The New Living Translation
What GQ’s Bible Evaluation Gets Wrong

Read the response from our partners at the Institute for Bible Reading concerning what GQ got wrong in its Bible evaluation. Glenn Paauw is a leading expert on Bible reading and development. Here is what he has to say: 

by Glenn Paauw, Institute for Bible Reading

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The editors of GQ magazine recently assembled a list of 21 no-need-to-read so-called Great Books, along with a parallel list of recommended alternative choices. [Read the article here.] The point was to challenge the idea that there’s a mandatory list of books that anyone claiming to be well-read will know from firsthand experience. Don’t worry, say these guardians of the hipster style scene, because the whole idea of a canon is, well, already shot.

Many of the Great Books aren’t actually so great, so feel free to take a pass.

The list itself is pretty eclectic, taking aim not merely at older classics from authors like Henry James, Mark Twain, and Ernest Hemingway, but also newer offerings like those of David Foster Wallace and Paulo Coelho. The original sin apparently afflicting all of the list? The snore factor.

No doubt some of the questioning, along with the suggested Plan B, are spot on. Instead of J. D. Salinger’s “not profound” Franny and Zooey, try Willa Cather’s “calm and contemplative and open” Death Comes for the Archbishopinstead. Sound advice there. But sometimes the list limps, as when Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings fantasy novels are relegated to “barely readable” status.

The Bible and the List

It’s probably not surprising that the Bible also made the cut list. These days there is a rather standard list of objections to the Bible, including but not limited to being sexist, violent, and generally approving of all manner of cultural regressions.

It is interesting and worth noting that not so long ago the standard story about the Bible was that it was The Good Book, albeit the one rarely read. Pollster George Gallup called it the best-selling, least-read book in America. Today the Bible remains largely unknown, but now it’s increasingly The Bad Book. And yes, boring too.

GQ’s list is not made up of review essays; it is as it claims to be, merely a list. But a few dismissive comments are included with each entry.

American novelist Jesse Ball’s cool brush-off of the Bible goes like this:

The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.

So there you have it.

First, the data point is correct: a long stream of research over the last few decades confirms what we all pretty much know anyway: the Bible is not being read very much. Most of those who still interact with it are not really reading it, but using some of its bits and pieces. So in many cases the pro-Bible people do not have a deep acquaintance with the actual content (which we’re actively working to address.)

Ball goes on to claim that once we do actually read it, we quickly discover the Bible’s manifold faults. But here the critique misses, I think, because of what I call the misframing of the Bible. Let me explain. For the Bible to be anything like what it’s intended to be, it is crucial to bring the right kind of assumptions and expectations to it.

Evaluating the Bible On Its Own Terms

Is the Bible trying to be like the other entries on this list? Is the Bible trying to be a captivating novel?

No, it isn’t, so characterizing it this way misleads us about its real purpose. And this can quickly enough lead to its easy dismissal.

Of course those who’ve already committed to the Christian story and its Author will have lots of reasons for wanting to read and reread the Bible. But what about would-be readers from outside the traditions that are honoring their own Scriptures? How does an honest outside evaluation of the Bible get on the right track?

For openers, the Bible must be acknowledged for what it is and what it’s trying to do. The Bible is a library of ancient literature, so the first thing is to set aside anachronistic contemporary assessments which want the Bible to act like a modern book. The Bible’s various literary entries are essentially telling us the story of a particular people from thousands of years ago and their claims to be interacting with the Creator of the world.

The Bible does this using ancient ways of writing and telling, so the only way to appreciate the Bible is to willingly enter into its own ancient world. If we’re going to pretend to sum up the value of the Bible, we at least owe it a fair reading, which means learning the basics of how ancient writings worked on their own terms. Poetry, prophetic visions, earthy wisdom, story-telling, and all the other communicative forms of the Bible are often strange to our modern ears. So the thing to do is learn a little about them and then at least begin by reading sympathetically.

Ultimately, the only decent way to read the Bible is to take it book by book, try to understand first what each one was saying to its own ancient audience, and then start putting the story together. Where does the narrative of the Bible go? We live where the story was going, not where it’s been. This is how the decisive question of the value in the Bible needs to be addressed. Rather than acting as a sourcebook for timeless truths, the Bible claims to be the beginning of a story that has continuing relevance for the world long past its own pages. It does this by making claims about the God of the Bible and what he’s up to.

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The Bible itself already has a long record of being a powerful force in the history of the world. It’s hard to think of anything more influential in the Western imaginative tradition of art and literature. This alone makes it worth reading. GQ’s assessment of the Bible was surpassed before it was even printed, and its dismissal tells us more about ourselves and our age than it does about the Bible.

