universal.  (See also Jonah and the bra-burners.*) So here’s to “Philip and James – Saints and Apostles,” and their Feast Day. And furthermore, here’s to a God whose love is so universal that He’s willing to accept anyone. (Who turns to Him. See John 6:37.) 

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The Baptism of the Eunuch … by Rembrandt van Rijn,

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The upper image is courtesy of Saints Philip and James – Franciscan Media. Caption: “Image: Detail of reredos | Polytych by Maestà | Wikimedia.”

Re: The ending of Candide. Wikipedia had the ending – “we must cultivate our garden” – translated into French, il faut cultiver notre jardin.” But see also Candide Conclusion Summary & Analysis from LitCharts, which worded the ending as “All that is very well … but let us cultivate our garden.”

Re: Kenneth Clark. The quotation from Clark is from the hardcover book version of his Civilisation (TV series), at page 161. For an interesting sidelight on “Sir” Clark, see A new book reveals Kenneth Clark was also a bed-hopping, wife-stealing rogue

Though ostensibly a happily married man with a dutiful and caring wife … he couldn’t keep his manicured hands or his swooning heart away from other women. He was a serial adulterer, a constant seeker of affairs, even [the] wives of his close friends. This upright pillar of the Establishment was … as one of his detractors put it most succinctly, ‘a frightful s**t’.

Re: “Santi Apostoli, Rome.” See Wikipedia, which noted this “6th-century Roman Catholic parish and titular church and minor basilica in RomeItaly, dedicated originally to St. James and St. Philip whose remains are kept here, and later to all Apostles

Re: “Jonah and the bra-burners.” See the January 2015 post:

Clearly, the Book of Jonah … is the product of that school of Jewish thought which was universalist and which opposed the nationalist view…  It is the universality of God and the attribute of divine mercy that are the lessons of Jonah.  Those who think of the book as nothing more than the story of a man and a whale miss the whole point.

And finally, a side-note. On this May 7th I was listening to a “Great Courses Plus” course on the Old Testament. This lecture included the story of Adam and Eve, and what caught my eye was the inclusion of the term “who was with her” to Genesis 3:6. A similar conclusion – to the lecturer’s – was reached in PerryDox – BeJustAChristian » Genesis 3:6:

I have concluded this is an adverbial phrase which has great meaning. It helps the reader understand what really happened. Sadly, that means Adam could have stopped Eve since he “with her” and not deceived. Instead, he abdicated his leadership … and allowed her to usurp his authority… Adam was “with her” the entire time physically; but when Eve needed him, he was absent spiritually.

I will explore this topic further in a future post.

The lower image is courtesy of The Baptism of the Eunuch – Wikipedia.

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mindas opposed to:


…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, [which] can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”    In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

On St. Mark, 2020 – and today’s “plague…”

“The Four Evangelists,” by Rubens. St. Mark is third from the left, symbolized by the lion…

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.)  The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did. (John 14:12.) The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45: “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind. For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

The next upcoming Feast Day is April 25, the Feast Day for Saint Mark.  He actually wrote the first Gospel – chronologically speaking – and also the shortest of the Four Gospels.

On the other hand, for the longest time this short-version was the most “dissed” of the Four Gospels. But then the Gospel of Mark went on to become a kind of Cinderella story

Garry Wills wrote What the Gospels Meant. It said that for many years the Early Church Fathers pretty much neglected Mark’s Gospel. I.e., Mark was the “least cited Gospel in the early Christian period.” But this Cinderella “got her glass slipper,” beginning in the 19th century.

That’s when Bible scholars finally noticed the other three Gospels all cited material from Mark, but “he does not do the same for them.” The conclusion? Mark started the process and set the pattern of and for the other three Gospels. And as a result of that, since the 19th century Marks’ “has become the most studied and influential Gospel.”

See 2015’s On St. Mark’s “Cinderella story.” (Which added that among other problems, Mark’s written Greek was clumsier and more awkward than the more-polished Greek of Matthew, Luke and John.) But while Mark has long been viewed as the “author of the second gospel,” that doesn’t mean Matthew was written first. As Isaac Asimov noted:

Matthew is [listed] first of the gospels in the New Testament because, according to early tradition, it was the first to be written. This, however, is now doubted by nearly everyone. The honor of primacy is generally granted to Mark … the second gospel in the Bible as it stands.

(Asimov, 770) Then there’s the matter of the symbolism of the Four Evangelists. (“Traditionally, the four Gospel writers have been represented by the following symbols.”) Matthew, author of the ostensible first gospel, is symbolized by a “winged man, or angel.” Luke, who wrote the third gospel, and the Acts of the Apostles, is symbolized by a winged ox or bull: “a figure of sacrifice, service and strength.” John, author of the fourth gospel, is symbolized by an eagle

Then there’s Mark. “In Christian tradition, Mark the Evangelist, the author of the second gospel is symbolized by a lion – a figure of courage and monarchy.” (See Wikipedia, which added that the “lion also represents Jesus’ resurrection.” That’s because “lions were believed to sleep with open eyes, a comparison with Christ in the tomb.)

There’s also the matter whether Mark’s Gospel – as we know it – really contained the ending as it now reads in most Bibles.. That is, the Great Commission, found in  found in Mark 16:14–18. Thus the question:  Did Mark really write that ending?

According to some critics … Jesus never speaks with his disciples after his resurrection. They argue that the original Gospel of Mark ends at [Mark 16:8] with the women leaving the tomb (see Mark 16).

Mark 16:8, 4th C.

Note that Mark 16:8 says, “they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Which would of course be a bad place to end a Gospel of hope.*

Or see Mark 16 – Wikipedia, “Modern versions … generally include the Longer Ending, but place it in brackets or otherwise format it to show that it is not considered part of the original text.”

In plain words, it seems that Mark originally wrote his Gospel at a time of great suffering in the early church. And that later redacters felt that original was too bleak; it didn’t offer enough hope. Be that as it may – and as Asimov noted (902) – Mark’s Gospel was designed “to circulate among Christians the story of the sufferings of Jesus and his steadfastness under affliction. Perhaps this was in order to encourage Christians at a time when they, generally, were undergoing persecution.”

