Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Spin The Bible Wheel

In surfing the net, I discovered this, the Bible Wheel, developed by Richard Amiel McGough - www.BibleWheel.com [1]. It displays the books of the Bible in a two dimensional way, not simply as a linear list of books. The unifying feature of the Bible Wheel is mapping the books to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. As you might guess, the source of most of my info is www.BibleWheel.com [1].




If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.


It starts with the standard Protestant Bible, which has 66 books, 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books. The Catholic Bible has 73 books, all the same books as the Protestant Bible plus seven more called the Apocrypha - GotQuestions [2]. And the Hebrew Bible is different in yet other ways, more on that later. The 66 books are arranged in three concentric circles (more like a spiral really) of 22 books each, again, one for each Hebrew letter. It's way more interesting visually than three columns of a spreadsheet. What I find fascinating is internal structures of the Bible revealed. In a book written over the course of 1500 years by about 40 men - BibleQ [3], here are some coincidences revealed by the Bible Wheel.

  • That it works at all. It's convenient that 66 books makes three complete laps of the 22 letter alphabet.
  • The 5-12-5 pattern. Cycle one consists of the Torah (5 books), OT History (12 books), and Wisdom (5 books), total 22 books. Cycle two consists of Major Prophets (5 books), Minor Prophets (12 books), NT History, aka Gospels and Acts (5 books), total 22 books.
  • There are 22 Epistles in the New Testament if one counts Revelation as an Epistle. In English, epistle means letter.
  • Lots of three's. OT history is divided into 9 pre-exile books and 3 post-exile books. The Minor prophets are divided into 9 pre-exile and 3 post-exile. These post-exile books line up on the same "spokes" as the 3 Epistles to the scattered - James, 1 & 2 Peter.  
  • More three's. The 3 Synoptic Gospels line up on the same spokes as the 3 Epistles of John. McGough points out other patterns of three.
  • Five/Four patterns.  The Major Prophets are symmetric with the New Testament History books. They both consist of Five Books composed by Four Writers. McGough points out other 5/4 patterns.
  • McGough shows other patterns among the books as well.

The categories listed, like Major Prophets or Wisdom Books are not an invention of McGough. In fact the divisions are quite old, in use for over a thousand years.
Our Bible consists of sixty-six component parts. These are divided into two distinctive major collections, the Old and New Testaments. But each of these two Testaments, the one consisting of thirty-nine books, the other of twenty-seven, is found to be arranged in certain clearly homogenous groups; and in this connection careful investigation reveals the presence of a marvelous Divine design running through the whole. ... This presence of plan and design does not only pertain to the Bible in this general sense; it runs through all the different book-groups considered separately; and the more we follow it through in detail, so the more wonderful it becomes, until all possibility of its being mere coincidence is eliminated by over-whelming abundance of evidence that this is indeed the word of the living God - Baxter's Explore the Book [4]
Both Baxter and Scroggie followed the ancient Christian tradition that lists the sixty-six books under the three general categories (genres) of History, Prophecy, and Writings, the latter containing the subcategories of Wisdom (Didactic) Literature and Epistles (Letters). This tradition probably arose in Judaism, before Christianity was born, with the publication of the Septuagint (ca. 200 BC) which follows this categorical system -  Bible Wheel (chapter 2) [5].

Here's how the Bible Wheel looks with book names, showing the symmetry of the Old Testament.

Old Testament Symmetry

The Bible Wheel book then discusses other symmetries observable in the wheel. He also discusses the different ways the number seven shows up. I'll skip that discussion here, and jump to McGough's chapters on the design of the spokes. He ties the books on each spoke together, asserting they have a common theme. For example, Spoke one is the triplet (Genesis, Isaiah, Romans) which all speak of beginnings. "A quick review of Romans reveals it to be an intricate theological tapestry woven primarily with threads drawn from Genesis and Isaiah." - BibleWheel.com (chapter 5) [6]. Spoke 22 is (Song of Solomon, Acts, Revelation). In Song of Solomon, an earthly king receives his bride, In Acts, Jesus' bride the church is born on Pentecost, in Revelation, He receives His bride the church. He spends quite a bit of time "proving" this for Spokes 1 and 22, but not for the rest. If it is true that each Spoke has a theme, one could mine lots of interesting connections among the books.

There are a number of passages in the OT known as acrostics, which means each verse starts with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. McGough uses these acrostic passages to assert that the Hebrew letters and the books on that spoke share a deeper meaning. It is true that each Hebrew letter is named after something, aleph is ox, bet is house, gimel is camel, dalet is door, etc. Some teach that Hebrew words are word pictures based on the meanings of the letters. I'm not ready to accept that the three books on every spoke are related, much less related to the meaning of a specific Hebrew letter. That will take more study.

I was fascinated with the Bible Wheel when I first saw it, and remain so even after reading that McGough has debunked his own work, 15 years worth of work at that. I had some misgivings about the premise, but McGough has rejected it completely (though he leaves the website up), and turned against Christianity as well. I still find it a remarkable demonstration of God's hand in writing the Bible, and I hope to use it to mine the text of the Bible for interesting connections.

My biggest objection is that looking at the text as the 66 books of the Protestant Bible is not the only way to view it. The Hebrew Bible, approximately the same as the Old Testament, has always been mapped one to one with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, only there are 24 books mapped to a 24 letter alphabet, not 22. Two of the 22 letter alphabet have two pronunciations (P/F and S/SH), thus some count 24 letters - The Hebrew Alphabet [7]. The order and numbering of the Hebrew Bible is different from the order of the Protestant or Catholic Bibles. It is illustrated in a chart at Jewish and Christian Bibles [8].

The order of the New Testament has been altered as well. No books have been inserted or lost, but the order was changed.

This original order was rearranged by the Catholic Church in the Latin Vulgate version, in which Paul’s epistles were given first place -- ahead of the Judahite epistles which were relegated to second place. This gave the book of Romans a more prominent place in the New Testament as part of Rome’s bid for religious power. As a result, the Catholic Church effectively displaced and replaced the Judahites by displacing the "Jewish epistles" and replacing them with Paul’s epistles beginning with “Romans.”
Up until the 4th century A.D. all of the Church Fathers who list the New Testament books do so by placing the Judahite epistles FIRST, followed by Paul’s epistles - The Original Manuscript Order of the New Testament [9].
Restoring the order and numbering of the books would mess up McGough's Bible Wheel. Maybe it would reveal new insights - I tried putting the books in original order, no patterns appeared to me. And remember Hebrew reads right to left, Greek reads left to right, so the Protestant order only works in a translation, see The Unpublished Bible [10]. A Hebrew/Greek Bible would lend itself to a circular form, with no beginning and no end. Still, I can't deny the remarkable parallels among different sections of the Bible (in Protestant order), especially when considering it was written by 40-some authors over 1500 years.