It may be best to offer an invitation, rather than a defense. As the voice urged St. Augustine (no small cultural influence himself), “Take up and read!” Just be sure to read well.

Learn more about Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience

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From Busyness to Purpose

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It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and forget the purpose of life. The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that God isn’t “all work and no play.” He has given us wonderful gifts to enjoy and he loves seeing his people appreciating those gifts. But of all his gifts, his love is the greatest. As we go about our busy lives take a moment to reflect on God’s gifts, big and small, and thank Him for His amazing love.

Read this passage from Ecclesiastes and reflect on the note from the Every Man’s Bible.

 

 

Ecclesiastes 2:18-26

“I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless! So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world.

Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy. So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.

So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him? God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please him. This, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.”

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Study Note from the Every Man’s Bible

“The alternative to over commitment to work is the enjoyment of life as God’s good gift. This includes enjoying our work while not allowing it to become the key to meaning in our lives. This is the first of the Teacher’s admonitions to take life less seriously and enjoy it more. Life is too short to waste it on the treadmill of ever- increasing professional accomplishments. We need to take the time to enjoy the gifts that God gives us.”

Take a look inside the Every Man’s Bible

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Scripture Union Africa Sees the Power of a Bible in Ghana

Since 1963, Tyndale House Foundation has been involved in supporting ministry on the continent of Africa.

Scripture Union Africa is one of the many ministries that Tyndale House Foundation supports.  The former President of Scripture Union Ghana, Jude Hama, came to Tyndale House Publishers recently and shared the ongoing need for Christian literature distribution in Ghana, West Africa.  There are many challenges in reaching the hearts and minds of young people in Ghana, but Scripture Union has seen tremendous success through literature distribution programs and group study—in fact, Scripture Union has a presence in 65%-85% of the high schools throughout Ghana.

Jude said, “We have only two aims in Scripture Union. Sharing God’s good news with children, and encouraging people of all ages to meet God daily through devotional Bible reading. I am very grateful that when our needs were made known, Tyndale House Foundation chipped in.  And did so faithfully each year.”

In addition to the support that Tyndale House Foundation gives Scripture Union, Tyndale House Publishers has been instrumental in distributing Bibles to students in Ghana through cause-driven campaigns in the United States and through support of donors like Naadu Mills, the former First Lady of Ghana. 350,000 copies of the New Living Translation were produced and distributed throughout the country, giving students direct access to God’s Word through a Bible of their very own.

Tyndale House Foundation is passionate about building a thriving publishing industry on the continent of Africa—supporting many other ministries and facilitating collaboration between organizations and individuals to meet the goal of publishing Christian books by Africans for Africans.  Furthermore, it is our hope that these important works from authors in Africa will also be shared with the entire world.

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Think the Bible Is Boring?

Think the Bible is boring? Think again! The Bible is filled with amazing, powerful stories that make blockbuster movies seem like a yawn. But for kids, sometimes the just sitting and listening can make the Bible seem less engaging. That’s where the Hands-On Bible comes in. Loaded with activities this full-text Bible makes family devotion time into family fun time. Give it a try. Read Genesis 1-2 then as a family try the the suggested activity in the link after the Scripture. We’ve included a few more activities you can try out as well.

Genesis 1-2

The Account of Creation

1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.*  2The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

3Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”

And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.

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6Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” 7And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens. 8God called the space “sky.”

And evening passed and morning came, marking the second day.

9Then God said, “Let the waters beneath the sky flow together into one place, so dry ground may appear.” And that is what happened. 10God called the dry ground “land” and the waters “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11Then God said, “Let the land sprout with vegetation—every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.” And that is what happened. 12The land produced vegetation—all sorts of seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit. Their seeds produced plants and trees of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.

13And evening passed and morning came, marking the third day.

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14Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. 15Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened. 16God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, 18to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

19And evening passed and morning came, marking the fourth day.

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20Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” 21So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. 22Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.”

23And evening passed and morning came, marking the fifth day.

24Then God said, “Let the earth produce every sort of animal, each producing offspring of the same kind—livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.” And that is what happened. 25God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.

26Then God said, “Let us make human beings*  in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth,*  and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

27So God created human beings*  in his own image.

In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

28Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

29Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. 30And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened.

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31Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!

And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.

Genesis 2

1So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. 2On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested*  from all his work. 3And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.

4This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth.

