Tag Archives: Jesus

The Dead Sea Scrolls, Jesus, and Paul

Capturing the spirit of first-century Judaism through the window of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament writings.

The Dead Sea Scrolls give an important look into first-century Jewish life from a mainly Jewish-Hebrew perspective; a genre lacking until their advent. Most of our extra-biblical knowledge of Israel during the first-century was previously drawn from Jewish Greek and Aramaic writers.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of manuscripts generally published from 200 BC to 100 AD.1 The majority were found in caves around the Dead Sea and the West Bank region.

The manuscripts were originally the property of a community previously called the Qumran community but today goes by the title of Yaḥad (literally it means together, oneness, or more generally, unity). There is debate over whether this a correct term, or whether Qumran would be a better fit. Yaḥad is used here simply because it has a more common usage in modern Dead Sea Scroll discussions and its uniqueness to the English language denotes a foreign, mysterious entity that has yet to be completely unravelled—a case that exists for these people.

It is unknown how widespread this movement was. Perhaps it had satellite communities from Damascus, Syria, all the way to Alexandria, Egypt. Maybe there was only one group in Qumran, or they were ideologically similar groups with loose connections between each other. Since they are not noted by the New Testament texts or the Talmud, they were likely a small movement with little political, social, or religious influence on the greater Jewish community. Their importance rests in the fact they are one of the few bodies from the first-century to leave behind any written evidence.

As one reads the entire collation of Dead Sea Scroll texts as found in the book, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition,2 a picture emerges of the Yaḥad as an extremist group—perhaps even ascetic. This is a community of people gathered together trying to go back 1200 years to the times of Moses and recreate a similar environment.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition is an excellent resource.

A little history of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The collection of writings called the Dead Sea Scrolls is large and diverse. The assemblage contains bible texts, hymns, psalms (biblical ones and new ones created by them), apocryphal literature, and rules for community life. They were written mostly in Hebrew, fewer in Aramaic, and lesser in Greek, Latin, and Nabatean. The community life texts contain small snippets about who they were, their liturgy and religious devotion.

The texts referring to the Yaḥad community way of life and religion are the ones looked at here.

Whether the communities were as old as the manuscripts themselves or only a brief generational thing, I don’t know.

Due to Rome’s military occupation and subsequent destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, and Masada by Vespasian and Titus in 70 AD, the Yaḥad communities put their scrolls in caves for safekeeping. This was a good idea because their communities were physically located in the same region as Masada.

The high mountain fortress of Masada, originally built by Herod the Great as an escape option against the powerful and scheming Egyptian leader, Cleopatra, and to a lesser degree, any possible Jewish revolt, was a last major place of resistance against Rome.3 And if you read Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, the ending went badly for the resistance fighters. After the Romans had breached the wall and entered, they found carcasses strewn about. The results of a mass suicide.

An aerial view of present day Masada

Due to the severity of the war, and Rome’s desire to vanquish the conquered foes through death, slavery, or exile, the people of the Yaḥad never reclaimed the scrolls. Even if this theory does not hold true, one can look 65 years later. The human memory of the cave scrolls was surely erased. The Emporer Hadrian’s virtual annihilation of the Jewish population after the Bar Kochba revolt guaranteed such a state.

One of the many caves that housed the collections of Dead Sea Scrolls

Luck was on our side that these manuscripts were put into these remote locations—a place with low humidity, few or no bugs, or animals. The caves are situated high—some are visible as a hole in the middle of a sheer cliff. They are hard to access and the inhospitably hot climate did not attract human activity around this area for over 1800 years.

All we know about the Yaḥad is by their own writings left behind in the caves. The texts of the New Testament, nor do the Talmud, directly refer to them.

Are Essenes or Therapeutae Greek terms for the Yaḥad movement?

Were they the Essenes described by Josephus?4 Josephus was a first-century Jewish historian. He was part of the revolt against Rome, captured, and initially made a slave. Aside from the New Testament writings, his works are the most detailed and complete about this era. Within his narratives he describes a curious sect called the Essenes. Lively debates exist over whether the Essenes are the Greek equivalent of the Yaḥad. Regardless, the parallels are very close.