And that earthly suffering – that “persecution” – may well be mirrored in the unforeseen and largely inexplicable “end times” that we seem to be suffering through today. (“Who could foresee the coming of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic?”) So what could be the point of that shorter ending? One thing the Mark 16 – Wikipedia article noted:

Mark’s narrative as we have it now [ending at Mark 16:8] ends as abruptly as it began. There was no introduction or background to Jesus’ arrival, and none for his departure. No one knew where he came from; no one knows where he has gone; and not many understood him when he was here.

It went on to say that Mark’s Gospel “becomes the story of his followers, and their story becomes the story of the readers. Whether they will follow or desert, believe or misunderstand, see him in Galilee or remain staring blindly into an empty tomb, depends on us.”

And so it might be today. Maybe the point is that both today’s Covid-19 “persecution” and Jesus’ seemingly unexplained death – with “Mark” ending at Mark 16:8 – have the capacity to be mysteries. “Mysteries” that are a part of life, or the challenges by which we can learn, develop and grow stronger, spiritually and otherwise.

And so both the solution to Mark’s mysterious “shorter ending” and the outcome of today’s Covid-19 affliction may largely “depend on us.” What will we do with this unexpected calamity? Will we go forward and grow stronger, or turn back the clock and start turning on each other?

As variously defined, a mystery can be “something secret or unexplainable;” or something of a puzzling nature; or a secret or mystical meaning; or finally, a “religious truth not understandable by the application of human reason alone (without divine aid).” 

In other words, the terribly anguished – and arguably original – ending of Mark‘s Gospel at 16:8 is (according to Pagels), “nevertheless not the ending… [T]here’s a mystery in it, a divine mystery of God’s revelation that will happen yet. And I think it’s that sense of hope that is deeply appealing.” Which sounds a bit convoluted and not very helpful.

But one answer may come in 2016’s On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts. That post talked about pilgrimages in general – and society’s rituals – and what we can learn from them. For one thing, it noted the book Passages of the Soul: Ritual Today, by James Roose-Evans.  

That book said that a healthy sense of ritual “should pervade a healthy society,” and that a big problem now is that “we’ve abandoned many rituals that used to help us deal with big change and major trauma.” And you could easily call our present Covid-19 pandemic both a “big change and [a] major trauma.” The book added that all true ritual “calls for discipline, patience, perseverance, leading to the discovery of the self within.”

In other words, through discipline, patience and perseverance we can discover things within ourselves – from this latest pandemic – that we would never have known otherwise. As for a “pilgrimage,” it can may be described “as a ritual on the move.”

The key point there is that – in any pilgrimage, like the one we’re going through with today’s “plague” – we can “quite often find a sense of our fragility as mere human beings.” And if nothing else, Covid-19 reminds us of our “fragility as human beings.” Which brings us to The Plague by Camus, and a quote from Part 1, early in the book:

Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.

Which certainly seems true of this latest pestilence. It certainly came as a surprise. Then too there’s this recent Salt Lake Tribune review of “The Plague,” with this relevant point:

Being alive always was and will always remain an emergency; it is truly an inescapable “underlying condition…” This is what Camus meant when he talked about the “absurdity” of life. Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.

One possible lesson? The current pestilence might lead to a massive change in our present national life, and especially our national political life. The present Coronavirus might lead to a general and sweeping American “softening of the heart.”

Along with “a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.” Or even a realization that there “are more things to admire in [all] people than to despise…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Peter Paul Rubens: The Four Evangelists, which noted:  “Rubens portrayed the four evangelists while working together on their texts.  An angel helps them…   Each gospel author can be identified by an attribute.  The attributes were derived from the opening verses of the gospels.  From left to right: Luke (bull), Matthew (man [angel]), Mark (lion), and John (eagle).” See also Four Evangelists – Wikipedia – included as a link in the top image – and/or Harry Truman and the next election.

I borrowed some text and images from 2015’s On St. Mark’s “Cinderella story,” 2016’s More on “arguing with God” – and St. Mark as Cinderella.

The Cinderella image is courtesy of Cinderella – Image Results. Also, for more “theology,” see The Theology of Mark’s Gospel | Preaching Source.

Re: “Asimov, 770,” etc. Referring to Asimov’s “Guide to the Bible: Two Volumes in One.” (Avenel Books, 1981.) 

Re: “Bad place to end this Gospel of hope.” For an extended and learned analysis, see Did Mark Write Mark 16:9-20? A Textual Criticism Case Study. Or Google “mark 16:9-20 controversy.”

Re:Mark 16:8, 4th C.From Mark 16 – Wikipedia, full caption: “Mark ends at 16:8 in the 4th-century Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209.”

The lower image is courtesy of The Plague – Wikipedia

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind, as opposed to:


…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, [which] can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”    In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

Happy Easter – April 2020!

Jesus – “kicking down the gates of hell” – with Satan (at bottom) “bound and chained…”

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.)  The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did. (John 14:12.) The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45: “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind. For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Today – April 12, 2020 – is Easter Sunday. That is, the …

… festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary [circa] 30 AD.  It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent (or Great Lent), a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

And incidentally, the painting (icon) at the top of the page shows Jesus as “having kicked down the gates of Hades.”  It also shows “Satan, depicted as an old man … bound and chained.” See On Easter Season – AND BEYOND, and Frohliche Ostern – “Happy Easter!”

Which could lead to one of this morning’s Daily Office Readings, Exodus 12:1-14. Specifically, Exodus 12:13, “I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you.” Which could be a reassuring Easter promise, in this time of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.

For more on more traditional views of Easter, check the two post-links cited above. But clearly this Easter is different, mostly because of the current coronavirus pandemic.

Which leads to this: Back on March 12 – what seems so long ago, and in light of the pandemic just then making headlines – I checked out two books from the local library. (Not realizing the libraries around here and the country would be closed, “for the duration.” And that I wouldn’t be able to return them for that “duration.”) One book was The Plague, by  by Albert Camus.

The other book was What Jesus Meant, by Garry Wills. I figured it might cheer me up. And it did, but initially I was most struck by this passage:

Christian leaders have often rebuked the rebelliousness of young people by offering them a pastel picture of the young Jesus as a model of compliance and good behavior. They make this mystifying child an examplar of “family values” in the most restrictive and conformist sense. But there are many indications that Jesus was more like those restive and resisting children who have all the idealism and absolutism of youth – young people who chafe against the boundaries of the past and who are panting to explore new horizons

Which is pretty much one main theme of this blog. That the Bible was not meant to stuff you into some cubby hole, or make you just another a “carbon-copy Christian.”