The Man and Woman in Eden

When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5neither wild plants nor grains were growing on the earth. For the Lord God had not yet sent rain to water the earth, and there were no people to cultivate the soil. 6Instead, springs*  came up from the ground and watered all the land. 7Then the LordGod formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.

8Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. 9The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

10A river flowed from the land of Eden, watering the garden and then dividing into four branches. 11The first branch, called the Pishon, flowed around the entire land of Havilah, where gold is found. 12The gold of that land is exceptionally pure; aromatic resin and onyx stone are also found there. 13The second branch, called the Gihon, flowed around the entire land of Cush. 14The third branch, called the Tigris, flowed east of the land of Asshur. The fourth branch is called the Euphrates.

15The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—17except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.

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18Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” 19So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man*  to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. 20He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him.

21So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs*  and closed up the opening. 22Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.

23“At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’”

24This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

Try the Hands-On Bible Activity

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Read With Us Reading Plan for May

Starting May 1st we will use the THRIVE: Journaling Devotional Bible for Women as we spend time in God’s Word to gain a better understanding on how to live in faith and how to respond in times of doubt. Throughout this beautiful wide-margin Bible are reflections, thoughts, notes, and prayers from beloved author and speaker Sheri Rose Shepherd. Though the features of this Bible were designed with women in mind, the amazing truths speak to men and women alike.

Every week you will receive an email with links to the daily readings.

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Join the Read With Us plan here.

Take a look inside Thrive

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Immerse: An Unexpected Journey

Shared by Alex Goodwin, Institute for Bible Reading

Last week we received an email from Kevin Kellogg, Groups Pastor at Grace Fellowship near Columbus, OH. In January they launched the New Testament Challenge using Immerse: Messiah.

Kevin forwarded an email he had received from Todd, a member at Grace Fellowship who has been deeply blessed by his experience with Immerse. His story, and others we’ve heard, are what the Bible Reading Movement is all about.

Rather than setting up an interview with Todd as we’ve previously done with Immerse stories, we’re sharing his story word-for-word as he originally wrote it. Enjoy!


Kevin,

The past six weeks has been an unexpected journey for me.

I would consider myself an above average bible student. I grew up in a church that instilled the importance of committing bible verses to memory. Starting in Pre-Sunday School we would be sent home with new memory verses every week. The teacher took the time each Sunday to listen to those who memorized their verse and placed a star next to the names of those who completed it successfully. At the end of the year we would graduate to the next class “with honors” if we had perfect attendance AND successfully completed our memory work for the year.

As we got older the competition got harder and the “prizes” grew in value. We went from memorizing verses to memorizing chapters and even books. In order to be at the top of the list you had to do way more than just memorize verses and attend church on Sundays. By the time we were in junior high school we would have to do community service, teach bible classes and even preach a sermon to the church. The prize was no longer stickers and recognition but we would be rewarded with new bibles, full scholarships to summer camp, pizza parties and Cedar Point or Kings Island tickets.

My bible education continued after high school too. I attended bible college for four years, taught in-depth bible classes, did a lot of preaching, homeschooled four children, etc. Needless to say, after more than 50 years of life, I have “studied” the bible from cover to cover many times.

I emphasize “studied” because I grew up in a church in which we were instructed to always read the bible with a critical mind. The translation being used was of utmost importance. Some translations were careful translations of the oldest sources of manuscripts available. Whereas, other “translations” were either “transliterations” (paraphrases) or “translations” of translations. For that reason, you really had to really understand the source of your scripture. Once we were certain we were reading from a respectable translation we almost always approached scripture from the perspective of “This is what it says; This is what it means; This is what other denominations wrongly interpret this passage as saying.” For this reason, it is difficult for me, to this day, to read a passage of scripture without critiquing it based on standards that have been drilled into me from a very early age.

The reason for the lengthy background to my Immerse experience is because it is necessary to understand the enormity of the blessing I am receiving through this study. My apprehension from the very beginning of the NT Challenge was that I knew we would be reading from a translation that I have not vetted and we were only given 8 weeks to read through the entire New Testament. (It took me three years to teach a Sunday School class on the book of Hebrews alone). Eight weeks would never be enough time to cross reference everything I was reading with other translations as well go through the whole process of analyzing the 4 W’s and H, then comparing the meaning of the current passage with all the other areas of the bible that mention the same topic.

