Interesting hour-long look at the Bible and what it says (and does not say) about homosexuality. As The Stranger put it:
Vines’ argument and his insights are highly relevant to gay Christians, to their families, to Christians who point to the bible to justify their bigotry and the pain they inflict on LGBT people (including their own LGBT children), and to anyone who happens to live in a country that is majority Christian.
Full transcript found here.
In a new book on those end pages, “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation” (Viking), Elaine Pagels sets out gently to bring their portents back to earth. She accepts that Revelation was probably written, toward the end of the first century C.E., by a refugee mystic named John on the little island of Patmos, just off the coast of modern Turkey. (Though this John was not, she insists, the disciple John of Zebedee, whom Jesus loved, or the author of the Gospel that bears the same name.)
Pagels then shows that Revelation, far from being meant as a hallucinatory prophecy, is actually a coded account of events that were happening at the time John was writing. It’s essentially a political cartoon about the crisis in the Jesus movement in the late first century, with Jerusalem fallen and the Temple destroyed and the Saviour, despite his promises, still not back… Revelation is really like one of those old-fashioned editorial drawings where Labor is a pair of overalls and a hammer, and Capital a bag of money in a tuxedo and top hat, and Economic Justice a woman in flowing robes, with a worried look.
St. Matthew in the City Church in Auckland, New Zealand, has launched this billboard depicting Virgin Mary and a positive pregnancy test, on its building. (source)
Stephen Colbert (via soupsoup)
Nowhere does the Bible claim to be inerrant.
That’s right. At no place in its more than 30,000 verses does the Bible claim that it is factually accurate in terms of history, science, geography and all other matters (the technical definition of inerrancy). “Inerrant” itself is not a word found in the Bible or even known to Christian theologians for most of history. Rather, the word was coined in the middle of the 19th century as a defensive counter measure to the increased popularity of reading the Bible as one would other historical documents and the discovery of manifold internal inconsistencies and external inaccuracies.
The signature verse most literalists point to is 2 Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” But one can confess that Scripture is inspired by God without resorting to claims that it contains no factual errors. We normally use the language of inspiration in just this way, describing a painting, a performance of Chopin, or even a good lecture as inspired. What binds the various and sundry texts found in the Bible together may be precisely that they are all inspired by the authors’ experience of the living God. There is no hint that the authors of the Bible imagined that what they were writing was somehow supernaturally guaranteed to be factually accurate. Rather, biblical authors wrote in order to be persuasive, hoping that by reading their witness you would come to believe as they did (see John 20:30-31).
Reading the Bible literally distorts its witness.
In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus drives the moneychangers out of the Jerusalem Temple in the days immediately preceding his crucifixion. In the Gospel of John, he does this near the beginning of his ministry, two years before his death. Similarly, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the day Jesus is crucified is named as the Passover, while in John it is the Day of Preparation; that is, the day before Passover. Inconsistencies like this are part of what undermines claims to inerrancy of not just the gospels but also many other books in the Bible.
But if the primary intention of the biblical authors was not to record history — in the post-Enlightenment sense we take for granted today — but instead to confess faith, then these differences are not troubling inconsistencies to be reconciled but rather helpful clues to understanding the confession of the author. So rather than ask who got it right, we might instead wonder why John describes these events differently than the other Evangelists. As it turns out, both of these examples stem from John’s theological claim that Jesus is the new Passover lamb. For this reason, once he begins his ministry there is no need for Temple sacrifice, and he is crucified on the same day — indeed, at the exact hour — at which the Passover lambs were sacrificed on the Day of Preparation.
You can attempt to reconcile these and other discrepancies in the biblical witness, of course, and literalists have published books almost as long as the Bible attempting to do just that. In the case of the different timeframes for the cleansing of the Temple, for instance, one might suggest that Jesus did this twice, once at the beginning of his ministry and then again, for good measure, two years later. But far from “rescuing” the gospels, such an effort distorts their distinct confession of faith by rendering an account of Jesus’ life that none of the canonical accounts offers.