Finding Pilate...

It's always fun when folks in the Bible show up outside of the Bible. Pontius Pilate is a good example.

You remember Pilate. The gospels call him the Roman governor of Judea (Matthew 27:2; Luke 3:1). In Matthew's account, he's the one who releases Jesus to the demanding crowd, quite literally washing his hands of the matter (Matthew 27:24), and claiming innocence of any bloodshed related to Jesus. Overall, I think it's accurate to say the gospels portray Pilate in his brief appearance as a fair, albeit somewhat weak, ruler (but check out Luke 13:1 in your free time). In the gospel accounts, it seems more important to Pilate to maintain peace than to maintain justice.

A man named Josephus also wrote about Pilate. Josephus was a Jew who lived in the 1st century AD. Details of his life are sketchy but certainly interesting. He was part of a Jewish revolt against Roman rule that took place between 66-74 AD. He eventually surrendered, spent some time in jail, and offered in…

Holy, holy, hol... Wait. How many holies were there again?

In Revelation 4, a man named John describes for his readers a vision he was given of the throne room of God.

When you read Revelation 4, you should also read Isaiah 6. It's also a throne room vision, but written some 800 years earlier. We'll come back to that a little later in this post.

Revelation is what is called apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic literature likes to use symbolic imagery. You might want to read Ezekiel 1 and Daniel 7 also. They have a lot in common with Revelation 4.

Anyway, back to the throne room. On each side of the throne room are these things that John calls "four living creatures." One is like a lion, one like an ox, one like a flying eagle, and one has the face of a human. That's not all. All four of them are covered in eyes.


Remember Pan's Labyrinth? The one dude who had a single eyeball located in each of the palms of his hands? I thought he was scary. That guy was nothing.

John says the four living creatures were "f…

What Does Death Taste Like, Anyway?

A friend sent me an early morning text recently. "Matthew 16:28. Are not all those dudes dead?"

My friend was talking about this verse:

"Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
I replied to his text. "You are correct. Those dudes are most certainly dead."
Ahhh, years of grad school in biblical studies and biblical languages finally paying off.
There is a lot happening in Matthew 16. Here in Matthew, Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah, the son of the living God. Soon after, Jesus tells his disciples that he will be killed but will rise from the dead. He even tells them that following him may mean that they lose their lives. But in Matthew 16:28, he lets them know that not all of them will be dead before something big happens.

It's normal for readers of this verse to think it's talking about the second coming of Jesus. I suspect we've heard as much in a sermo…

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 …