This is an area, I can now see, that God has been working with me in regards to my life-long critical indoctrination and that I needed to step back and let God speak to me as a child. Before we began reading Immerse, I resolved that I would NOT be critical of what I was reading, I would NOT “STUDY” what I was reading. Rather, I would read the assigned lessons exactly as we were being assigned – a few pages each day, five days a week. I would attempt to suppress any preconditioned understanding that would emerge to the forefront of my thinking and would try to take the words I was reading at face value, as I was reading it. I was so committed to this approach that I challenged my entire group with the same thing – knowing there were a few that had a similar background as me.

The result for me has been amazing! When I first started reading Immerse, everyday I broke my commitment to not cross-reference with another version because I was constantly reading something that I have never seen before. Every time I looked up a phrase or meaning that I KNEW did not exist in my translation, I was proven wrong. By the end of the first week I was convinced and renewed my commitment to stick to “reading only”.

Daily I go through disbelief at how simple the meaning of the scriptures are rolling off the pages and directly speaking to me. It goes beyond that though. It is definitely refreshing to read the bible from this perspective. I would never be able to tell you how many times I have read through the bible – the equivalent of cover to cover. What I will tell you is that I am near the completion of reading through the New Testament for the first time in my entire life. It is like I studied the abridged version of the bible my entire life and for the first time ever I have been offered the opportunity to read the complete work.

The complete work is SPEAKING to me. It is CHANGING MY LIFE. My take away from this past six weeks is that God is calling me into the ministry. What that looks like, I don’t know. It may be that He wants me to be more evangelistic in my secular life. It may be He wants me more involved in the local church. It may be He is calling me to mission work. It may be full-time ministry. All I can tell you is right now, He is doing the speaking and I am doing the listening and I’ve told Him – “Whatever you want Lord – Here I am.” Now I’m just waiting on Him in His timing.

Thank you for presenting me with the NT Challenge. It continues to bless me!

Todd

Learn more about Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience

Learn more about the Institute for Bible Reading

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Beware of Complaints

Whether facing overwhelming circumstances or even in the day-to-day drudge of life, it’s often easier to focus on what’s wrong with a situation than look to see how God is seeing us through. Often, that was the response of the Israelites while wandering in the wilderness.

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Here is an example from the Book of Numbers. Read the passage and then the note from the Beyond Suffering Bible. Reflect on what is God saying to you?

“Soon the people began to complain about their hardship, and the LORD heard everything they said. Then the LORD’s anger blazed against them, and he sent a fire to rage among them, and he destroyed some of the people in the outskirts of the camp. Then the people screamed to Moses for help, and when he prayed to the LORD, the fire stopped. After that, the area was known as Taberah (which means ‘the place of burning’), because fire from the LORD had burned among them there. Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. ‘Oh, for some meat!’ they exclaimed. ‘We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted.’” (Numbers 11:1-5, NLT)

Connection Point from the Beyond Suffering Bible

How easy it is to grumble and murmur about our hardships. Our hardships are real, but just as real is God’s care for us. God’s love is a fundamental reality, something that is absolutely true in every circumstance we face (1 John 4:7-12). Can you thank the Lord even in your pain or disability? Remaining grateful to God in every circumstance leads you to act in ways that please God.

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” (Philippians 4:11-12, NLT)

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Unite Them, Protect Them, Sanctify Them

by Charles R. Swindoll, taken from the Swindoll Study Bible

Read: John 17:6-19

AS JESUS PRAYED for His disciples, He prayed for three things: that they would be unified, that they would be protected from the evil one, and that they would be made holy.

First, Jesus prayed for His disciples’ unity. If you study the twelve disciples, you willnotice that they were individualistic men. They were not necessarily cooperative. They were stubborn. They were at times dull and unteachable. They were proud. Matthew was a tax collector. Peter was a fisherman. John and James were called “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). Yet the Lord prayed, in effect, “Father, I want You to take these tough-minded men and build them into a unit.” In John 17:11, He prayed, “Protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.”

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Second, Jesus prayed for His disciples’ protection. “I have given them your word,” He continued. “And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one” (John 17:14-15). These verses give us a clear description of Jesus’ strategy. He never encourages living behind the walls of a monastery, either physically or spiritually. He wants His disciples to be in touch with the world so that the world will have His light. If the world never saw or rubbed shoulders with Christians, it would have no light. So Jesus was saying, “Lord, I don’t want You to take them out of the world. Leave them in the world, but preserve them.” It’s not about isolation, but insulation. We need to be “insulated” so that we can move through the fire and the crucible of this world without being discouraged or destroyed by the evil one.