Changing the order and numbering of the books calls into question the meaning of each spoke. There are certainly some parallels there which McGough shows for spokes 1 and 22, but he doesn't show the rest. Tying the spokes to letters in Hebrew? I guess I need more proof.

McGough's debunks the wheel saying he had confirmation bias, "the tendency to seek or interpret evidence favorable to already existing beliefs, and to ignore or reinterpret evidence unfavorable to already existing beliefs". Also called cherry picking, choosing data that supports your argument, and ignoring data that doesn't.

But the connections ARE real. When the Bible is viewed as 66 books in that order, certain parallels are revealed. It's a fairly large baby to throw out with the bathwater. I still like the Bible Wheel for what it reveals. Perhaps McGough tried to take the analogies too far. And even though he claims to have debunked it, for the time being, the website  www.BibleWheel.com [1] is still up. Enjoy it while you can, there is a lot of info there, I only hit some of the highlights.

References

1. http://www.biblewheel.com/
2. https://www.gotquestions.org/Catholic-Bible.html
3. http://bibleq.net/answer/1954/
4. https://www.amazon.com/Baxters-Explore-Book-Sidlow-Baxter/dp/0310206200
5. https://www.biblewheel.com/Book/Chapters/Chapt02.php
6. https://www.biblewheel.com/Book/Chapters/Chapt05.php
7. http://www.dummies.com/languages/hebrew/the-hebrew-alphabet/
8. http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Heb-Xn-Bibles.htm
9. http://hope-of-israel.org/manorder.html
10. http://jlfreeman-1.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-unpublished-bible.html

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Hearing The Voice Of God


Amos 8:11 gives this interesting prophecy "Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord GOD, "When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD."

In ancient times when copies of scripture were rare, it wouldn't be hard to imagine a scenario where copies went from rare to non-existent.  In today's world, there are billions of physical Bibles (more than 3.9 billion according to reference.com [1]), and online versions abound. So a famine of the word can't mean burning all the Bibles.  It could mean that preachers aren't allowed to preach the scriptures, calling verses against sin hate speech - Canada Supreme Court Rules [2], but it could mean something deeper, that no one hears from God anymore.  That is, He stops communicating directly with anyone right now.


Which brings up the question "how God does talk to people?" We might imagine something spectacular, like the thundering voice on Mount Sinai when He gave the Ten Commandments.  But that's the only time He ever did that.  Elijah experienced God's voice as a still small voice - 1Kings 19:12.  Some translations say low whisper, some say gentle blowing. I don't think I want to hear God like thunder, listening for a low whisper sounds better to me.

But can we expect to hear God's voice, even as a whisper? Let's review the ways we already know that God speaks to us.

You Can Read God's Mind
Listen to His written word, the Bible. Rather than wanting a direct revelation from God in the form of an audible voice, we should listen to what He has already said.  The Bible contains much instruction, maybe the answer to your question is already written down.  Sometimes the Bible can be hard to understand, and we may need a guide - Acts 8:31.  Most churches have articles published on a wide range of topics, a good source to listen to.  If not, an Internet search will yield articles on all kinds of Bible  topics - beware you might get more than one viewpoint. (Doing a search for "hearing the voice of God" yielded over 30 books on the subject. If I had known that earlier, I wouldn't have written this article.) Listen to your elders, the ministry placed in the church as helpers of your joy.  For that matter, listen to friends and family, children too.  Sometimes even your enemies speak the truth.  Sometimes God speaks to us by circumstances in our lives - the consequences of our own actions give us feedback on those actions, good or bad.  Sometimes, things just work out. Sometimes it feels like we got a tap on the shoulder.

I'm not saying God doesn't speak to people today in an audible voice or even in dreams or visions, but there are more ordinary ways to receive a "word" from God. I don't think I've ever heard an audible voice from God, maybe a "loud thought" now and then.  I've asked other church members about this, and while some people admit to witnessing or experiencing miracles, very few ever admit to hearing an audible voice.  It's more like this: what you put into your mind comes back in your thoughts.  If you study a subject, say math, a new language, or music, you will begin to think about it even when you're not studying it at the moment.  For instance, when learning a language, a point will come when you find yourself thinking in that language.  When practicing music, the piece will just come to mind.  I've had songs in my head for days, even weeks, while I'm learning them.  If the music doesn't come to mind, you're not practicing enough.  Likewise with the Bible, if you read/study it enough, you will begin to think with it. The Bible is called God's word, it is His voice. If you fill your head with the Bible, you will think with the Bible.  If you fill your head with video games, what do you expect? I think it is the same with dreams, if you are immersed in a subject, it is likely you will dream about it.

Inspiration Or?


When trying to solve a problem, say math, you may spend a lot of time thinking about the problem, often in a flash of insight, the answer becomes clear.  This isn't necessarily God giving you inspiration, though it could be, it's how the mind works - immerse yourself in the problem, incubate, and often the answer comes suddenly.  "One of the first modern descriptions of creativity is in Graham Wallace's 1926 book 'The Art of Thought', where he explained the above stages as 'preparation, incubation, illumination and verification'." - Creating Minds [3]. Likewise with the Bible, whether you're seeking a solution to a life problem, or seeking understanding of a scripture, or a doctrine, or a prophecy, the method is basically the same, immersion and incubation.  But it is also easy to deceive oneself at this stage.  If we approach a question with a preconceived answer, God will let us keep our preconceived answer - it depends on the "idols in our hearts" Ezekiel 14:1-11.  People will convince themselves that God is blessing their actions simply because they "prayed about it".

