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Extracurricular Activities 3.21.15 — Angels and Atonement, Romans 1, and Primary Sources
One of the more controversial aspects of the Gospels is the two genealogies we have for Jesus, one in Mt. 1.1-17 the other in Lk. 3.23-38. While there are a few similarities between the two (e.g. they both mention that Jesus is the ‘so-called’ son of Joseph), they are mostly different, and they serve very different purposes. Some Bible students along the way have tried to suggest that we have Mary’s genealogy in Luke, and Joseph’s in Matthew, but this solution simply doesn’t work, since Joseph and his ancestry is referred to in both cases. Matthew clearly says that Jacob begat Joseph, but Luke has the more elliptical phrase ‘Joseph of Heli’, which could possibly mean ‘son of’ or ‘grandson of’ but it depends on what we think this same sort of Greek phrase means in the others case, probably ‘son of’. Could Heli and Jacob be the same person? Or could one genealogy be dealing with Joseph’s paternal grandparent and the other with his father? One cannot be sure. But here are a few things to keep in mind when evaluating these two genealogies.
One of the better views of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is from the Ponte Sant’Angelo, a beautiful bridge lined with statues of angels, each bearing some token of the passion of Jesus—the cross, the nails, the crown of thorns, the spear upon which he was given vinegar to drink, the pedestal supporting him as he was whipped…. But what dothe angels have to do with the passion of Christ? Why do they cherish the tokens of Christ’s passion?
My buddy and home-boy, Preston Sprinkle (Eternity Bible College, Idaho) has a cracking good article on homosexuality in Romans 1 in the latest issue of BBR.
Preston M. Sprinkle, “Romans 1 and Homosexuality: A Critical Review of James Brownson’s Bible, Gender, Sexuality,” BBR 24.4 (2014): 515-28.
James Brownson argued that none of Paul’s prohibitions about homoerotic practices pertain to consensual and monogamous gay and lesbian relations.
In contrast – and contra Brownson – Sprinkle points out several things:
In my experience, one big reason (not the only reason) behind this trend has to do with the Bible–maybe not the Bible itself, but how they are implicitly taught to read it:
*As a collection of go-to verses that tell them definitively and absolutely all they need to know about the world they live in and what God expects of them.
*That this kind of Bible is their sure anchor for maintaining their faith. Stray from it and their faith is shipwrecked and their eternal destiny is in jeopardy.
So here is a simple plea–from a biblical scholar with his feet firmly planted on the ground, who has raised now adult children, and who now teaches young adults and sees the stress they are sometimes under to shelve their questions and misgivings and “hold on” to their faith.
Professor Eric Foner of Columbia University is one of the preeminent historians working today. Dr. Foner (age 72) has taught a three-class unit on the Civil War for over three decades. This is his last year teaching the class, and he has partnered with edX to make them available online for free. One helpful feature of these classes is that they provide undergraduate students—and the rest of us—a primary on how to question, interpret, and discuss the backbone of historical research: primary sources. I’ve taken the material and broken it up into a Q&A below. At the end, you’ll see an example of a primary source, some answers to some questions, and some links for you to try it yourself.
Extracurricular Activities is a weekly roundup of stories on biblical interpretation, theology, and issues where faith and culture meet. We found each story interesting, thought-provoking, challenging, or useful in some way – but we don't necessarily agree with or endorse every point in every story.
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