Letter To My Pastor, Part 3: Revisiting The Bible (It’s That Important)

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Contents

Dear Pastor,

Sorry, it has been a minute since I first wrote.  Hope you are well.  And happy to hear that the doors to the church have reopened.  I bet that was a really stressful time for you and I sure you are happy to stand before an eager audience again to lead, guide, teach and direct. That’s a huge responsibility, when we think about it and I hope you are able to bear up under the load.  Anyway, let me get back on track and in this letter I want to talk to you about the Bible.  I left off in the first couple of letters having appealed to the Bible and its text to prove my point about material church being over (because the Bible tells us so) and how both the narrative and the history of organized religion proves why.  Looking back, it sort of seems like God knew what He was saying about writing on hearts and minds in our day – at least that is how it seems from where I stand.

But allow me the time and space, if you will, to sort-of flesh out some things I’ve never gotten any good answers from anyone about with the hope that maybe you have some meaningful insights.  Understand, that I have a great love for the books contained in the scripture/Bible and am not interested in challenging its content for spiritual veracity or reliability.  The collection of books has done more to help me understand my faith and love, the nature of God and Man, and all that God has done for the world through the life, death, resurrection and return of His Son than any other source – truly.  It also seems fairly apparent that searchers of the Bible almost always find what they are looking for within its pages!  I mean if someone is looking for a way to see foolishness, they will see it.  If they are looking for inconsistencies, they are there and if they are looking for reasons not to place faith on the narrative that can be found too.  To me, it seems like God intended things to be this way because in and through this way He gives every person what they want, what they are looking for, what they choose to believe.  But that is an aside.

When we look at the Bible today, we see two major sections that most of the world call the Old and New Testaments.  I pointed out in my last letter that these terms are incorrect.  What we call the “Old Testament,” the Jews who wrote it and made sure that it was passed down over the ages call it, “the Tanakh.”   Christians today refer to that specific collection as “old” because it describes, in part, the origins of the Nation whom God would make His own, and then the way that they lived under His Law.  While the content of the Tanakh is rich, meaningful and often has great application to people today, especially when it comes to understanding the contents of the apostolic record (what people wrongly call, The New Testament) the Tanakh was written by Jews, is about Jews in that day, speaks specifically to a former (old) economy under which human beings lived and over which God reigned.  

What many people get wrong is that they see and believe that this Old Testament begins at Genesis and ends at Malachi but the fact of the matter is, when it comes to the Nation of Israel materially, the Old Testament continues on and is played out even to and through the Book of Revelation, which describes the ultimate end of that former economy once and for all.  To put it mildly, the real full entirely new economy that Yeshua came and introduced to the world is truly only described in Revelation chapter 21 – Revelation chapter 22:5.  

So when we hold the Bible in our hands, what we are saying is “this is a record of all that the living God has done in and through the Nation of Israel to bring about the reconciliation of the world to Himself.”  Are you with me so far, Pastor?  Does this make sense to you?  There are very very few places, in fact, in the entire Bible, where the verses, language, prophesies or principles can be said to thrive and describe us today and the world in which we live.  Very few!  Yes, there are principles that eternally viable but most of the Tanakh and almost all of the Apostolic Record (excepting Revelation 21-22:5) were  written to and have direct material application to “them/then.”

One of the exceptions that seems to speak to all peoples everywhere is Isaiah 9:7 which is prefaced by the wonderful passage called verse 6 and which says

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

But its’ verse 7 that has the application to then on out to today where Isaiah adds,

7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

So, while we can hold the Bible up and say that it is the history of the Nation of Israel and all that God has done to reconcile the world to Himself, we can also say that what He has done for the world through the Nation by His Son will never stop increasing forevermore.  Of course, my first two letters to you describe how this increase will continue and renounce material religion as playing a part, but that is another story.

Where most people think the Tanakh ends at Malachi, the reality is the beginning of the end of the Nation is what is being described in the first books of the Apostolic Record and this ending of the material nation and its ways will be played out in the descriptions and teachings of the Promised Messiah and His chosen apostles.  That said, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are extensions of the Old Testament where the Messiah promised them shows up and introduces to the people of that day all that they (not us) all that they needed to know as God’s Covenant people who were being offered one last chance to change before the promised, Great and Dreadful day of the Lord.

So, we have John the Baptist coming in the spirit and power of Elijah, preparing the way for the Anointed One, because the “ax was laid at the root of the tree,” as that day approached them/then.

During His mortal life, Yeshua called and trained twelve specific men, all from that Nation, to follow Him, to be discipled by Him, and to witness His miracles (including and especially His death and resurrection).  While He was with them He repeatedly charged them to “go only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel” – which they did.  It would be many years later when the Good News would also be extended to the world of non-Jews (Gentiles).  The writers of the Gospels wrote to explain Yeshua and His ministry to the world and the date of their respective compositions is up to debate.  All we can really say about them is

  1. They speak to specifically to Jews.
  2. They describe Yeshua’s teachings to Jews who were under the Law.
  3. Yeshua’s teachings therein were NOT to gentiles (though they principally may apply)
  4. They were crafted to help illustrate the Nature of Yeshu and His purposes.