Instead the Bible – and especially the message of Jesus (see John 14:12 and Luke 24:45, above)  – was meant to help people break through the boundaries of the past and “explore new horizons.” Unfortunately – and as Garry Wills noted near the end of his book – many who “call on His name return often to the forms of religion He renounced.” Which brings up an opposing view to his, What Garry Wills Thinks Jesus Meant | Bible Thumping, which said this:

[A]ccording to Wills’ social justice Jesus, if we don’t love everyone, help the poor, and affirm homosexuals, then we will not be saved. But it gets worse… Matthew 25:35-40 does not command Christians to help the poor; it commands Christians to help other Christians – brothers – when they are in need, especially during persecution.”

Which I assume means that in the current coronavirus pandemic, the writer would help only “other Christians,” but not all Christians. Only those who agree with his Wingnut version of Christianity. (And incidentally, a “wingnut” is a person with “extreme, and often irrational, political views, primarily those considered to be right wing.” Which sounds about right.)

At the very least, Wingnut interprets the Bible in a “most restrictive and conformist sense.” 

And that sounds a bit like one headline I read this morning, Trump Reportedly Weighed Letting COVID-19 ‘Wash Over’ U.S. Note the difference – and maybe the similarities – in “wash over” and “pass over.” And how in this case, the latter would be preferable to the former. As in, “Would you rather the Coronavirus ‘wash over’ America, killing millions in the process, or have this latest plague pass over our house and not strike us down. (Or compare this “wash over America” idea with the Conservative Christian health-care plan, which seems to be, “Let ’em die!”)

And by the way, it’s not helping the poor or “affirming homosexuals” that saves you. It’s believing in and following Romans 10:9, “If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved.” See Do this – “and you WILL be saved!” (Dumbass…)

But seriously, the “wingnut” view is a cross all us real Christians have to bear. And the only thing we can do – to try and “fight the good fight” – is not to refer to such wingnuts as “dumbasses,” tempting as that may be. Instead it’s getting out the real Christianity, the one that follows the Great Commission of Jesus, to wit: Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” (See also 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think… God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.”)

Or as I’ve said before, “If Jesus was a conservative” – like Wingnut – “how come we’re not all Jewish?” (See “For many are called, but few are chosen.”) But we’re digressing here…

The Good News is that it is Easter, which means we celebrate Jesus – the Risen Messiah – rising from the grave “in a blaze of glory[,] holding the white banner of victory over death.” (Which is – after all – “what Easter Sunday is really all about.” Not Easter bunnies or Easter eggs…)

Which means in part that – as applied to even this latest and most devastating “plague-slash-pestilence” – it can be said, “This Too Shall Pass.” Which among other things means some day – maybe some day soon – we won’t have go around wearing those dorky-looking masks…

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Which would you prefer: Let the Plague “wash over you,” or be “passed over?”

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The upper image is courtesy of Easter – Wikipedia. The full caption:  “Icon of the Resurrection, with Christ having kicked down the gates of Hades and pulling Adam and Eve out of the tombs. Christ is flanked by saints, and Satan, depicted as an old man, is bound and chained.” Used here, an icon is “a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, in the cultures of the Eastern Orthodox ChurchOriental Orthodoxy, the Roman Catholic, and certain Eastern Catholic churches. They are not simply artworks but ‘an icon is a sacred image used in religious devotion.'”

Other Daily Office readings for this Easter: “AM Psalm148, 149, 150; PM Psalm 113114, or118[,] Exod. 12:1-14 [AM]; Isa. 51:9-11[PM]; ; John 1:1-18 [AM]; Luke 24:13-35 [PM], orJohn 20:19-23 [PM].”

Re: The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic. See the specific Wikipedia article, and Coronavirus – Wikipedia: “The name ‘coronavirus’ is derived from Latin corona, meaning ‘crown’ or ‘wreath,’ itself a borrowing from Greek [for garland or wreath]. The name refers to the characteristic appearance of virions (the infective form of the virus) by electron microscopy, which have a fringe of large, bulbous surface projections creating an image reminiscent of a crown or of a solar corona.”

Re: “What Jesus Meant.” The “Christian leaders rebuked young people quote is from the 2006 Viking-Penguin hardback edition, at pages 7-8. The “near the end of the book” quotes are at pages 137-142. Also, Wills’ original had “his,” referring to Jesus, in the lower case. I capitalized “His name” and “He renounced.” (In an abundance of caution.) On another note, Wills commented – on page 20 – on the accusation that Jesus was “a drunkard and a glutton,” at Luke 7:34. Wills wrote, “For Jesus to be called a drunkard and a glutton was not a light criticism.” In fact, such was a serious violation of Levitical law. See Deuteronomy 21:18-21:

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him,  his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you.

Re: “This Too Shall Pass.” See e.g., Is the Phrase, “This Too Shall Pass” in the Bible? The answer? Apparently not, or at least not directly. The link-article noted, “In Deuteronomy 28, the phrase, ‘It shall come to pass’ is repeated twice.” I.e., in Deuteronomy 28:1 and Deuteronomy 28:15. The article noted a number of other passages with similar thoughts.

The lower image is courtesy of Plague Doctors Beaked Mask – Image Results. For more on the “beaked mask” get-up, see the notes to On Moses, Illeism – and “10 Plagues.”

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:


…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”    In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

On Moses, Illeism – and “10 Plagues…”

As Jesus said in Matthew 10:34, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Or a rod…)

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.)  The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did. (John 14:12.) The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45: “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind. For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

A week or so ago – Thursday, March 27, just after Coronavirus 2020hit the fan” – the Daily Office Old Testament readings switched from the end of Genesis to the start of Exodus. Specifically, with Exodus 1:6-22. The following day, March 28, Moses “introduced himself.”

Exodus. 2:1-22 began with how Moses’ parents met: A man “from the house of Levi” married a Levite woman. (About the time the “new” Pharaoh in power commanded that all male Hebrew newborns be thrown into the Nile, because the Hebrews – now slaves – had grown so numerous…)

That child was named Moses. He was named “Moses” by Pharaoh’s daughter (who became his “stepmother”). Because “she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’” And that child went on to write Exodus – his own story – and the other first five books of the Bible, the Torah.

One strange note: Moses wrote about himself in the third person. (As in Moses writing of himself, “Moses doesn’t like that.”) For more background on the subject, see On Moses and “illeism,” from May 2014. In turn, illeism is “the act of referring to oneself in the third person instead of first person.” Further, “Illeism is sometimes used in literature as a stylistic device.”