When we have insights to something like math problems, or computer problems, we still have to verify those insights, that is, finish working the problem.  Sometimes, ideas are wrong.  But with religion, people seem willing to take the first "insight" that comes to them without verifying it.  Is it REALLY from God? Or your own imagination? Or the enemy? Satan is described as the "prince of the power of the air" Eph 2:2.  That doesn't mean power over radio waves, though the analogy with radio waves may help us understand how he works.  It seems to me it means he has the power to broadcast thoughts to us, our brains being like the receiver.  Some will accept those thoughts more readily than others.  But inspiration from God will not contradict the Bible, yet many churches' doctrines do, and many people's insights do too.  And I'm starting to believe the notion that there must be at least two witnesses if it is really from God.  Maybe you'll get an idea, then corroboration comes, a second witness if you will.  As a second witness, perhaps you randomly read a relevant Bible verse, or the same topic comes up in conversation, or circumstances just seem to work out.  Again, there is the danger of seeing an answer because you want to. "Still, a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest" - The Boxer, lyrics by Paul Simon. Here's how Amy E. Brucker [4] described incubation results (I don't endorse all that she says).

  • You may suddenly see things you didn’t see before.
  • Related blog posts, videos, and articles may appear as if by magic.
  • You might overhear conversations about your topic.
  • Or “hear” answers in your head while day dreaming.
  • And of course, you’re likely to have sleeping dreams about your theme, too.
  • it seems clear that total immersion in a topic will elicit helpful dreams.


Why Would You Want To Hear God's Voice?


Daniel had a vision, and fasted for 21 days for understanding.
“Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words - Daniel 10:12.
Asking for wisdom is actually scriptural.
James 1:5 But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him.

On a more mundane level, sometimes we want answers to questions the Bible doesn't address, like shall I take this job offer? Shall I marry this person?  We may desire comfort, or a sign that God loves us - believers have doubts sometimes. I have felt forsaken, I know the Bible says "I will never leave you or forsake you" - Deut 31:6, Heb 13:5, but I felt it anyway. He did not speak to me audibly however.

This sums up why one would want to hear God's voice.

John 10:27-28 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Do You REALLY Want To Hear God's Voice?


Ancient Israel decided they didn't want to hear God's voice - Exodus 20:19. They told Moses to talk to God, then tell them what He said. The pattern was established at Sinai, and continues till now - people don't really want to hear God speak.

The thing is that if God actually speaks to you audibly, He probably has a job for you. One place I'm reading about people hearing God's voice, or having dreams and visions is in the Muslim world, people being called to Christ. But they are not being called to come to America where it is safe, they are often sent to witness to other Muslims at great personal risk - A Harvest Of Muslims [5]. Also see "DREAMS AND VISIONS: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World?" [6] by Tom Doyle. 

What about modern day prophets? Do they hear God's voice? Maybe. Apply this test "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." - Isaiah 8:20. The problem is that we want our leaders to follow God, but don't trust them if they say "God spoke to me and said..."

To whom more is given, more is expected, so if you hear His voice audibly, be prepared to listen, He has a message, and possibly a job, for you.

Amos predicted a famine of the Word, possibly meaning that no one hears the voice of God anymore. It may be no one is listening anymore.

John 8:47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

References

1. https://www.reference.com/world-view/many-copies-bible-sold-e9696e587c3244b6#
2. http://christiannews.net/2013/02/28/canadian-supreme-court-rules-biblical-speech-opposing-homosexual-behavior-is-a-hate-crime/
3. http://creatingminds.org/tools/incubation.htm
4. http://thedreamtribe.com/awesome-dream-incubation-results/
5. http://jlfreeman-1.blogspot.com/2016/06/a-harvest-of-muslims.html
6. https://www.amazon.com/DREAMS-VISIONS-Jesus-Awakening-Muslim-ebook/dp/B0078FAA3M 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Religious Nutjob

Yes, I've been called a religious nutjob. As far as I know, not for anything I've written here. It was by a friend, that I've known for decades, a self declared atheist. He felt free to say derogatory things about God and believers, but once, just once, I quoted Psalms 14:1 to him, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'". I wasn't actually saying that about him, but a hypothetical person, nonetheless he unfriended me from Facebook that day. It may not have been the wisest thing to say, but when people insult God or believers, sometimes I get defensive. Years later he posted on a mutual friend's page that I was a "religious nutjob". Apparently I made an impression - but lost a friend.



If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.


What is a religious nutjob anyway? When I look at what people do in the name of God, I am sometimes embarrassed to call myself a believer. Consider these.

Cult Suicides


Remember Jim Jones? He convinced 600 people to take their own lives and the lives of 300 children.
In 1978, media reports surfaced that human rights abuses were taking place in Peoples Temple's Jonestown, Guyana headquarters. United States Congressman Leo Ryan led a delegation into the commune to investigate what was going on; Ryan and others were murdered by gunfire while boarding a return flight with defectors. Jones subsequently committed a mass murder-suicide of 918 of his followers in Jonestown, Guyana. Nearly three hundred children were murdered, almost all of them by cyanide poisoning via a Flavor Aid mix. This historical episode gave rise to the ubiquitous American-English expression "drinking the Kool-Aid". Wikipedia(Jim Jones) [1]
Remember Heaven's Gate? Marshall Applewhite convinced his followers that after death they would journey to a spaceship behind Hale-Bopp comet. And I can't even convince people to try pickled fish...
On March 27, 1997, 39 followers of Heaven's Gate died in a mass suicide in Rancho Santa Fe, California, which borders San Diego to the north. These people believed, according to the teachings of their group, that through their suicides they were "exiting their human vessels" so that their souls could go on a journey aboard a spaceship they believed to be following comet Hale–Bopp. Some male members of the group underwent voluntary castration in preparation for the genderless life they believed awaited them after the suicide.  Wikipedia(Religiously_motivated_suicides) [2]. Also see Wikipedia(Heaven's Gate) [3]


Regardless of how you view the actions of the government concerning the Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas, here is some background.

The Waco siege was a siege of a compound belonging to the group Branch Davidians by American federal and Texas state law enforcement and US military between February 28 and April 19, 1993. The Branch Davidians, a sect that separated in 1955 from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was led by David Koresh and lived at Mount Carmel Center ranch near Waco. The group was suspected of weapons violations, causing a search and arrest warrant to be obtained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
On August 5, 1989, Vernon Howell  (later known as David Koresh) released the "New Light" audio tape, in which he stated he had been told by God to procreate with the women in the group to establish a "House of David" of his "special people". This involved separating married couples in the group and agreeing that only he could have sexual relations with the wives, while the men should observe celibacy. Wikipedia(Waco siege) [4]

TEOTWAWKI


Predicting "The End Of The World As We Know It" has been popular for a long time.  According to Wikipedia(List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events) [5], it appears to have started a few years after Jesus said "I will come again" - John 14:3, and ascended to heaven; increasing in intensity near year 1000, and really ramping up in the 20th century. Wikipedia lists 173 failed End-Of-World predictions, with some well known names: Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther, Isaac Newton, John Wesley, Louis Farrakhan, Nostradamus. Yes, my church made the list. And it is still happening. I can see the temptation - the Bible does predict a cataclysmic end of this world, and it really does look like we are living in the last days, so it has to be soon, right? But the Bible has something to say about false prophets.
Deut 18:22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
Let's look at some recent examples.

