The Sin Of Sodom Wasn't What You Think It Was.

Genesis 19 tells the story of the destruction of the city of Sodom. It's kind of intense.

Maybe we shouldn't start with the end of Sodom. That would make for a rather short post. Let's back up. Here's what we know about Sodom according to the book of Genesis.

The first mention of Sodom, found in Genesis 10:19, is a rather inconspicuous one. In describing the territory of Canaan, Genesis says it extended "from Sidon, in the direction of Gerar, as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha" (NRSV).

I'll be honest. I can't plot these places on a map of ancient Canaan. Frankly, I'm ok with that. For the sake of illustration, let's just say it's a little like describing the United States as extending as far northwest as the state of Washington, as far northeast as Maine, as far southeast as Florida, and as far southwest as California. No offense, Hawaii and Alaska. Y'all are great. It's jus…

Nothing Worse Than Seeing Your Parents Naked

There's a very strange story in Genesis 9:18-29. Folks have asked me about it a lot lately, so I thought it might be worth a closer look. The story takes place shortly after Noah and his family have survived the flood and God has made a covenant with them and with their descendants, promising to never again let the flood waters destroy all people.

Genesis 9:20 tells us that Noah was a man of the soil and planted a vineyard. It's good that he was a man of the soil, because I feel like white collar job opportunities would've been hard to come by so soon after the flood. The consumer base was awfully small at that time. What else was there besides the soil? Retail? Dot coms? No, you were pretty much stuck with farming. In time, Noah chose to imbibe from the fruit of his labor and he became drunk, eventually passing out naked in his tent.

One of Noah's sons, Ham (identified as the father of Canaan), saw his father naked. That's how the NIV translates it. In Hebrew, it&…

My Friend's Bible Has More Books In It Than Mine

My Bible has 66 books.

66 seems like a lot.

It's hard to talk people into reading one book. But 66?

I don't even like to spell out the number 66 (so I don't). Why would anyone want to read 66 books?

But here's the thing. Not all Bibles have 66 books. Some have more than 66.

More? Really? More than 66? That seems excessive.

It's true. Some have more. You might know this if you have Catholic relatives. Or if you've used the popular Bible App.

Someone asked me about these extra books not long ago. She was using the trusty Bible App and the translation she selected, the Common English Bible, included them. My friend wanted to know if it was ok that an app identifying itself as "The Bible" included these books.

I have to be honest. I got way too excited about this question. I'm sorry. There's really nothing I can do to stop this sort of behavior. It's nice to get asked a question I can answer.

"My car is making a strange sound? Can you hea…

You Can Do Better, NIV (Part 2)

Acts 4:32-37 offers a fascinating depiction of life in the earliest years of the Church. These verses tell us that believers were of one heart and mind, and shared everything. So much so that folks would sell property and bring the proceeds to the apostles for distribution to those in need. This brief section concludes with an example of someone named Joseph doing exactly that.

In the midst of these verses, Acts 4:33-34 offer a great example of the differences between English translations. Check out these verses in the NIV and NRSV.

33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales... (NIV)
33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person …

Merry Christmas.

The first two chapters of Luke are just a flurry of action and scene changes.

Then in Luke 2:19, there is a pause. We are given a moment to catch our breath, because Mary has been given a moment to catch her breath.

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."

This verse has always fascinated me. It's really not that profound. The Greek behind it isn't that complex or anything. I'll tell you why I like it. In the midst of surprise pregnancies, surprise road trips, surprise lodgings, and surprise visitors, the Gospel tries to remind us that Mary is taking it all in and trying to understand it. Probably the same way you and I would be taking it all in and trying to understand it. Frankly, the Bible doesn't always seem concerned with the head space of it's main characters. When it does, it's refreshing. After the events of the first two chapters, Luke says that Mary needed some time to think. To ponder what she had been through…

You can do better, NIV (Part 1)

In Genesis 25:19, a man named Isaac prays to YHWH for his wife Rebekah, who is barren.

Now you may not know this, but when it comes to the Bible, there is one surefire way to have a baby.

Be barren.

Sarai was barren (Genesis 11:30). Then she gave birth to Isaac.

Rachel was barren (Genesis 29:31). Then she gave birth to Joseph and later Benjamin.

Manoah was barren (Judges 13:2). Then she gave birth to Samson.

Hannah was barren (1 Samuel 1:5-6). Then she gave birth to Samuel.

Elizabeth was barren (Luke 1:7). Then she gave birth to John.

Rebekah was barren, Isaac prayed, Rebekah was barren no longer. In fact, it turns out she was pregnant with twins, and it was a rough pregnancy. Almost all English translations of Genesis 25:22 describe the children as struggling with each other inside her. The ongoing wrestling match inside of her leads Rebekah to cry out something like, "Why is this happening to me?" or "If it is to be this way, why do I live?", depending on which t…

Uhhhh.... thanks?

Jonah is a funny little book in the Hebrew Bible. Only four chapters long, but a wealth of material. In a nutshell, it's the story of a Hebrew prophet, Jonah, who repeatedly lets God down in these four chapters. Meanwhile all the people who come into the story not even knowing who the God of Israel is all act in the manner we hope Jonah would. I think this story is a good one to remember on Thanksgiving, a day we're thankful for all we have. Family, blessings, provisions, three NFL football games, a ridiculous amount of college basketball games, leftovers for weeks, diverse political opinions together in a limited space, relatives lacking the most basic social skills and manners... Gee. Thanks for providing, God.

God provides in the book of Jonah. But not in the way we might expect.

The book begins with God telling Jonah, "Hey you know those Ninevite folks kinda nearby? I've heard some bad things. Go tell them to straighten up and fly right." (My paraphrase. Let&…