Interestingly, Wikipedia lists a number of “Notable Illeists,” including Jesus Christ, “found referring to Himself as ‘Jesus’ (as well as the ‘Son of Man’), as in John 17:1-3.” But Moses didn’t make that list, despite the fact he is one of the earliest writers in history to use the device.

(Which he may well have borrowed from God, as noted in “the burning bush.” See GOD THE ILLEIST: THIRD-PERSON SELF-REFERENCES AND TRINITARIAN HINTS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.)

Since those late-March readings, Moses has gone on – in the Daily Office – to discover his true identity. (In part because he killed an Egyptian overseer abusing a Hebrew slave.) He also went into hiding as a fleeing felon; talked directly with God through the “Burning Bush;” and returned to Egypt to get Pharoah to “Let my people go.” But Pharaoh wouldn’t listen…

Which brings up the 10 Plagues of Egypt. (Like the Fifth Plague, at left.) They were inflicted on the Egyptians later in Exodus, by the agency of God. (And Moses.) The question is: How might they relate to us today? One example that Camus wrote, “last century:”

Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.*

Which seems true of this year’s Covid-19 “pestilence.” It certainly came as a surprise. But is there a connection between this plague and a message God might be trying to send us?

Which could bring up what Jesus said in Matthew 10:34. In the GWT, “Don’t think that I came to bring peace to earth. I didn’t come to bring peace but conflict.” Or as generally translated (like in the KJV, the one God uses), “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Which are strange words to come from Jesus, but for some clarification we can look to Matthew 10:34 – Commentary & Meaning:

By the “sword” may be meant the Gospel, which is the means of dividing and separating the people of Christ from the men of the world, and … as also of divisions, discords, and persecutions arising from it… [N]ot that it was the intention and design of Christ … to foment and encourage such things; but this, through the malice and wickedness of men, was eventually the effect and consequence of his coming.

Which to me could mean that – lately, especially in America, “Light of the World” – God saw way too many “divisions, discords and persecutions.” But now for the most part we’re seeing a new meme. Rather than all the “us against them” or “the opposition is ruining America,” it goes like this: We’re All in This Together: Facing the Coronavirus Crisis. (One example.*)

Which – most people would say – is a pretty refreshing change of tune. (I.e., a change in people’s attitudes, “usually from bad to good, or from rude to pleasant.”)

For one thing, it is true that “pestilences have a way of recurring in the world.” But the “truths of the Gospel will remain uncorrupted forever.” And that brings up one final note: Holy Week 2020 starts this Sunday, April 5. And that “Holy” week’s upcoming lessons will feature some of Jesus’ “most important teachings on love and unity.” (Which is about dang time…) 

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The upper image is courtesy of Plague Doctors Beaked Mask – Image Results. Caption: “Circa 1656, A plague doctor in protective clothing. The beak[ed] mask held spices thought to purify air, the wand was used to avoid touching patients. Original Artwork: Engraving by Paul Furst … Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images).” See also Why plague doctors wore those strange beaked masks:

In 17th-century Europe, the physicians who tended to plague victims wore a costume that has since taken on sinister overtones: they covered themselves head to toe and wore a mask with a long bird-like beak. The reason behind the beaked plague masks was a misconception about the very nature of the dangerous disease… [The outfit] included a coat covered in scented wax, breeches connected to boots, a tucked-in shirt, and a hat and gloves made of goat leather. Plague doctors also carried a rod that allowed them to poke (or fend off) victims… (Emphasis added, to relate to the caption at the top of the page.)

Their headgear was particularly unusual: Plague doctors wore spectacles … and a mask with a nose “half a foot long, shaped like a beak, filled with perfume with only two holes, one on each side near the nostrils, but that can suffice to breathe and carry along with the air one breathes the impression of the [herbs] enclosed further along in the beak…” [The] iconic and ominous look, as depicted in this 1656 engraving of a Roman doctor, is recognizable to this day.

Re: “God the Illeist.” The article provided examples: “Exodus 33:19 has Yahweh promise Moses, ‘I will proclaim the name of Yahweh before you…’ In 2 Sam 7:11, Yahweh assures David that ‘Yahweh will make you a house.’ Hosea 1:7 has Yahweh comforting the prophet that ‘I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by Yahweh their God.’”

Re: “10 Plagues [of Egypt].” Wikipedia noted the “traditional number of ten plagues is not actually mentioned in Exodus, and other sources differ; Psalms 78 and 105 seem to list only seven or eight plagues and order them differently. It appears that originally there were only seven (which included the tenth), to which were added the third, sixth, and ninth, bringing the count to ten.”

The “pestilence” quote is from Albert Camus1947 novel, The Plague. It’s from Part 1, Vintage International paperback edition, 1991, originally published 1947, at pages 36-37. See also “Pestilence, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

The “Fifth Plague” image is courtesy of Plagues of Egypt – Wikipedia. Caption: “The Fifth Plague: Pestilence of livestock, by Gustave Doré.” See also Exodus 9:1-7.

Re: “We’re all in this together.” See also The funniest coronavirus memes to get you through, Ashley Tisdale’s “We’re All In This Together” Quarantine Dance, and – from New Zealand, Coronavirus: We’re all in this together. And we can only succeed together.

Re: “Truths of the Gospel will remain uncorrupted forever.” See 5 New Testament Promises for the Church Today, Tomorrow, and Forever.

Re: “Change of tune.” An added definition: to “change one’s attitude, opinion … or stance on something, typically in a way that is more positive or agreeable.”

Lower image courtesy of Holy Week 2020 – Image Results. For some words of explanation, see Holy Week 2020 | Day Finders noting the week honors “precious moments of Jesus’ last days on Earth:”

With Palm Sunday, it tells us about Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. The days of Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday makes us remember the events of fig tree cursing and the temple cleansing. The days of Holy Wednesday and Maundy Thursday commemorate Jesus prediction about his betrayal and death, and also reflect some of His most important teachings on love and unity. The days of Good Friday and Black Saturday mourn the Passion, Crucifixion, and Passing of Jesus. The last day, called the Easter Sunday, shares with us the joy of Jesus Resurrection from the dead.

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:


…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”    In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

Do this – “and you WILL be saved!”

Empty shelves in Melbourne Australia. Do they symbolize the emptiness in people’s lives today?