Remember Harold Camping? He made the list by picking a couple different dates.

Camping predicted that Jesus Christ would return to Earth on May 21, 2011, whereupon the saved would be taken up to heaven in the rapture, and that there would follow five months of fire, brimstone and plagues on Earth, with millions of people dying each day, culminating on October 21, 2011, with the final destruction of the world. He had previously predicted that Judgment Day would occur on or about September 6, 1994.
His prediction for May 21, 2011, was widely reported, in part because of a large-scale publicity campaign by Family Radio, and it prompted ridicule from atheist organizations. Wikipedia(Harold Camping) [6]

At least Harold admitted his mistakes and quit setting dates. And as far as I know, he didn't try to have sex with all his female followers.
Mr. Camping conceded that he had been wrong about the timing and had no evidence that the world would end soon. He offered an apology for his erroneous statements, which he called “sinful,” and hinted that his days of apocalyptic warnings were over. NY Times(Harold Camping Dies) [7]


 More recently (2017),  David Meade made the list predicting that a planet called Nibiru will come close to earth.
David Meade, the Christian nutjob numerologist who predicted the end of the world for Saturday (Sept 23, 2017) now says we’ll all die in October - Techly(Christian Numerologist) [8]


NASA plainly says Nibiru is a hoax, though recently (Oct 2017) they do admit there is something big out there.
Nibiru and other stories about wayward planets are an Internet hoax. There is no factual basis for these claims. If Nibiru or Planet X were real and headed for an encounter with the Earth in 2012, astronomers would have been tracking it for at least the past decade, and it would be visible by now to the naked eye. Obviously, it does not exist -NASA(Beyond 2012) [9].
If a planet is there, it's extremely distant and will stay that way (with no chance -- in case you're wondering -- of ever colliding with Earth, or bringing "days of darkness").It is a possible "Planet Nine" -- a world perhaps 10 times the mass of Earth and 20 times farther from the sun than Neptune. The signs so far are indirect, mainly its gravitational footprints, but that adds up to a compelling case nonetheless - NASA-JPL(Super Earth) [10].

High tech AI prophet Anthony Levandowski did not make the list, but here's what he is prophesying.
Many people in Silicon Valley believe in the Singularity—the day in our near future when computers will surpass humans in intelligence and kick off a feedback loop of unfathomable change. 
When that day comes, Anthony Levandowski will be firmly on the side of the machines. In September 2015, the multi-millionaire engineer founded a religious organization called Way of the Future. Its purpose, according to previously unreported state filings, is nothing less than to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence.” Wired(God Is A Bot) [11]. See also The Birth Ritual of AI [12].

I wish I was done, and I could end here.

Abuse


So far we've looked at fairly egregious examples of nutjobbery. But there's more, depending on one's definition - people abusing the ones they're supposed to be caring for seems like the work of a nutjob. Mainstream churches may have avoided mass suicides and false prophets (not really), but they have their share of credibility issues. Consider all the child sex abuse cases against the Catholic Church.  Thousands of priests all over the world molested kids and the Catholic Church covered it up.

May 7, 2014, GENEVA -- The Vatican revealed Tuesday that over the past decade, it has defrocked 848 priests who raped or molested children and sanctioned another 2,572 with lesser penalties, providing the first ever breakdown of how it handled the more than 3,400 cases of abuse reported to the Holy See since 2004 - CBS News(Vatican Reveals) [13].

The thing is, the Protestant preachers do the same.
Among other findings, CMR reports that the rate of sexual abuse instances across all denominations is virtually the same, and that the perpetrators are more likely to be volunteers than clergy. According to the 1999 survey data, 42 percent of those accused of child sexual abuse were volunteers and 25 percent were paid staff (some of whom were not necessarily clergy) - Ethics Daily [14]
But as I have said repeatedly over the last few years, the problem of sexual abuse of minors is not an issue of religious affiliation because there is nothing religious about abusing children. The phenomenon of sexual abuse of minors in church settings is the story of sick human beings taking advantage of their position of moral authority to prey on the weak and vulnerable - Protestant Clergy Abuse [15].

I wish I was done now.

From Theology To Racism To Holocaust


What about the nutjobbery of using religion to justify ethnic cleansing? The Catholic Church taught antisemitism for some 1500 years and acted surprised when Hitler took it to the extreme. In some ways, the holocaust was a logical end of the church's teachings. I've written more about this in The Cross At Auschwitz [16].
“I (Hitler) have been attacked because of my handling of the Jewish question. The Catholic Church considered the Jews pestilent for fifteen hundred years, put them into ghettos, etc., because it recognized the Jews for what they were. April 26, 1933 - Wikipedia(Christianity and Antisemitism) [17].

 Again, not just the Catholics, Martin Luther also taught antisemitism.
Martin Luther is a pivotal Christian figure, not only because he was the father of the Protestant movement, but also because as one of history’s greatest antisemites he unwittingly contributed to the establishment of the foundation on which Nazi antisemitism was built - Six Million Crucifixions [18].

I really wish I was done now.

So Many Religions From One Book


Then there is the nutjobbery of endless church splits. Today there are 33,000 denominations calling themselves Christian. It is not humanly possible to compare all these religions that claim to base their beliefs on the same book. The book that says "For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah,' and will deceive many." - Matt 24:5, that is, teaching that Jesus is the Messiah, yet STILL deceiving many.  These churches teach quite different things about what the Bible says. How can the truth be known? Some teach God is a Trinity, some say Two, some say One. Some teach the afterlife is heaven or hell, some don't. Some teach prophecy is already fulfilled, some don't. Some attend church on Sabbath, some attend on Sunday. All from one book. How indeed can the truth be known?

The seeds of division were sown even in New Testament times, but 33,000?  How do we know there are 33,000? And what's a denomination anyway? It has been the life work of David B. Barrett to collate this information - Wikipedia(World Christian Encyclopedia) [18]. Here is what Dave Armstrong [20] says about it.