Or were they the Therapeutae described by Philo of Alexandria?5 Philo was a Jewish philosopher and writer in the first-century who lived in Roman-controlled Egypt. There are matching practices between the Therapeutae and the Yaḥad but there is a problem. Philo may be guilty of trying too hard to ameliorate his narrow world-view Greek-reading audience with the Jewish world. If the Yaḥad is a related group, his coverage avoids the problems of their rigorous adherence to purification, social order, and isolationism in order to achieve his aims. Consequently, he puts them in a utopian light. I think the Therapeutae are the same group, but Philo’s overarching theme of defending Judaism against the backdrop of a powerful international Greek culture and influence thwarts a definitive connection.

The Teacher of Righteousness

The Teacher of Righteousness (מורה צדקה) is one of the most intriguing subjects found within the Dead Sea Scrolls and remains an unsolved mystery. There is not enough information to complete a picture of this person or narrative but its fun to try and make a guess. The Teacher of Righteousness is historically associated with the founding of the Yaḥad and its break from the Temple authority. This supposedly happened because of a serious conflict with a corrupt priest. Who exactly were the Teacher of Righteousness and his adversary, the corrupt priest? Nobody knows. Lawrence H. Schiffman, a leading scholar on the Dead Sea Scrolls, has deeply considered this issue can only conclude that this event probably occurred during the early Hasmonean empire. Probably around 140 BC.6 One DSS text maintained it happened 390 years after falling to Nebuchadnezzar (Col. i (= 4Q266 2 i-ii; 4Q268 1)). This makes it around 197 BC and creates many difficulties.

What we do know is that this unnamed person was the leader of a schism from the Temple with a priestly class called the sons of Zadok. If one takes a Wikipedia page on the sons of Zadok at face value, they had both literal and allegorical meanings. It is hard to distinguish how it is used here.7 8

The followers of the Teachers of Righteousness felt that they were a faithful remnant while the Wicked Priest, who represented the greater Jewish community, had compromised and corrupted the faith.

One DSS text relates the Teacher of Righteousness as a present person.9 The present TOR may relate to the community receiving the passed-down teachings of the teacher, not the teacher himself. The TOR is found in one apocalyptic verse, where he is announced to precede the Messiah.10 Once again, I don’t think it is relating to a future appearance of the TOR but that the establishment of his teachings and practices are a necessary prerequisite to hasten the Messiah’s arrival.

However, these are not as strong a position as the historical figure.

Whether true history, allegory, a self-patronizing myth created by the Yaḥad to give them status, or as some propose, a proto-Christ, will probably never fully be demystified.

A hyper identity sect

The Yaḥad hardly wanted anything to do with the gentile world or the benefits their economies offered. Their idea of purification was radical and protecting the Jewish image from any improper contact with a greater gentile world was an important part of their narrative.

No-one should sell clean animals or birds, to the gentiles lest they sacrifice them. . . . And he should not sell them anything from his granary or his press, at any price.11

They viewed themselves as morally and religiously superior to the rest of the world:

. . . honour him by this: by consecrating yourself to him, in accordance to the fact that he has placed you as a holy of holies [over all] the earth, and among all the [g]o[ds] he has cast your lot.12

Paul too, in his expanding the Jewish faith to a gentile world, was a serious threat to this type of thinking. Their doctrine of racial and religious purity would have immediately judged him as a traitor. This indeed did happen. The Book of Acts recalls Paul being accosted in the Temple for allegedly allowing gentiles in the Temple and a throng of people immediately attempted to beat him to death. Without the intervention of Roman soldiers he probably would have died. Paul later testified that he did not bring in any gentile or violate the Temple. If such purity views were common in the lands of Judah, or even by a vocal, vigilant, and aggressive minority such as the Yaḥad, it is not surprising that Paul needed a Roman escort out of Jerusalem.13

The language of the Yaḥad

A superficial look presents an absence of Greek or Latin loanwords in their texts. They had some Aramaic but not much. This linguistic purity appears very unusual to me.

The Yaḥad and the Temple

There is a premise that the Yaḥad had dismissed the Temple as being too corrupt and had replaced it with their own set of practices. However, I cannot find satisfactory evidence in the writings to prove such a point. There is no statement that outrightly calls for the abandonment of the Temple.