*   *   *   *

Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.)  The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did. (John 14:12.) The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45: “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind. For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

This year’s Season of Lent continues. (See Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent.) But the 2020 version of this “solemn religious observance” is made even more solemn by the recent Coronavirus pandemic.

On that note – and if you want to open a “whole new can of worms” – try Googling the phrase, “No atheists in foxholes.” Some say that familiar aphorism is an attack on atheism, while others say it’s really an attack on Christianity. But it’s pointless here to argue which version is true. (See Titus 3:9, “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies … because these are unprofitable and useless.”)

The real point is that – especially in times of crisis like the one we’re in now – most people are way more likely to look for some source of spiritual comfort.

Which should come from the Bible, but for many people that Bible is way too long and way too complicated. Which raises the question: How can you best explain the Bible in the simplest possible terms? You know, in the kind of short-and-sweet sound bite that most people expect these days? (Since so many of them “have the attention span of a gerbil.”)

For me the best possible Bible sound bite – the best short summary of the message of the whole Bible – is Romans 10:9, “If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved.” (In the Good News Translation, fittingly enough.) 

Of course John 3:16 is a nice sentiment too, but it’s a general statement “for the whole world.” To me, Romans 10:9 best sums up the entire message of the Bible. It’s more personal, and offers the kind of personal guarantee that many people are looking for in this time of crisis.

“Jesus feeding the 5,000…”

Which – in a way – brings up the DOR Gospel reading for March 19, Mark 6:30-46. It tells of Jesus feeding the multitude (or “the 5,000”). I covered that reading in two posts, Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000, and Then Jesus “opened their minds.”

The problem is, that “other view” threatens the faith of some people. But it also supports the theory that we can solve any problem, ourselves, using the lessons of the Bible.

In Jesus “opened their minds,” I summarized the difference between the traditional (narrow-minded?) interpretation of this parable, and one that’s more in line with reason and experience.* I.e., in the narrow “traditional” interpretation, Jesus performed a fairly-routine magic trick. (A “pure miracle, plain and simple.”) The miracle can’t be explained rationally and was never meant to be understood rationally.

But since Jesus was and is the Son of God, what’s the big deal?

Poof, He made some extra food appear. But isn’t that the least you could expect from a close blood-relative of the Force that Created the Universe? On the other hand there  is a non-traditional view, and that non-traditional view forces people to “expand their minds.” But it can also make some people very nervous, and even threaten their faith.

It’s based on the idea that many people in Jesus’ time never left home without taking a spare loaf of bread – or some other foodstuff – stashed in the folds of their robes. Under that theory, Jesus started off with a lesson in faith, and/or a lesson in sharing. In turn that example got a lot of other normally-greedy people to act on that faith, and share what they had. 

Which led to this ending in the post:

Suppose the lesson Jesus intended to teach us was that – by His example – He got a bunch of normally-greedy people to share what they had. That by His example, Jesus got those normally-greedy people to share so much of their own stuff that no one – in the crowd of “5,000 plus” – went hungry. And more than that, there was even a surplus. The question is:

Which would be the greater miracle?

(If that’s too subtle: The Son of God making some extra food appear, or – by His example – getting a lot of greedy people like us to share so much that no one in those “5,000-plus*” went hungry?)

*   *   *   *

So what’s that got to do with the present Coronavirus crisis? Just this, that we can solve this problem by pulling together, and by avoiding the temptation to be greedy and selfish. (In other words, by following the “non-traditional” example of Jesus in Mark 6:30-46.)

More to the point, by realizing that all life is just a gift we should cherish and enjoy, while we can. (See 1st Corinthians 4:7, “What is so special about you? What do you have that you were not given? And if it was given to you, how can you brag?”) And that the better way to live is to do what Jesus did, to love and care for all people in all conditions, “even to the point of death.”

Or as one writer said recently:

Being alive always was and will always remain an emergency; it is truly an inescapable “underlying condition…” This is what Camus meant when he talked about the “absurdity” of life. Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.

That’s from a review of Albert Camus’ “The Plague.” Written in 1947, The Plague tells the story of a “plague sweeping the French Algerian city of Oran.” The novel poses a number of questions about “the nature of destiny and the human condition.” The book’s characters, “from doctors to vacationers to fugitives,” all show the effects of a plague on a community.

One lesson? If we as a nation believe in and act on Romans 10:9, we “will be saved.” And in what could be an even greater miracle – greater even than the Son of God making some extra food appear? – it might even lead to a massive change in our present national life.

That is, the present “Coronavirusmight lead to a general and sweeping American “softening of the heart.” Along with “a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.” Or even a realization that there “are more things to admire in [all] people than to despise…”

And wouldn’t that qualify as an “even greater miracle than Jesus did?” (John 14:12.) 

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic – Wikipedia. The full caption: “Supermarket shelves that stock dry pasta varieties are almost empty due to panic-buying as the result of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. This was taken at a Woolworths supermarket in Melbourne, Australia.” The article further noted: “The outbreak was first identified in WuhanChina in December 2019, and was recognized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020. As of 21 March, more than 275,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in over 185 countries and territories, resulting in more than 11,300 deaths and 90,000 recoveries.”

Re: Atheists in foxholes. For other views, see Atheists in Foxholes, in Cockpits, and on Ships, or We Should Stop Saying There Are No Atheists In Foxholes.

Romans 10:9. Note that Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is one of the first books of the New Testament, generally said to have been written somewhere between 55 and 58 A.D. (“C.E.” to the politically correct.) As to which NT book was first: I Googled “what was the first book of the new testament to be written,” and got a variety of answers. Some authorities say Galatians and the Letter of James came before Romans, while some say the Gospel of Matthew was the first written, in 35 A.D. Which would be two years after the presumptive year of Jesus’ crucifixion. Isaac Asimov – in his Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: Two Volumes in One – indicated that Romans was most likely written in 58. As for James, Asimov wrote of the letter possibly being written any time between 48 and 90 A.D. (See pages 1159-60.) He agreed that Galatians was “possibly the earliest of all the books of the New Testament to achieve written form. (1116.) As for Matthew and Mark, he suggests the former was written around 70 A.D., preceded by the latter – Mark – by some four years or so. (771,903)

Re: The Gospel reading for March 19. The other readings were “AM Psalm [83]or 42, 43; PM Psalm 85, 86,” Genesis. 46:1-7,28-34; and 1 Corinthians. 9:1-15. March 19 was also the Feast Day for St. Joseph, with the following readings, “AM: Psalm 132Isaiah 63:7-16Matthew 1:18-25[,] PM: Psalm 342 Chronicles 6:12-17Ephesians 3:14-21.”