The World Christian Encyclopedia by David B. Barrett, George T. Kurian, and Todd M. Johnson (2001 edition). 
Never has there been such a thorough reference as the two large volumes, running 1,699 pages, of the World Christian Encyclopedia, published by Oxford University Press. Barrett has doggedly visited most of the lands in person, collecting raw material, including national census figures and United Nations data, and recruiting the 444 specialists who feed him material. 
As defined here, world Christianity consists of 6 major ecclesiastico-cultural blocs, divided into 300 major ecclesiastical traditions, composed of over 33,000 distinct denominations in 238 countries. 
Independents (about 22000)
Protestants (about 9000)
"Marginals" (about 1600)
Orthodox (781)
Roman Catholics (242)
Anglicans (168)

But Wait, There's More


More nutjobbery, that is. I'm going to skip the Inquisition, Witch trials,  and burning heretics at the stake. I'm going to skip other religions that teach and practice suicide bombings, terrorism, honor killings, and killing infidels in the name of God. I'm going to just call them religious nutjobs. I will stick to Christianity, because I am a believer. But it's too easy to see how "the name of God  is evil spoken of among the nations because of you" - Rom 2:24.

When people speak about religious nutjobs, they often talk about zealous Christians who are "in their face" or "shoving religion down their throat", or apparently someone who calls atheists fools.  I learned that the word translated "fool" means more than I thought.
In this text, the Hebrew word is nabal, which often refers to an impious person who has no perception of ethical or religious truth. The meaning of the text is not “unintelligent people do not believe in God.” Rather, the meaning of the text is “sinful people do not believe in God.” - GotQuestions [21].
And who doesn't sin? Meaning we are all nabal at times.  There was a man named Nabal in the Bible, who was known to live up to his name. Even his wife Abigail said to David before he was king, "Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him." - 1 Sam 25:25. Don't be like Nabal.

Why Doesn't God Just ...?




In a sense though, God doesn't make it easy. We see the wars, the death, illness, and tragedy, the global suffering, and wonder why doesn't God stop it? Those antagonistic towards God see what they think is a contradiction, that if God is all powerful, and all loving, how can He let these horrors go on? How can a Christian apologist explain that one? I'm not aware of anyone asking that about Allah.

The Truth Is In There



It looks like I've been making the atheist's case. When one looks at the false religion, the hypocrisy, even the wars and so on, all of these in God's name, it's hard to want to be in that number. How can a believer say "But MY religion is different"? In other words,

How Do You Preach The Gospel To An Atheist?


My first thought was to show them logically that God exists, and that the Bible is His word to mankind. My second thought was that probably has never worked in all of history. My third thought was "miracles", but I'm not in charge of making miracles. What I can tell an atheist is that God changed my life. If friends from my twenties happen to read my blog, they probably wonder who am I to write such things? My church friends probably wonder the same thing. I know at times I do. Nowadays I sometimes refer to my "colorful past", but it wasn't colorful, it was ugly. See, it's all personal to me, I have Someone who literally saved me. The church talks about God opening one's mind, and from the beginning (in my twenties), God changed the way I think. I understand the Bible in ways I couldn't before. One simple test is this, "by their fruits you shall know them" - Matt 7:20. Thanks to God, my fruits are different from what they were.

Sadly, my fruits apparently weren't enough to prevent the nutjob label. Thirty years of friendship and working together couldn't stand up to quoting one verse. I know I don't live up to the ideal. I worry that my example, even a good example, could actually drive someone away from God. Do I regret quoting that verse? Yes and no. I regret losing a friend, I don't regret speaking the truth. 


What about all the people I mentioned above? Look at their fruits - killings, false prophecies, sex abuse, and more killings. I would say most of them were using religion as a cloak for their own evil. I would say perhaps all of them were deceived, even if they started out on the right track. Every suicide cult, every false prophecy, every sex abuse scandal, every killing in the name of God, every hypocrisy makes people shrink back. All of them make God look bad.




When this atheist looks up into the night sky, he experiences awe. That's good and proper, but it looks to me like awe in the Big Bang, rather than the One who made the Big Bang. He reaches nearly the same question as King David in Psalm 8 "What is man that Thou art mindful of him?"
During clear, dark nights, when I look up at the endless starry infinity and try to hold that entire expanse in my head, and discover anew that this is an impossible task – at such times, I experience a genuine sense of awe. The universe we live in is a far greater and more incredible place than we can imagine.

And in comparison to all this, what are we? What is the place of humanity in the grand scheme of things? 
We are, in a sense, the universe examining itself. From our tiny and remote corner of the cosmos, we have gazed across the light-years, unraveled the natural laws that hold on the very largest of scales, and traced our own origins all the way back to the Big Bang. How can such profound understanding not instill in us a sense of awe? - In Awe Of Everything [22]

When an atheist looks at life and sees a long chain of random events, I see incredible design, and stand in wonder (more awe). When an atheist looks at suffering and thinks God is uncaring, I see Him playing the long game to win as many people as He can. And when I suffer whether it was my fault or not, I know in the end He will make it right. We can't think God should solve the world's suffering our way and on our schedule. Jesus did say He would come again, false prophets notwithstanding, and when He does, He will set things right His way and on His schedule.

References

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Jones
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_suicide#Religiously_motivated_suicides
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven%27s_Gate_%28religious_group%29
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waco_siege
5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events
6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Camping
7. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/us/harold-camping-radio-entrepreneur-who-predicted-worlds-end-dies-at-92.html
8. https://www.techly.com.au/2017/09/25/christian-numerologist-updates-doomsday-prediction-to-october/
9. https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012.html
10. https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2017-259
11. https://www.wired.com/story/god-is-a-bot-and-anthony-levandowski-is-his-messenger/
12. https://hiddeninthecrag.com/2017/10/14/the-birth-ritual-of-ai/
13. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/vatican-reveals-how-many-priests-defrocked-for-sex-abuse-since-2004/
14. http://www.ethicsdaily.com/news.php?viewStory=16146
15. https://www.facebook.com/notes/leonard-alt/147-protestant-clergy-abuse-equals-or-exceeds-catholic-clergy-abuse/431640530219229
16. http://jlfreeman-1.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-cross-at-auschwitz.html
17. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_and_antisemitism
18. http://www.sixmillioncrucifixions.com/Home.html
19. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Christian_Encyclopedia
20. http://philvaz.com/apologetics/a120.htm
21. https://www.gotquestions.org/fool-heart-no-God.html
22. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/essays/in-awe-of-everything/

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Tale Of Two Sons

Abraham and Isaac
Jews and Christians alike are familiar with the story in Gen 22 where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac. Much has been written about it, and it even is referred to simply as the Binding or Akedah in Hebrew. It is a famous story. "It is one of the most widely read passages of Scripture in the Jewish liturgy, recited during every morning service and also during Rosh Hashanah" - The Akedah - the Binding of Isaac [1]. And believers know that the Binding is a foreshadow of God the Father sacrificing his Son Jesus Christ. Searching for parallels between Isaac and Jesus yields at least 30 Similarities [2], including these, you can easily find other lists.