Rather there is some evidence that the Temple is central to their belief system. It is exemplified by the fact that members covenant not to have any sexual activity in the holy city of Jerusalem in respect to its holiness.14 On the other hand, there is a conflict. The Temple Scroll is very similar in wording to the Damascus Document about Temple observance but it is futuristic. Whereas the Damascus Document seems to press for present observance of the Temple, the Temple Scroll writer(s) pushes for a future state. They see themselves preparing for a restorative Judaism that includes a new Temple that is totally pure. The Temple Scroll outlines plans on a new Temple building and how patrons should enter and behave while in the holy city. These similarities make it hard to distinguish whether the Yaḥad were obligated to perform such ascetic rights now or only in the future.

I would suspect that their restorative idea of Judaism and emphatic emphasis on purification in order to bring along the end-times would lead to them being very strict in their conduct of the Herodian Temple and the holy city.

The Damascus Document implies a present rule of conduct with the Temple, while the Temple Scroll emphasizes a future requirement when the Temple is cleansed and rebuilt.

Leadership structure of the Yaḥad

The Yaḥad were rigorous about rank and order. The Inspector of the Many (המבקר הרבים or המקבר היחד) was the top of the order. He was a combination of a mayor, lawyer, philanthropist, and judge. He gave the final interpretation of any matters relating to Judaic Law. This position required the man to be 30 to 50 years of age and multilingual;15 he was responsible for dealing in matters with outside authorities.

Admission to the congregational assembly meetings was restricted to those who were in good health. Those with any skin disorder, age-related walking problems, blind, deaf, etc., were not permitted to sit with the men of renown.16

This community did share all things in common—but that is if you are a qualified member. Any violation of the community covenant could lead to minor or severe penalties.17 Speaking out of order, falling asleep, or even giggling inappropriately could lead to punishments. Acts of disrespect were especially frowned upon.18Also, some food items were defined with a higher sense of purity and privilege. Some qualified for this type of food while others did not.

There is much more about the leadership structure that can be drawn from these texts. For a more thorough look, see Geza Vermes’, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English; especially under the header, Qumran and the New Testament. Pg. 44ff.19 Dr. Vermes was one the earlier scholars to study the Dead Sea Scrolls and his publications on the subject became the standard for many years. I would like to provide one insight that goes along with the flow of thought here—the absolute authority of the Inspector:

But an additional task of the mebaqqer [Inspector] in the towns was to ensure that no friendly contact occurred between his congregation and anyone outside the sect. Whatever exchanges took place had to be paid for; and even these transactions were to be subject to his consent.20

The Yaḥad and miracles

One the key characteristics of the New Testament Gospels and the earlier part of the Book of Acts are the appeals to miracles.

However, it is surprising there is very little reference to mysticism or miracles in the Yaḥad community. There are a few notes about demons but they are not preoccupied by it. Purification by far is their greatest ambition.

The Yaḥad writings and Jesus

In reference to the New Testament texts, there are similarities in thought. This is not surprising because the texts come from the same era. They both draw from the same spirit of the age. Generally speaking, the Judaism presented in the New Testament texts is far more welcoming to the non-Jew, tolerant, and comprehensive, than the rule of life ordered by those communities living in the Judean desert. These desert dwellers lived in a very insulated world.

One has to be careful with such a generality. John the Baptist falls into the description of a Qumran member.

Jesus was likely aware of them and conflicted with their rigorous view of the Sabbath. His assertion that it was OK to violate the Sabbath in order to rescue an animal or son trapped in a watery place on the Sabbath (Luke 14:5) contradicted the Yaḥad. They had a rule that if a person is trapped in a watery place on the Sabbath, he cannot be retrieved by any device. The use of any device such as a rope or ladder would violate the rules of the Sabbath. The rescue must manually occur by the extension of the hands21 and/or the use of personal garments worn by the person.22 Otherwise, the person was left to die. A hand extension or assistance for any animal found in a watery place on the Sabbath was forbidden. The animal was left to die. Jesus contradicted this practice as too extreme. It went beyond the intent of the Law.

It may seem crass for readers today, but the idea of falling into a well was an important discussion during this period. Later Rabbinic leaders went over this problem in great detail.23

Also the beatitudes that Jesus gave which contained the formula blessed are the…24 is also contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls.25 They are not parallel texts. They just contain the same formulaic beginning. However, I would strongly caution against Jesus borrowing from the Qumran community on this. They both borrowed from the spirit of the times.

