After five years of study and writing, retired Episcopal Bishop John Spong has published a new book that argues that the Gospel of John signals in several ways that its author did not intend it to be read as a literal account of Jesus’ life and teachings.
Spong summarizes his conclusions by suggesting:
- John is a composite of writings from at least three writers, none of whom were John Zebedee or any other of Jesus’ disciples.
- Jesus probably didn’t say the things that are attributed to him in the gospel.
- Probably none of Jesus’ “signs” ever actually happened.
- Many of the characters in the book were invented by the author.
- The book itself ridicules literal interpretations.
- The author exaggerates details to signal that we are not dealing with literal reporting.
Clearly (and not unsurprisingly), this is a very different way of reading the Gospel of John than has been customary. What might change in our understanding of Jesus, the Gospel process, and the life of the church?
You can read more of Spong’s own commentary on his book at the Huffington Post. Or better yet, read The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic (HarperOne, 2013) and then tell us what you think.
Have you seen The Bible? It’s lead-up time to Easter and Passover, and, true to form, TV broadcasters are turning to Bible movies. New in the genre this year is a series on The History Channel, a 10 part miniseries produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. Burnett suggested that one motivation for creating the series was to counter a growing Bible illiteracy among young people. In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor Burnett said, “In school, you have to know a certain amount of Shakespeare, but no Bible. So there’s got to be a way to look at it from a pure literature point of view. If it wasn’t for the Bible, arguably Shakespeare wouldn’t have written those stories.” Continue reading
The Holy Ghost drives Jesus into the wilderness.
The Brick Testament
The Bible has inspired countless artistic endeavors throughout the centuries, but few are as oddly amusing as The Brick Testament. The site illustrates over 400 Bible stories from Genesis to Revelation, using only LEGO® building blocks. The stories are thoughtfully labeled N, S, V, and C to allow those who might be offended by nudity, sexual content, violence or cursing to avoid them (though it must be said that their translation into the Lego world does tone them down greatly)
Take a look at the story of Solomon asking for wisdom in 1 Kings 3 (the Old Testament reading for this coming Sunday).
All this is a project by the Reverend Brendan Powell Smith, who describes himself as “not an ordained member of any earthly church, and widely regarded as being both highly presumptuous and extremely vain.”
And, lest you doubt that all this can be accomplished without extensive modification of standard Lego pieces, he assures us that “Everything but the background sky is indeed built out of LEGO brand building blocks. There are a few select instances where Rev. Smith has resorted to modifying LEGO pieces with a hobby knife or permanent ink marker, but the vast majority of everything you see in The Brick Testament are unaltered LEGO parts from sets that date from the 1960s up to the present day. ”
As you browse through the stories at The Brick Testament, what do you learn about them that you did not notice before? How do you find the stories changed by the demands of using building blocks to tell them? If you have access to blocks of your own, you might try telling a favorite story of your own.
The Vizsoly Bible, in Vizsoly
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A couple of months ago, Bill Leonard, Professor of Church History and Baptist Studies at Wake Forest University wrote a reflection on what so often happens when people get into a “Bible quoting” mode. We wrote:
Lent, the season of reflection and repentance, offers opportunity for those of us who live in and out of the Bible to acknowledge that the church’s history is full of acts and imperatives thought to be grounded in Holy Scripture that led the church to make horrible mistakes. Continue reading
Interesting video from Igniter Media over on YouTube-
The Bible in 50 Words (and many of them rhyme!)
What would your 50 words be if you were telling the Bible story?
What would you include? What would you leave out?
Kim Kardashian, The Donald trump Bible for money advice. So goes the headline on a story at Faith and Reason. According to writer Cathy Lynn Grossman, a recent poll by the American Bible Society discovered that Americans are far more likely to look to figures in popular culture for guidance on money and what to do with it than to the Bible.
Maybe that’s not surprising, given the counter-(American)cultural way that the Bible deals with wealth (see the Between the Lines entry for this coming Sunday).
What’s amusing, though, besides the thought of theoretically faithful people taking financial advice from the Kardashians, is that the American Bible Society presents the results of its survey as part of an advertisement for a new product: The Financial Stewardship Bible. I guess instead of selling all and laying it at the feet of the apostles, you’re just supposed to send it to ABS.
On my way to somewhere else, I ran across this video for a new book by Dudley Rutherford. Rutherford is apparently a pastor of a 10,000 member church just off the Ronald Reagan Freeway northwest of Los Angeles (actually about 40 miles as the crow flies from where I grew up).
So what I wonder is: is this a clever bit of inculturation, a way of presenting the Bible in a way that the mobile generation will understand? Or is it a woeful misrepresentation of what the Bible is and how one should relate to it?
What do you think?