Re: “Reason and experience.” See Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Wikipedia, about the “methodology for theological reflection that is credited to John Wesley… This method based its teaching on four sources as the basis of theological and doctrinal development. These four sources are scripturetradition, reason, and Christian experience.”

Re: “5,000-plus.” See Mark 6:44. In one translation, “The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.” In another, “A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed.See also Matthew 14:21, “The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.”

Re: “As one writer said recently.” The full citation is Alain de Botton: In ‘The Plague,’ Camus reminds us that suffering is random.

The “feeding” image is courtesy of Feeding the multitude – Wikipedia The caption: “Jesus feeding a crowd with 5 loaves of bread and two fish,” by Bernardo Strozzi, circa 1615.

The lower image is courtesy of The Plague – Wikipedia. The full caption is from a quote in the book: “Dr Rieux resolved to compile this chronicle.”

*   *   *   *

As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:


…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”    In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

On Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent – 2020

The Fight Between Carnival and Lent – (a metaphor of sorts by Pieter Bruegel the Elder)

*   *   *   *

Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most often overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

The next Feast Day – after St Matthias, Apostle, on Monday, February 24* – is Ash Wednesday, February 26. There’s more on Ash Wednesday further below, but first a note on different types of Christian.

One key difference is “Literal” versus “Spiritual” Christians. A Literal Christian tends to read and study the Bible only in a strict, literal or “Fundamentalist” way. A Spiritual Christian – on the other hand – tries to read the Bible in both a literal and a spiritual way.

Such a Spiritual Christian can go back and forth, often reading the Bible in a way that helps him open up new spiritual horizons. In doing so he tries to follow the path Jesus set out in Luke 24:45: “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” But as a matter of course he comes back – from time to time – to “the Literal way.” He does that when necessary to stay grounded in the basics, the fundamentals of Bible study.

In other words. he gets the best of both worlds.

In further words, he keeps in mind what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:6. In the Contemporary English Version, Paul said that Jesus “makes us worthy to be the servants of his new agreement that comes from the Holy Spirit and not from a written Law. After all, the [letter of the] Law brings death, but the Spirit brings life.” Then there’s John 4:24, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” And also John 6:63, “The Spirit alone gives eternal life… And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

*   *   *   *

Now, back to the topic of Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent:

According to the canonical gospels of MatthewMark and LukeJesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan.  Lent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter.

See Wikipedia, and also On Ash Wednesday and Lent. In turn, the Ash Wednesday – Lent post explained a bit about the “Fight Between Carnival and Lent,” as shown in the top painting. The point is, Ash Wednesday is always preceded by Fat Tuesday. And as an aside, the French term for Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras, and that’s now a generic term for “Let’s Party!!” 

As Wikipedia said, “Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery, etc.” But that debauchery is always – in the church calendar – followed by Lent. Lent in turn is a season devoted to “prayerpenancerepentance of sins, almsgivingatonement and self-denial.

And as noted, those “40 days of Lent” are supposed to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent “wandering in the wilderness.” In turn, that act by Jesus – “wandering in the Wilderness” – mirrored the 40 years that the Hebrews – led by Moses – also spent “wandering around.”

But before those days of Lenten “wandering in the wilderness,” there’s one last celebration, one last “blowout.” (And the whole Christian – or liturgical – calendar year is pretty much filled with such alternating seasons of celebration and penance…) But while fasting and abstinence are the usual components of a Lenten discipline, keep in mind what Jesus said.

In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus said, “Do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting.”  Instead, He said to basically put on a happy face. That way, “your fasting may be seen not by others, but by your Father who is in secret.”

In other words, the Christian pilgrimage consists of both fasting and feasting:

Lent is about both fasting and feasting… And that’s what we Christians do during Lent. We retell our story of slavery to sin and death. We remember that we are dust and into dust we shall return. We remember our helplessness and hopelessness. We remember that we are utterly dependent on God’s gift of deliverance. And we celebrate, we feast.

Here’s wishing you a happy and spiritually-fulfilling Lent!

*   *   *   *

mardi gras

Could these upraised arms have a double meaning, including one not so “indelicate?”

*   *   *   *

Past posts used in writing this post include 2015’s On Ash Wednesday and Lent, 2016’s On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016, and from last year, OMG! Is it time for Lent again? The images in this post were all borrowed from those past posts.

For more on St. Matthias – “the apostle chosen by the remaining eleven apostles to replace Judas Iscariot following Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and suicide” – see On St. Matthias – and “Father Roberts.”

Re: Fasting and feasting. See also Fasting and Feasting – Flowing Faith.

*   *   *   *

As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:


…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”    In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

The “Presentation of our Lord” – 2020

Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord in Jesus” – at the Presentation of Our Lord

*   *   *   *

Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most often overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Last Sunday, February 2, was the Feast Day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple:

2017Candlemas.jpg

Counting forward from December 25 as Day One, we find that Day Forty is February 2.  A Jewish woman is in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth to a son, and accordingly it is on February 2 that we celebrate the coming of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem…

In other words, the day celebrates “an early episode in the life of Jesus.” That is, His presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem, “in order to officially induct him into Judaism.”  And by the way, it’s also known as Candlemas.  (As shown above right.)  

I’ve covered this Feast Day in past posts, including 2015’s On The Presentation of Our Lord, 2016’s The Presentation of the Lord – 2016, 2017’s On the FIRST “Presentation of the Lord,” and last year’s “The LORD is a God of knowledge” – The Presentation, 2019.

*   *   *   *

The 2015 post has lots of information on Mardi Gras, which happens this year on February 25. (The point being that the “Feast of the Presentation” leads directly on to Ash Wednesday, Lent and ultimately to Easter.) And the fact that way too many people see Mardi Gras as just another excuse to party, without seeing any connection to religion or spirituality.

 The bad news – to some – is that Mardi Gras is followed immediately by Lent, a “solemn religious observance,” 40 days of atonement, self-denial, prayerpenancerepentance, and almsgiving. And incidentally, that’s not 40 days straight of “self-denial.”  You get Sundays off to enjoy whatever it is you’ll be giving up for Lent.