The Yaḥad shares the same apocalyptic doctrine as the New Testament on the lineage of the Messiah. They also shared that he would come from the tribe of Judah:

Until the messiah of righteousness comes, the branch of David. For to him and to his descendants has been given the covenant of the kingship of his people for everlasting generations. . .26

But then contradicts itself in another place where the Messiah comes from the Aaronic line.27

Conclusion

Although the Yaḥad have many differences from the themes and message of the New Testament writings, there are similarities in writing style and influences. It is clear they are both developed from the same cultural milieu.

It was a great pleasure to read these texts and every Bible reader should add the English translations to their reading list.

There is much more information in these texts than I have mentioned. This is just the beginning.

Evangelicals in the Canadian Political Realm

How Evangelicals can and can’t contribute to the diverse Canadian social mosaic.

Many Evangelicals hold to an ideology that to bring about positive moral change in Canada is to directly influence those in power, and the values endorsed by the powerbrokers will trickle-down to every part of society.

In order to bring about this type of revision, the Christian movement needs leverage, clout and people power — a force that draws the attention of the key public decision makers, who then recognize the political necessity to change. If a maxim existed for such an approach, it would be, If you want God’s kingdom to have a strong influence on this land, learn to influence the key decision makers in all.

This immediately poses a number of questions. Two especially come to mind: is this trickle-down concept moral or the best methodology the Evangelical community can provide? And, are religious leaders properly equipped to delve into the political realm?

Religious Canadian leaders have successfully entered the political realm. Powerful voices in the such as J.S. Woodsworth, Tommy Douglas, and William Aberhart have contributed with great success. Their experience has demonstrated lessons for others who follow. However, the line today between religious and civic leaders are drawn with little crossover. It is a new era where those Evangelicals entering today must be fully aware of what they are getting into. It can be done and is necessary, but most churches are not prepared, nor politically astute enough to provide the proper checks and balances.

Religious leaders can be exploited because of their lack of experience with the political system. David Kuo, former second in command to President Bush’s office admits to milking the religious right for their allegiance. In a Time Magazine article, he quoted Chuck Colson, once aide to President Richard Nixon, saying, “I arranged special briefings in the Roosevelt Room for religious leaders, ushered wide-eyed denominational leaders into the Oval Office for private sessions with the President,” and then Colson adds, “Of all the groups I dealt with, I found religious leaders the most naive about politics. Maybe that is because so many come from sheltered backgrounds, or perhaps it is the result of a mistaken perception of the demands of Christian charity … Or, most worrisome of all, they may simply like to be around power.”1

The late Chuck Colson, who was an important aide to President Nixon, and later a born again Christian, added that Christians must be engaged, but with eyes open, aware of the snares and to not be beholden to any political ideological alignment.2

No religious leader can remain altruistic. One of the key components of political involvement from a faith perspective is recognition that no matter how moral or pure our intentions are, the quest for power exists in every individual and must be publicly recognized.

Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to the concept of power and one-upmanship as being motivated by the ‘Drum Major Instinct’, and that no-one, including himself, is outside its influence.3 If this is true, one of the key components of political involvement from a faith perspective is recognition that no matter how moral or pure our intentions are, the drum major instinct exists and must be publicly recognized.

If people or organizations from a faith perspective do not acknowledge the drum major instinct within their realm, along with the proper checks and balances to control, potential problems may arise in the future that not only defeats the aims of the political activist, but harms the corporate religion.

Another important point Canadian religious leaders must be mindful of is public fear that religious advocates would force their agenda. Preston Manning opined this at McGill University’s “Pluralism, Religion, and Public Policy” conference held in 2002, “When advocates of faith-based positions convey the impression that they would force their positions on the rest of the population, if only they had sufficient power and influence to do so, is it any wonder that the rest of the population is reluctant to grant them standing and influence?”

From a Canadian standpoint, this fear is very ubiquitous and is found both in our creative literature and in politics. For example the well-known Canadian literary giant, Margaret Atwood, wrote a fictional novel, The Handmaiden, on what she thought could potentially happen if protestant fundamentalists took over the government — an event that she perceived would have catastrophic repercussions on the role of women in society.

The public ideological alignment of Evangelicals with the Conservative Party of Canada could especially have long-term negative damage. Although this party may best represent many Christian principles, it is still a political party, and any large political fallout with the public by way of hypocrisy, scandal, war or moral debate may cause a harsh public backlash against the Evangelical Church and foment publicly acceptable anti-Christian and Church rhetoric.

A closer look at Jesus teachings on leadership indicate that the trickle-down theory was antithetical to a message to the majority of people whom He served. He did not come to persuade the powers-to-be. He came directly to the disenfranchised and gave them hope.