  • Each son is called the only son of his father.
  • The sons had been born with divine intervention.
  • Both were named by God before birth
  • The son was laid upon the wood/cross, which they carried.
  • Both were obedient unto death.
  • The sacrifices take place near each other (Mt. Moriah OT, Mt. Calvary NT).


If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

But "Abraham had TWO sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman" - Galatians 4:22. In the Gen 22 account, Isaac is referred to as Abraham's only son "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you." There are several explanations of this seeming contradiction - Yahoo Answers [3].
  • "Abram" was the father of Ishmael and "Abraham" was the father of Isaac: thus "Abraham" had only one son.
  • Ishmael was the son of a concubine and not an heir.
  • Ishmael and Hagar had been disowned by and legally removed from the family.
  • Isaac is the only son of the promise, the covenant.

Ishmael was 13 years older than Isaac
Paul uses the two sons of Abraham to talk about the two covenants. But there is another, older connection between the boys. While Genesis 22 gets read frequently, Genesis 21 is not so widely known. Genesis 21 is the account of Ishmael and Hagar being banished from the family of Abraham. Where else have we seen this - one sacrificed, one sent away?

Like Cain and Abel [4], the story of Isaac and Ishmael foreshadows a ceremony at the Tabernacle hundreds of years later. Consider this, one was (almost) sacrificed, one was sent away. This is exactly what happens during Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement in English. Two goats were selected, one goat sacrificed for the Lord, and one goat (Azazel) to be removed, Azazel in Hebrew is often translated scapegoat in English. The Azazel goat bore the guilt of the nation of Israel. This has been brought out by Julia Blum in her book Abraham Had Two Sons [5].

Consider these very specific parallels

The High Priest lays hands on the live goat
and puts the sins of Israel on its head
Then he shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering -  Lev 16:15
Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son (Isaac). - Gen 22:10

Send it (Azazel) away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. - Lev 16:21
He (Abraham) gave it and the boy (Ishmael) to Hagar, and sent her away. - Gen 21:14

He shall release the goat in the wilderness. - Lev 16:22
Ishmael grew and dwelt in the wilderness. Gen 21:20

The supernatural son Isaac represents righteousness, and he was (almost) sacrificed. The natural son Ishmael represents sin and was sent away. It is not a perfect parallel with Leviticus 16 because the order is backwards. Ishmael was sent away before Isaac was sacrificed. And of course Isaac wasn't actually killed like the goat. And unlike the Azazel, Ishmael must have stayed in contact because we read in Genesis 25:7 that both Isaac and Ishmael buried their father Abraham.

But like Cain and Abel [4], the parallel between Isaac and Ishmael with the two goats of Leviticus 16 is there.

But God Had Two Sons


We realize that Isaac (and the first goat) represent Jesus the Messiah as we discussed above. But what about Ishmael and the Azazel goat? Who do they represent?

The Churches of God teach that Satan is represented by the Azazel goat. See how this will play out in the future.
Rev 20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.

God: the most popular
scapegoat for our sins
The dragon is Satan, the Azazel who "shall bear on itself all their iniquities" because he "deceived the nations". The angel is the "man who stands in readiness" some translations say "a fit man", the abyss is the wilderness. You can read more about The Day of Atonement at United Church of God God's Holy Day Plan - Atonement [6].

Others disagree with this interpretation, and teach that Jesus fulfills the symbolism of of the both goats. As best I can tell, because Jesus is righteous, He does not fit the symbolism associated with Azazel.

But we just saw other lesser types of the two goats, like Cain and Abel, and like Isaac and Ishmael, perhaps there is another type that fulfills the two goats. That is, maybe there is an Old Testament fulfillment of the two goats. Julia Blum makes that argument in Abraham Had Two Sons [5].

Christians are used to the phrase "son of God". Plenty of verses show that believers are considered sons of God even in this life, like this one, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" -  Romans 8:14. But there are only two that God calls "My Son" and "firstborn" in the Bible. Most will guess Jesus as one of them, "Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My Son (Jesus), My Chosen One; listen to Him!” - Luke 9:35. And  "He (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead so that he himself may become first in all things." - Col 1:18.

The other is the nation of Israel, "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, Thus says the Lord, Israel is My son, My firstborn." - Exodus 4:22. Both points in one verse. We don't normally think of an entire nation as a son, but that's what it says.

It's straightforward to see that Jesus fulfills the type of the sacrificed goat. How does the nation of Israel fulfill the type of the Azazel? Julia Blum:

Every Christian and Messianic believer knows that Genesis 22 symbolizes the Sacrifice of Yeshua and that Isaac going to the altar in Genesis 22 is a type of Yeshua. However, if we follow this logic, then we realize that Genesis 21 symbolizes the part of the sacrifice that was sent–alive–to bear the sins and iniquities of the peoples. Thus, Ishmael, the son who was sent into the wilderness, is a type of… Israel, the scapegoat!

Possible migration of the ten "lost" tribes
Consider what happened to the nation of Israel, it was one kingdom under Kings Saul, David and Solomon. Then in the days of Solomon's son, it split in two, the Southern kingdom dominated by the tribe of Judah, the Northern kingdom dominated by the tribe of Ephraim, but also called Samaria. The Northern kingdom fell away from God more quickly than the Southern kingdom, and it was exiled first, becoming known as the Ten Lost Tribes. Read a more thorough history at The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy [7].

2 Kings 7:23 The LORD removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day.
The Southern kingdom were more righteous, but their sins caught up with them and were also taken captive.