As to the last, see OMG! Is it time for Lent again? That is, there are actually 46 days of Lent: 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. That’s because Sundays in Lent are essentially “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is you’ve “given up.” (A bit of Bible wisdom that got overlooked by the writers and/or producers of 40 Days and 40 Nights. See below right.)

Which brings up another bit of Bible wisdom that I overlooked – or failed to mention before – based on my recent trip to Utah. (From December 27 to January 9.) That is, the fact that January 1st is the day celebrated by some Christians as the time “Our Lord first shed His blood for us.”

On January 1st, we celebrate the Circumcision of Christ. Since we are more squeamish* than our ancestors, modern calendars often list it as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, but the other emphasis is the older. Every Jewish boy was circumcised (and formally named) on the eighth day of his life, and so, one week after Christmas, we celebrate the occasion when Our Lord first shed His blood for us.

See Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” which notes the anomaly that – in our “modern” view – January 1 is only seven days after December 25. 

*   *   *   *

And finally, one note of interest: Generally the February 2d “Presentation” comes roughly halfway into the Season of Epiphany. Which this year ends with Ash Wednesday, February 26. Which leads – as noted – to both Lent and Easter:

As it is the first day of Lent, some Christians begin Ash Wednesday by marking a Lenten calendar, praying a Lenten daily devotional, and abstaining from a luxury that they will not partake of until Eastertide arrives.

Which also leads to what could be called the Second Presentation of Jesus.” That is, Ash Wednesday leads to Good Friday, with Jesus about to be crucified – for us and our shortcomings – as shown below…

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Ecce Homo (‘Behold the Man’), Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus…”

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The upper image is courtesy of the “Simeon” link in the Wikipedia article on the Presentation.  That caption:  “Simeon the Godreceiver [sic] by Alexei Egorov. 1830–40s.”  The caption for that “upper image” is actually the one from Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord in Jesus. That’s another interpretation of the event, by Rembrandt (van Rijn).  (Far better known that Egorov.)  You can see Rembrandt’s interpretation at “Wikigallery,” or at “Rembrandtonline.”

Re: “squeamish.” That is, “easily shocked, offended, or disgusted by unpleasant things.”

The lower image is courtesy of Pontius Pilate – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Ecce Homo (‘Behold the Man’), Antonio Ciseri‘s depiction of Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus to the people of Jerusalem.”

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:


…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”    In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?



My recent Utah trip – and “3 Wise Guys…”

The Adoration of the Magi, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo – as it relates to Epiphany. . .

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Grand Island, Nebraska.

I haven’t posted anything since December 5, “last year.” One reason? This past December 27 I got in my car and drove 1,800 miles out west, “in the bleak midwinter.” (As illustrated at right. A truck stop in Grand Island Nebraska, snowed in on December 29.)

I drove out to visit my brother in Utah, and his wife. (My “hiking buddies” on the Portuguese Camino. See Just got back – Portuguese Camino!) Their son and daughter also came out – from Back East – along with my new (as of June 2018) “nephew by marriage.” (See On a wedding in Hadley – and John, Peter and Paul.)

It was a great trip and I’ll be writing more about it in later posts. But in the meantime, I need to get back to some of the themes of this post: Like reading and studying the Bible to get closer to God. And – on that note – paying more attention to Feast days.

The most recent feast day was Epiphany, celebrated back on Monday, January 6. Some previous posts on the subject include Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” To Epiphany – “and BEYOND!” Then came last year’s Happy Epiphany – 2018.

To start off, the “3 wise guys” post explained how the Adoration of the Magi – illustrated by the painting at the top of the page – fits in with all this “Epiphany” stuff. We know the full story better from the hymn, We Three Kings (of Orient Are). Which hymn in turn celebrates…

… the Nativity of Jesus in art in which the three Magi, represented as kings, especially in the West, having found Jesus by following a star, lay before him gifts of goldfrankincense, and myrrh, and worship him. It is related in the Bible by Matthew 2:11

And as noted, the event is remembered as the Feast of Epiphany (January 6).

The “3 wise guys” post gave some further details, like theories on the actual names of the three wise men (three kings), and a fuller, more earthy explanation of circumcision:

On January 1st, we celebrate the Circumcision of Christ… Every Jewish boy was circumcised (and formally named) on the eighth day of his life, and so, one week after Christmas, we celebrate the occasion when Our Lord first shed His blood for us. (E.A.)

The post also noted that because we are “more squeamish than our ancestors,” modern church calendars usually list January 1 – “eight days*” after December 25 – as the “Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.” And finally, it noted the practice of circumcision can be traced back as far as the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which described “the sun god Ra as having circumcised himself.” (Thus making him “One Tough Monkey!”)

But enough about circumcision. (Including the circumcision knife above left, “from the Congo; wood, iron; late 19th/early 20th century.”) The point is that January 6 – the Feast of Epiphany – “celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.” But that day goes by other names as well. It’s also known as the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  (And just to confuse things, the evening of January 5 is known as Twelfth Night.) Yet a third name for January 6 is Three Kings Day.

As discussed above…

But the end of an old year and beginning of a New Year is also a time to recall the events of that past year gone by, and 2019 was definitely a year of pilgrimage for me. Like my trip last May to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. (See “On to Jerusalem, On my first full day in Jerusalem, or type in “Jerusalem” in the search box above right.)

Or my September trip to hike 160 miles the Portuguese route of the Camino de Santiago, from Porto to Santiago. (Type “Portugal” in the search box.) But my most recent pilgrimage was a 15-day drive out to and back from my brother’s house in Utah.

Which included getting snowed in at a Motel 6 in Grand Island, Nebraska, with a view of the near-frozen North Platte River from my motel-room window, as shown below. But it also included a great burger and two draft beers at the Thunder Road Grill at the truck stop next door. (As shown in the notes.) So the way I figure, “there’s some kind of lesson there!

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The upper image is courtesy of Epiphany (holiday) – Wikipedia.  The full caption: “Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 17th century.”

Re: “‘Eight days’ after December 25.” Today we would begin the eight-day count the day after December 25, which would make January 1 the seventh day after 12/25. But in Jesus’ time the Hebrews would have included December 25 in the eight-day count.

The Motel 6 in question was at 7301 Bosselman Ave, Grand Island, NE. The full link to the “Thunder Road” website is Thunder Road Grill | Pizza, Wings & Burgers | Grand Island, NE.

