If we expect to keep it together when apocalypse hits, we’ll need each other.
Apocalypse is so in right now. It’s almost an essential part of the cultural landscape. It’s not just sci-fi that takes us into the realm where everything falls apart. Leave aside the inundation of serials concerning a future overrun by zombies, vampires, androids, and robots. We’re invariably given to understand it’s the horrible humans we have to fear.
It’s not only in Star Wars where men flake out and women hold firm—it happens in scripture, too.
I went to see The Last Jedi with some immature trepidation, since I’m more emotionally invested in this story than I should be, not being a teenager doing crappy cosplay before I knew cosplay was a thing anymore. For me, you see, the Star Wars epic is not just a story. It’s one of “my” stories—the stories I have carried with me and that helped shape my imagination, my sense of humanity, and my understanding of our relationships to the cosmos.
Religion historian Philip Jenkins believes the books of Wisdom and Maccabees can explain the origins of Christian beliefs about heaven and hell.
In the 1960s the Second Vatican Council proclaimed the central role of scripture in the life of the Roman Catholic Church and urged Catholics to become once more a people of the book. But as ordinary Catholics read the Bible more intensively, some were puzzled at the differences they found from Protestant and Jewish versions. Why do Catholic Bibles include texts such as Wisdom, Sirach, and the books of Maccabees, which other traditions treat as apocryphal? What kind of authority do they carry?
Follow Mary’s example and ponder God’s words wrapped in silence.
What does it mean to give your heart to a mystery? To fall in love with the silence that wraps around words and gives them context—like diamonds in their proper settings? On the first day of the year, we celebrate Mary’s determination to do that. It’s a countercultural choice.
‘Messiah’ used to refer to a political king. Scripture scholar John J. Collins explains we got from there to Jesus Christ.
The story of the Messiah in the Bible is a complicated one. In the earliest biblical texts, the word originally referred to the present king. It later came to refer to some future ruler, then eventually a heavenly redeemer along the lines of the archangel Michael before, in the New Testament, Jesus is born and the mantle of Messiah falls firmly on his shoulders. The word’s history is convoluted, and to understand it’s necessary to know a little about apocalyptic visions, ancient Near Eastern mythology, and ancient Hebrew.
Baby Jesus isn’t just a cuddly cute bundle of life.
Advent is a wonderful season because it’s all about waiting for a baby. Who doesn’t love babies? Religion is sweet when it concerns a tiny bundle of life we can hold in our arms and upon whom the very hope of the world depends. More people would sign up for church membership if it were all as lovely and cuddly and charming as this.
But be forewarned: The baby is a thief.
The New Testament parable of the 10 virgins shows how when it comes to character, you positively have to supply your own.
It’s hard not to play favorites, even with scripture. Many churchgoers accept that the Bible is composed of sacred writings from one end to the other. Still, while some of these texts may sound holy to us, others are simply annoying.
From the archives: What Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego can teach us about racial justice.
It’s one of those Bible stories that, from my childhood, has captivated me: three men, true believers, refuse to worship a golden idol and are thrown into a furnace by an evil king. But God saves them. The flames are so intense that the king’s henchmen are burned up, but Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego don’t even break into a sweat.
It’s a perfect story (Dan. 3)—simple, clear. You can see it, even feel it.
And then, of course, there are the songs that make it richer still.
Paul’s New Testament letters give us a window into life in the early church.
Twenty years without a word! That’s how long the early church went without written texts. From the resurrection of Jesus to 50 A.D. there wasn’t a shred of paperwork until Paul sat down and wrote his first apostolic letter. Before the year 50, no Christian texts were necessary. The community of believers was a pretty local phenomenon. Anyone involved in the story lived within walking distance of Jerusalem. The first gospel wouldn’t be composed for another two decades.
How do Christians make sense of some of the Bible’s more graphic stories?
There are some Bible stories that don’t appear in the Lectionary. Like that of Yael, in the book of Judges, who drives a tent peg through an enemy general’s head, killing him instantly. Or that of Uzzah, who reaches out to steady the Tabernacle in 2 Samuel and, as a reward for his consideration, is instantly struck dead by God.