Traditional Evangelicals may posit that the power Christians are to wield in this world is evangelism. Social reform is dependant and can only happen through widespread personal repentance and submittance to God. Although evangelism has a high importance, this is an incomplete answer that is over-simplistic.

Many belonging to the burgeoning charismatic movement would argue that power is to be defined in supernatural terms; it is to destroy the works of Satan. This too is not a consistent nor a comprehensive definition of power from a heavenly perspective.

Nor is it the Churches purpose to respresent, lead, and empower the oppressed and marginalized to overthrow tyrannical despots, or corrupt leadership. This is also a top-down strategy that is ineffective.

St. Francis of Assissi provided part of the answer when he wrote: “where there is hatred, let me sow Your love” which tends to go nicely together with Christ’s admonition, “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either”. This may seem like such a cowardly withdrawal from conflict that allows for exploitation or abuse, but rather, it is breaking the cycle of absolute power. They are encouraging people not to be controlled by conventions of worldly power, but guided by a higher law of love and servanthood that is not subject to corruption, dishonesty, anger, bitterness or revenge.

Jesus described the heavenly definition of power as that of servanthood, “If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be the servant of all.” And also, “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve”. His definition of power ascribed almost the exact opposite of what we instinctually believe it to be.

The idea of leadership from a heavenly perspective is about the person who is most willing to do whatever it costs for the betterment of another being and respects everyone as equal partners. In many circles this is called service. It is the opposite to pursuing power. Carl Jaspers, a humanist philosopher concluded this when he wrote, “Where love rules, there is no will to power and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.”

There are many implications of holding onto such a philosophy, especially where faith and politics intertwine. First of all it changes the role of the Christian. Instead of the Christian standing aloof and judging against the world, the main purpose is helping others arrive at completeness in whatever area they lack, whether spiritual or physical.

It also avoids and corrects the idea that the Church and Christians want to lord over others and force their opinions.

The mission of helping others then becomes the message. People such as Mother Teresa, St. Francis of Assisi, and lesser-knowns such as Dr. Paul Brandt, a specialist in leprosy, the late Winnipeg Pastor and activist, Harry Lehotsky, and more whose mission to serve has naturally also became the message. These names are all a positive part of the public conscience and transcends racial, socio-economic, cultural and religious barriers.

The Church then becomes a center for serving those in need and constantly making adjustments as the needs arise. By doing this, the Church through service will become an active part of the Canadian mosaic rather than an outside bystander.■

Thoughts on the Bible

How the Bible should be revered but not worshiped.

As a young child and at the point of first questioning matters of life, death, God, and everything in-between, I discovered the Bible.

It was first thought that this book possessed a magical quality, so I slept with the Book underneath my head, and expected spiritual wonders to happen. Waking up the next morning, my head hurt, and my ear was sore from rubbing against it. This approach was immediately abandoned.

As a young adult, the Bible expanded my mind about the world around me. It gave a framework of how to live. The joy of connecting with a greater power, the freedom of conscience, and knowing what true love is, are by-products that I am always thankful for.

On the negative side, it became a way to avoid the complexities of life and personal situations. Everything was black and white with little or no grey area. Discussion was not necessary on the majority of life challenges because the Bible had already endorsed or rejected a multitude of situations. I didn’t have to think. It was already pre-packaged and done. It was an easy way-out, and it kept me in adolescence for a few more years than normal.

This is not a problem of God or the Bible. It is part of the weakness of the human character. This same type of behaviour is also exhibited in communism and democratic capitalism where untold lives have been taken in the name of an ideology. It is not a problem of the system, but a flaw in either a personal or corporate character that has misapplied the real meaning.

The Bible can refer to a source of great liberation, but can equally enslave and do serious damage if employed incorrectly.

Positive social effects of learning to Read the Bible

There are rewards for learning to read the Bible that extend beyond the religious realm. Literacy is one of them. It is a foundational pillar that Evangelicals stress with new believers. This is a concept that everyone has to learn to read the Bible for themselves. This emphasis not only makes some new believers who struggle with social or economic disadvantages functionally literate, but it often increases the literary skill-set from intermediate to advanced. This attainment leads to improved critical thinking skills and gives confidence for higher education and better job prospects. It opens a whole new world.