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I think Jesus’ two requests for unity and protection are linked. The evil one discovers disunity and hits us at that chink in our armor. That’s why we, the church, are told by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4 to keep ourselves united in the Spirit. The Spirit of God gives unity, and we are to cultivate it. We are to bridge the gaps, the cracks, the chinks. The whole purpose is so that we might have a positive effect on a decadent, perverted society.

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Third, Jesus prayed for His disciples’ holiness. Notice this third request: “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 17:17). First Jesus said, “Keep them,” and now He says, “Sanctify them.” He wants His followers to be set apart for their intended purpose. He doesn’t want them to ever lose the vision. How are we made holy? Scripture tells us right here: through God’s Word, which is truth. You cannot live the life you were fully intended to live apart from this Book. If you get away from the Source of truth and move into the wastelands of subjectivity and human opinions, invariably you will be led astray. If you’re living your life apart from regular contact with the Word of God, the world is on its way to moving in. We who believe in Jesus today are included in this prayer (see John 17:20). Jesus has prayed for us to have unity, protection, and holiness. These things have therefore been given to us. We need to live them out.

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Find out more about the Swindoll Study Bible

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Mary’s Testimony: He Is Risen From the Dead

After Jesus rose from the dead early on Sunday morning, the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons.” Mark 16:9, NLT

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Devotional from the Dancing in the Desert Devotional Bible

In a legal setting, the testimony of a woman was considered unreliable, subject to undue influences of the heart and imagination and therefore inadmissible. Men of the first century—Jewish, Greek, Roman, Arab—all held this view, albeit in varying degrees. They easily dismissed the words of a woman if those words didn’t fit their assumptions. The disciples rejected Mary Magdalene’s testimony of having seen Jesus (16:11), and they were later rebuked for that by Jesus himself (16:14). Yet of all the followers of Jesus—of all those whom the biblical text refers to as disciples, whether directly or by implication—Jesus appeared first to Mary and the women with her. Not only that, he sent her to tell the news to the men (Matthew 28:10).

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Some biblical scholars consider this one of the clearest signs of the Gospel’s authenticity. No man of the first century would fabricate a story about a miracle and then undermine it by having women as the first witnesses to it. It had to be true. But Jesus held an unusual view of women, and Mary of Magdala seemed to be foremost among the women who followed him. She is listed first in every mention of female followers of Jesus, who apparently traveled with him throughout Galilee and, at least on this unusual occasion, to Jerusalem for Passover. We don’t know much about Mary other than the fact that she had been tormented by demons before she met Jesus and then followed him closely But we do know that no other rabbi at this point included women in his circle of followers. Jesus did, even though the sight of women traveling with men who weren’t their relatives surely unnerved a lot of people. And on this trip to Jerusalem, it was good they were there. Many women watched from a distance as Jesus hung dying (Matthew 27:55), long after most of the men had fled.

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Mary probably thought she was only going to Jerusalem for Passover, never envisioning Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb. But when he was executed and her world shattered, she remained there. She came to the tomb with her companions, not to witness a resurrection, but to anoint a body. And Jesus put her world together again, better than before, and gave her a testimony for the ages.

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Jesus’ Seven Sayings from the Cross

As we reflect on Christ’s selfless sacrifice, we will use the The Christian Basics Bible to mediate on the significance of Jesus’ sayings from the cross. 

The Gospels record seven different sayings spoken by Jesus on the cross. Often used as a focus for reflection on Good Friday, they are traditionally seen as having been spoken in the following order:

Words of Forgiveness:

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

Significance: Jesus fulfills his own teaching about loving one’s enemies and shows that the cross is the basis on which divine forgiveness can be given.

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Words of Salvation:

“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Significance: Jesus shows that it is never too late to ask to be saved and find the assurance of eternal life.

Words of Relationship:

“Dear woman, here is your son. . . . Here is your mother.” ( John 19:26-27)

Significance: Jesus, still thinking of others even in his agony, remembers the fifth commandment—honor your parents.

Words of Abandonment:

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46)

Significance: Quoting from Psalm 22, Jesus expresses his sense of complete desertion, even by his Father (because of the sin he was bearing).

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Words of Distress:

“I am thirsty.” ( John 19:28)

Significance: His body weakened by pain, blood loss, and dehydration, Jesus shows his true humanity.

Words of Reunion:

“Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” (Luke 23:46)

Quoting from Psalm 31:5, Jesus entrusts himself to the Father, for what follows now lies entirely in his hands.

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Words of Triumph:

“It is finished!” ( John 19:30)

Jesus proclaims victory at the moment of apparent defeat, declaring, “It is all accomplished!” or even “It is all paid for!”

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