As for the “lesson there,” see Ecclesiastes 8:15, “I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.” Or Psalm 104:15, on wine (or beer) “to gladden the heart.” In other words, if you’re stuck next door to a snowed-in Nebraska truck stop, you might as well enjoy a burger and beer(s), especially if you can do laundry at the same time.

I took the “Grand Island” photos, including the one above right, of my glasses on the bar next to a half-empty glass of draft beer. The circumcision-knife image is courtesy of Circumcision – Wikipedia.

A delayed “If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem…”

By the Waters of Babylon, Hebrew exiles vowed never to “forget thee, O Jerusalem…”

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I just reviewed some “posts to be done” from a few months ago – and ran across this. As noted in the first ‘graf, it’s from the first week of last May. (I was about to fly to Israel for three weeks.) But I didn’t publish it then, so I’ll do that now. Accordingly, here’s that first pre-look at my planned Israel trip, and Psalm 137, “the middle of the Bible.”

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As told in “On to Jerusalem,” this upcoming May 10th I’m flying to Jerusalem for a two-week pilgrimage (As part of a local church group venture.)  To that end, I’ve been listening to some lectures-on-CD, The World of Biblical Israel | The Great Courses Plus.

On a related note, I connected to a Jerusalem Post article, If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem:

There is an almost natural magnetic draw to Jerusalem that stirs within us a special emotion. For millions of people around the world the heart of ancient Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, symbolizes spirituality and mysticism, a place of prayer and miracles, the centre of the world and a holy portal to God.

Note the “spirituality and mysticism” part, which mirrors one frequent theme of this blog.  The point is:  That title in the Jerusalem Post article refers to Psalm 137:5-6, which reads  “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.  If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”  (That’s from the King James Version. You know, the one God uses?)  

Which just happened to tie in with the Biblical Israel course, as described below.

See for example Psalm 137 – Wikipedia, describing “Nebuchadnezzar II‘s successful siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC.” One result? The people of Judah ended up “deported to Babylonia, where they were held captive until some time after the Fall of Babylon (539 BC):”

In English it [Psalm 137] is generally known as “By the rivers of Babylon,” which is how its first words are translated in the King James Version…  The psalm is a communal lament about being in exile after the Babylonian captivity, and yearning for Jerusalem.  The psalm is a regular part of JewishEastern OrthodoxCatholicAnglican and Protestant liturgies.  It has been set to music often, and was paraphrased in hymns.

So anyway, Professor Chapman focused first on Psalm 137 as the story of how that Hebrew Remnant – those Exiles – created the final version of what we know as the Old Testament.

That is, the Old Testament – as we know it today – did not exist before the year 586 B.C. Again, that was the year most Judeans were taken from their homeland – after the horrors of the Babylonian conquest – and suffered a “death march,” 800 miles to Babylon.  “After this defeat, they compiled, edited and shaped” their collected national stories into a virtual library.

Eadwine psalter - Trinity College Lib - f.243v.jpg
Psalm 137 in the Eadwine Psalter (12th century)

And again, according to Professor Chapman, Psalm 137 (at right) constitutes both the mid-point – the very middle – of years of Ancient Jewish history and the very middle of the Bible itself. 

In turn Psalm 137 was written at just the time when the books of the original Hebrew Bible – the Old Testament – were collected, edited and redacted.  And it all came to be because of the Exile, that “national disgrace.”

In other words, before the calamity of the Exile, many books (in the form of scrolls) existed, but “here is where they were first collected into what we know as the Old Testament today.” That idea was mirrored in the Babylon captivity link at Psalm 137:

This period saw … the emergence of the central role of the Torah in Jewish life.  According to many historical-critical scholars, the Torah was redacted during this time, and began to be regarded as the authoritative text for Jews.  This period saw their transformation into an ethno-religious group who could survive without a central Temple.

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Which is about as far as I got: The story of how the Old Testament as we known it finally came into being. And it might never have occurred but for this humiliating “national disgrace” for the Children of Israel. (On that note see The Blessings of Trials – Crosswalk.com.)

But in the meantime we’ve moved on to the Season of Advent. See 2016’s On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent, and On Advent – 2015, which described the Season of Advent:

Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”  The theme of Bible readings is to prepare for the Second Coming while “commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas.”

And it should be noted that in some of the readings for the Season of Advent, Jesus tells the Parable of the Budding Fig Tree.  (Not to be confused with the barren fig tree):

“Look at the fig tree and all the trees;  as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near…”

In doing so Jesus quoted Isaiah – twice – as well as the Book of Daniel.  See also Jesus and messianic prophecy.  The main point Jesus was trying to make?  “Beware, keep alert;  for you do not know when the time will come.”  And also, “What I say to you I say to all:  Keep awake.”

Which is pretty much what the Season of Advent is all about…

And that “High Holy Season” always starts with the Feast of  St. Andrew – “the First Apostle.” That posts and others cited in it noted that while Andrew was “one of the four disciples closest to Jesus,” he seems to be the least known about. Which is ironic because Andrew was one of Jesus’ the first followers. In fact he “followed Jesus before St. Peter and the others,” and so he is “called the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle.” 

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 St. Andrew, “the First Apostle,” and his x-shaped cross or saltire*

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The upper image is courtesy of Psalm 137 – Wikipedia. The caption: “‘By the Waters of Babylon,’ painting by Arthur Hackerc. 1888.”

The lower image is courtesy of ncregister.com/blog/st.-andrew-apostle-11-things-to-know and share, which included the full text of St. Andrew’s words before he died, showing “a very profound Christian spirituality.  [He] does not view the Cross as an instrument of torture but rather as the incomparable means for perfect configuration to the Redeemer, to the grain of wheat that fell into the earth.  Here we have a very important lesson to learn: Our own crosses acquire value if we consider them and accept them as a part of the Cross of Christ…”  See also Andrew the Apostle – Wikipedia.

About that “saltire” see St Andrew … 5 facts you might have known:

Legend has it that he [Andrew] asked to be tied to an X-shaped cross because he did not feel worthy of dying on the same shape of cross as Jesus.  The shape has been represented by the white cross on the Scottish flag, the Saltire, since at least 1385.

As to the Feast of St. Andrew beginning the new church year, see Anticipating Christmas, Beginning with Saint Andrew.  Or see St. Andrew, from the Satucket website:

Just as Andrew was the first of the Apostles, so his feast is taken in the West to be the beginning of the Church Year…  The First Sunday of Advent is defined to be the Sunday on or nearest his feast (although it could equivalently be defined as the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day).