Like the Assyrians, the Babylonians deported vanquished peoples to maintain tighter control over conquered territories.
As their cousins in the northern kingdom of Israel fell into captivity by Assyria more than a century earlier, Judah's inhabitants now were taken to Babylon. The Downfall of Judah—Exile to Babylon [8]

Both kingdoms were exiled due to idolatry, exile being likened to the wilderness. The Jews never lost their national identity like the rest of the tribes of Israel.

That is the parallel with the Azazel goat, Israel the firstborn son was exiled, sent away. Jesus, also called the firstborn son, parallels the first goat, sacrificed for sin.  And in a counter-intuitive twist, in this instance Ishmael represents Israel. Israel was sent away before Jesus was sacrificed like Ishmael was sent away before Isaac was (almost) sacrificed. In a sense, the second goat was a prophecy that Israel would be exiled to the wilderness of this world. Judah returned to Jerusalem, but was exiled again after the destruction of the second Temple in 70AD, miraculously returning to their homeland in the 20th century. That is, Judah was sent away after Jesus' sacrifice.

Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, one was sacrificed, one was sent away.

God had two sons, Jesus and the nation of Israel, one was sacrificed, one was sent away.


References

1. http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Prayers/Daily_Prayers/Akedah/akedah.html
2. https://derekspain.com/2014/03/10/the-answers-30-similarities/
3. https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071211132625AACGfxt
4. http://jlfreeman-1.blogspot.com/2016/08/a-tale-of-two-siblings.html
5. https://www.amazon.com/Abraham-Had-Sons-Julia-Blum/dp/1517737966
6. https://www.ucg.org/bible-study-tools/booklets/gods-holy-day-plan-the-promise-of-hope-for-all-mankind/atonement-removal
7. https://www.ucg.org/bible-study-tools/booklets/the-united-states-and-britain-in-bible-prophecy
8. http://www.ucg.ca/booklets/bible-and-archaeology-part-2/downfall-judah-exile-babylon

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Work Versus Work

I am a Sabbath keeper, but I'm not Jewish. Most people have some idea of what Sabbath means, many can probably recite the commandment "Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy". And many can tell when the Sabbath occurs whether they themselves keep it or not. But even in a small congregation, people will differ on HOW to keep it holy. For instance,
  • Is it OK to watch TV?
  • Read a book?
  • Do household chores?
  • Eat in a restaurant?
  • Drive a car?
  • Turn on lights?
  • Cook a meal?
There are two Hebrew words translated as work, avodah and melacha, both used in the Sabbath commandment. "Six days shall you avodah, and do all your melacha." - Exodus 20:8. And in Genesis 2:2-3, it says that God rested from HIS melacha in creating the Sabbath day. Well, I thought it would be easy and helpful to understand the difference between the two words for work, so that I too could rest from my avodah and my melacha on the Sabbath. Not as easy as I thought.



If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.



Avodah seems to be the easier word to define. It generally means the labor we do, especially to earn a living, or the kind of work that makes one tired, also described as obligatory work. When God gave the Ten Commandments [1], the first thing He says is "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." - Exodus 20:2. That word slavery, also translated bondage, is avodah. Do avodah type work, then rest. The word avodah is also translated worship in the context of the work done in the Tabernacle.



Melacha is a little harder to define. It says God rested from melacha, not avodah. I think it is safe to say that God does not tire out like man, and didn't need rest like us. It says three times in Genesis 2 that He rested from His melacha, which was His work of creating - not like creating the heavens and the earth, which He created out of nothing, but taking that creation, specifically earth,  and fashioning it into something new. He fashioned the dry land, created plants and animals and mankind. He created the heavens and the earth, He made the plants, animals, and man. Mankind has a limited ability to fashion the world into new things too, that is, we make stuff according to our will. "Melacha is transforming into a higher state, through intelligent intervention." - Big Creator, Little Creator [2]. It sounds like entropy [3] to me, something else I don't understand.

Is the Sabbath a prohibition on creating, ie. a prohibition on making stuff? In some ways, we can't help but transform things into a higher state. Even making a cup of tea, or toasting a slice of bread transform the universe a little.

Not My 39 Rules


Jewish rabbis define melacha as any activity which would have been necessary to build the Tabernacle in the wilderness - What is the Shabbath? [4] They list 39 such activities. At first, it seems like a good idea to simply list what can and can't be done, no more struggling to figure it out. But the 39 rules become contradictory and impossible to observe in their own right. For example, it is forbidden to turn on a light switch, except by an automatic timer. Even the light bulb in your refrigerator must be unscrewed on Friday lest it come on when you open the door. The original rule this is based on was not to kindle a fire on the Sabbath. I see their sincerity, but can't agree with their conclusion - as best I understand it, electricity is not fire. It seems that the 39 rules violate the Torah itself, ""You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you." - Deut 4:2. And they kind of admit the 39 are added, "The Torah specifically mentions two melachot, kindling a fire and carrying." - Melacha - A Unique Definition of Work [5], two, not 39.

As another example, some Jewish people employ a Sabbath goy, goy not guy. This is a non Jew who does the things the Jew "can't" do, like light candles, turn on lights, etc. My problem with that is the Sabbath command is for everyone in your household, "but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you." - Exodus 20:10. That is, it forbids your servants from working too, meaning others doing work on your behalf - The Shabbat Goy [6].



Nor are all Jews in agreement on melacha however. A sect of Jews call Karaites don't accept the 39 rules of the Rabbis. Neither do they agree about kindling a fire. "The Sages forbid both lighting a fire on Shabbat and leaving a fire burning on Shabbat that was lit before Shabbat" - Mikdash Me'at [7], meaning no hot meals. (At the other end of the spectrum, the United Church of God teaches "God, it appears, was telling them to not kindle industrial fires on the Sabbath" - No Fire on the Sabbath? [8]). The Karaites also interpret the prohibition on carrying differently too - Mikdash Me'at [7].

I do admire the Jewish people. Of all the sons of Jacob, they are the only tribe to preserve the Hebrew language, the scrolls, the history, and the culture of ancient Israel. And I have learned much about the Bible from Jewish sources.

Christians in general don't even care about the Sabbath question because they believe the Ten Commandments, including the Sabbath, were done away with. They weren't. Or they believe Sunday is the Sabbath and apply some of the Biblical prohibitions to Sunday, but not as strictly as the Jews.