The close connection between literacy and the Bible has existed for centuries. Missionaries have used the Bible to not only spread the Gospel, but also to put unwritten languages into written form and subsequently develop literacy within many populations initially unreached by western civilization. When these people groups finally intersect with the western world, their literacy positively aids the many health, cultural, legal, social and political problems that typically arise. Wycliffe Bible Translators is an organization well known for this type of work. Bruce Olsen, a missionary to the Motilone tribe in Columbia, is a well known personal figure for this approach.

There is a problem side to Bible reading. . . the over-adulation of the Bible. This can be expressed in a number of ways.

Over adulation of the Bible

Jesus spoke out against over-adulation of the Book, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” (NKJV) He is addressing the fact that the Bible is not an end in itself. It is meant to be a reference point describing something far greater. So sleeping with the Bible, obeying the exact words, or even worshipping it misses the point.

Over adulation has caused much bloodshed. For example, Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs and Steel, outlined how the Spanish used the Bible as a source of provocation and subjugation against the Incas. In 1532, when the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizzaro first encountered the Incas and its leader, Atahuallpa, he summoned a Friar to bring a Bible before Atahuallpa. Atahuallpa, not knowing what it was, threw it on the ground. This gave evidence to the Spanish that the Incas and their leader had repudiated God’s word — they were heathens. Therefore, it was legally allowable to slaughter and subject them to the King of Spain and the Church.

Many radio, TV and Sunday preachers often say, “the Bible says…”, as if the words of this Book are the final authority. A statement that indicates that many are in the position of over-adulation of the Book.

This leads for an important question to ponder. Is God jealous if we worship the Book and not Him?

The purpose of the Bible

The Book is meant to reveal the character and nature of God. It is not purposed to cover all aspects of everyday living in some written legal form. Our daily living is to be derived from what we understand who God is, who we are, and then simply do what is right.

God is not too concerned about the sacredness or inerrancy of His Word. On the contrary, He may allow for imperfections to exist in order to prevent our civilization from idolizing the Book over Him. If the Book is perfect then this would make God almost unnecessary in our everyday lives. Why do we need to be in contact with Him if the Book suffices with all we need?

Also, if the Book was perfect and we adulate it as a legal text then it does not require personal or emotional connection or genuine concern for others. This approach can allow for inhumane practices or disrespect against those in need. In many cases those in positions of authority can hide behind the veil of legal texts and remain apathetic.

Legal versus Moral obligation

The Christian faith urges us to love everyone as much as ourselves. We are obligated to pursue this higher moral law. Only when we fail this difficult standard, are we to apply a legal requirement. We must always try to live by the spirit of the law first.

If one is restricted to merely fulfilling a legal obligation, it means we don’t have to think or care about others beyond this. We are simply fulfilling our civic duty, nothing more. This is dangerous.

For example the problem of abortion. It is not directly written in the Bible that it is wrong, but it is inferred. On a legal basis, the Christian is only obligated to say it is wrong and do nothing more.

The moral obligation on this subject is completely different. Everyone is morally obligated to love, which may mean providing housing, clothing, counseling, adoption services, and other forms of assistance to remedy where a crisis pregnancy exists. However, this requires more effort, action and resources. Observing the legal responsibility is much easier than the moral route.

Another example is the well known commandment, “thou shalt not kill,”. If one simply accepts, “thou shalt not kill,” as a legal contract, it doesn’t require anyone to think about God, or others. It simply means not to physically kill. But if one continues to read the Bible to build a clearer picture of what God likes and dislikes, it will become clear that deprivation, torture, denying access to food or health products, child-slavery, rape and so many other circumstances that kill a person emotionally are a form of killing. If the text is taken literally, the moral sense is lost.

Of course the primary objective of altruism rarely or seldom appears, but one must always pursue this goal.

Church leadership is required to fill in the blanks

Some issues cannot be tackled by personal reading of the Bible. Technology has brought about new concerns that the Sages of 2000 years ago would never believed possible. Problems of end-of-care, euthanasia, chemical dependencies, changes in the marital relationship, new definitions of sexuality, gender issues, and much more cannot be easily figured out by the individual person alone.

It is a God-given mandate for church leadership to give direction in these matters.

Conclusion

These are wandering thoughts on the subject and are by no means final. It would be great to hear your views and practices regarding the Bible. Your comments on the subject would greatly enhance this conversation. One can leave a comment on the main website here, or go to Facebook, or dialogue at Twitter.