But doesn't this all seem too hard? (And I haven't shown the half of it) Especially for the Sabbath commandment since "the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" - Mark 2:27. And don't forget "call the Sabbath a delight" - Isaiah 58:13. I had sought an easy way to help me decide if an activity should be embraced or avoided on the Sabbath, and I found no easy way. It is tempting to make a list of do's and don'ts, but the lists I've seen don't work. They were written before the light bulb, and couldn't have anticipated it. Or the toaster, or the electric oven, or the microwave oven. Or plumbing.

After all the articles I've read and the research I've done, I don't feel I have the answer to "what is melacha?". The best I can summarize it is this, avodah is repetitive work, melacha is creative work. Presumably, the people who heard the command at Sinai knew what it meant. The only real guide is the Bible itself, but we sometimes need some help interpreting and understanding the text. Unfortunately, it seems there is not a verse in the Bible that people, even believers in the same congregation, don't disagree about. An old joke goes, "if you have two Jews, you have three opinions". I think that's people in general, not just Jews.

So let me examine the two melachot we do have from the Bible and give my uncredentialed opinions. I don't believe we can treat interpretations like a smorgasbord, picking whichever meaning we find most convenient, we need a Biblical basis.

Kindle a Fire


Exodus 35:3 “You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the sabbath day.”. Billions of people live in cold climates where a heating fire is a necessity, not a luxury. So it can't be talking about a heating fire. At the other extreme, is it forbidding the lighting of a candle? The rabbis make a rule that you must burn Sabbath candles, then forbid you to light them. While we have electric lights today, in the before time, candles were light. We all know the perils of getting up in the dark without light. "It can hardly be thought that this is to be taken in the strictest sense, as an entire prohibition of kindling a fire and the use of it on that day, which is so absolutely useful, and needful" -  Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible [9]. Gill continues "and even for the preparation of food, which must be had on that day as on others, the sabbath being not a fast, but rather a festival." I like what Susan Hooge [10] wrote about kindling a fire on the Sabbath, "The whole focus is on the kindle part… it is not on the cooking or heating aspect of a fire." That is, in those days, there was a difference between starting a fire from last night's ember and kindling a fire from scratch.

What about cooking on the Sabbath? This generates lots of strong opinions. Even people who teach against it admit to making coffee or toast, cooking in the strictest sense. Their objection is based on transforming the ingredients from raw to cooked, so to them reheating leftovers is OK, but cooking is not. Remember that melacha involves transforming the universe according to our will. The only verse in the Bible about cooking on the Sabbath concerns manna, at best I find it ambiguous.

Exodus 16: 23 Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” 24 So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul nor was there any worm in it. 25 Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field.
Some interpret the bake and boil to mean baking and boiling for two days worth, that is cooking ahead and the "left over" refers to leftover cooked manna. Some interpret the bake and boil to mean baking and boiling for that day (Friday), and the raw manna was left to be baked and boiled on the Sabbath. Otherwise why would it mention the manna not growing worms as on other days? Or that you will not find "it" in the field? I favor baking and boiling each day (option 2). As for making an elaborate meal from scratch, is that not already forbidden as avodah? The rule of thumb that I like is similar to preparing food for a camping trip - "ready to eat" or "ready to heat".

Carrying


Jeremiah 17:21-22 "Thus says the LORD, “Take heed for yourselves, and do not carry any load on the sabbath day or bring anything in through the gates of Jerusalem. You shall not bring a load out of your houses on the sabbath day nor do any work (melacha), but keep the sabbath day holy, as I commanded your forefathers."

Load, also translated burden, is the Hebrew masa. "It is a fact that every instance of the word masa throughout the entire Tanach implies a "heavy load" or a "heavy burden" -  What Is The Sabbath? [4]. Carrying a pen, a key or a Bible may be forbidden by Jewish rabbis, but is not a heavy load.


What is Jeremiah 17:21-22 talking about then? The same thing that Nehemiah saw taking place in Nehemiah 13:15-18. He saw the people carry loads (masa) for the purpose of buying and selling on the Sabbath. Melacha must have a goal or purpose. Buying and selling on the Sabbath was already prohibited (v18 did not your fathers do the same?). Buying food, whether from a store, a merchant, (or a restaurant?*) is what Nehemiah is talking about here. As for carrying heavy loads, is that not also already forbidden as avodah?
15 In those days I saw in Judah some who were treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sacks of grain and loading them on donkeys, as well as wine, grapes, figs and all kinds of loads (masa), and they brought them into Jerusalem on the sabbath day. So I admonished them on the day they sold food. 16 Also men of Tyre were living there who imported fish and all kinds of merchandise, and sold them to the sons of Judah on the sabbath, even in Jerusalem. 17 Then I reprimanded the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing you are doing, by profaning the sabbath day? 18 “Did not your fathers do the same, so that our God brought on us and on this city all this trouble? Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the sabbath.”

*Restaurants on the Sabbath are a controversy of their own. It sounds very much like the Sabbath goy, paying someone to do something for you. Of course the day is less work for you if someone else cooks and serves your dinner. Not for them though. That cook, that server, that dishwasher, are all working like a Sabbath goy for you. What will you do when everyone keeps the Sabbath and there are no goyim left? The complication that I see is when traveling, your options are few.

And In The End


I had hoped that understanding avodah and melacha would help me better understand Sabbath keeping, after all, it's right in the commandment "Six days shall you avodah, and do all your melacha." It is referring to two types of work, but I can't tease out the subtleties of the terms, especially melacha. I've given my opinion on a few matters, I differ with the Jews on some things, with Christianity on some things. And they are MY opinions, I don't speak for any church. But they are opinions based on reading the Bible and reading lots of other points of view. And in the end, everyone should decide their practices based on the Bible. Maybe the point is that it isn't supposed to be all THAT easy. It has to be mindful. We need to think about what we are doing on the Sabbath using the Bible as our guide, not a list, and not convenience.

References


1. http://jlfreeman-1.blogspot.com/2015/12/ten-little-known-facts-about-ten.html
2. http://www.aish.com/sh/t/e/Big_Creator_Little_Creator.html
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_thermodynamics
4. https://www.karaiteinsights.com/article/shabbat.html
6. http://peshat.com/index.php?itemid=10
7. http://www.karaites.org/uploads/7/4/1/3/7413835/mikdash_meat_section_3_shabbat.pdf
8. http://bible.ucg.org/bible-commentary/Exodus/Sabbath-regulations;-Offerings-for-the-tabernacle;-Artisans-called/
9. http://biblehub.com/commentaries/gill/exodus/35.htm
10. https://bewellwithyou.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/making-fire-and-cooking-on-the-sabbath/