Are they, were they, of value?  Of course.  Do they convey the mind and heart of Christ to His own even when read today?  Yes.  Can a gentile read them and by the Spirit have the capacity to differentiate the various applications the text can afford?  Yes.  However, and as a means to reiterate the four points resented above, the four of them must be seen as extensions of the Old Testament.  Period.

I trust in the election of the four gospels as having apostolic authority and as being authentic in terms of content but this does not change the fact that there were many “other” gospels that did not make the grade including:

  • The Signs Gospel
  • Q, M and L source materials
  • The Gospel of Thomas
  • Gospel of Marcion
  • Gospel of Basilides
  • Gospel of Truth 
  • Gospel of the Four Heavenly Realms
  • The Gospel of Mary
  • The Gospel of Judas
  • The Greek Gospel of the Egyptians
  • Gospel of the Twelve Apostles
  • Gospel of Perfection

Then there are what are known as Jewish/Christian Gospels, which include the Gospels of the Hebrews, the Nazarenes, the Ebionites and, The Twelve.

There are what are called, Infancy Gospels, which include The Armenian Infancy Gospel, the Protoevangelium of James, the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, the History of Joseph the Carpenter, Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and the Syriac Infancy Gospel.

There are partially persevered Gospels, numerous Gospels that are considered “fragmentary,” reconstructed Gospels and dozens of what are called, lost Gospels.

My point, Pastor, is not to even remotely suggest that the collection of Gospels in our Bibles is inferior or partial, my point is to prove that knowing which Gospels were correct and acceptable was not easily known and took a great deal of time for human beings to vet, consider and canonize.  In other words, in the day and age of Yeshua, and even in the day and age of His apostles, and the earlier Saints, when they spoke of scripture, they were almost always speaking of the Tanakh and it would not be for years – even decades after the death of Yeshua that the Gospels we accept today were available to believers then.

Then Yeshua ascends into heaven with an angel promising those apostles that watched Him disappear into the clouds that He was going to come back or return to them in the very same way.  This was something the Lord taught them!  That He was coming back! For His Bride that the apostles were supposed to gather and protect.  In fact we read the following in Matthew 10:23 relative to this where Yeshua says,

“But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.”

So the apostles are taught, repeatedly, by Yeshua, to be alert, to wait and look for Him and to trust that He would and rescue His Bride before the Great and Dreadful day.  Their collective job (individually completed) was to go out and witness, first to the Jews and later to the Gentiles, that He was raised from the dead and that they needed to ready themselves to be taken as His Bride when He returned.

So Peter and John go out.  And the Book of Acts describes what they do (in part).  And we read more about the nascent Bride under the Apostles throughout the rest of that book.  We read about Peter, who was given the keys to the kingdom unlocking the doors and letting the Gentiles in through Cornelius.  We read about the calling of Paul who would then go to the Gentiles.  And then we receive specially written epistles that Paul, Jude, James, Peter and John all commit to paper and give to those believers then.  Not one of their epistles were specific to any other audience thereafter!  Are principles present?  Of course.  Do believers grow by reading these individual epistles?  Greatly.  But the actual letters, that decades later would be collected and compiled into a “new testament” of books would not seriously be available nor agreed upon for centuries.  The reasons for this include

 For these reasons and more, Pastor, what people call the New Testament wasn’t seriously available, readable, and purposeful in the lives of most believers and followers in Yeshua for the first couple of hundred years! (and even that is a stretch as the Protestant Reformers weren’t even certain on what was inspired and valid and what was not).

The questions that come in the face of this are numerous.  Like,

  1. What governed the believers after Yeshua ascended and before He returned and took His bride in 70AD?
  • If it was the Old Testament, and that sufficed, why the “new?”
  • If it was the Spirit (as the text itself suggests) why the focus on the new today?
  • Why would sola scriptura have any place in the thinking of believers since the scripture wasn’t really available to the early church who made up His holy and pure Bride?
  1. When the whole modern-day Bible was finally agreed upon, and was printable, and readable, and was available, why THEN did it become the go-to source (for the Protestant Reformers) when it never served as such in the early church?
  • This does not support the claim of Traditions offered up by the Catholics, Orthodox or others as the fail-safe because we can readily see how much that has served to obfuscate biblical truth and introduce the ways and will of Man.
  1. But my biggest question, Pastor, is why and how the Bible – words written with ink on paper, were ever allowed to become the go-to when in the face of this approach we can readily and plainly see that all this did was bring division to the faith?
  • Protestants try and say that sola scriptura creates a unity of the faith, that Bible reading Christians agree on the majors and only disagree on the minors, but the fact of the matter is the introduction of sola scriptura has done nothing but divide people over what is ultimately unanswerable.

You see, Pastor, my point is this – Yeshua Himself is the Word of God – not ink scribbled out on paper.  Ink on paper will aways create division in human beings as interpretations are frankly as different as the readers considering the words. For there to be a unity of the faith, the governing principle must be agape love and agape love is the means by which all souls interpret the written words in ink.

For example,

Suppose you spend thirty years studying the ontology of God.  I mean, everything has been considered – He’s male, He’s female, He’s three, He’s two, He’s one.  And let’s suppose that as a result of your seeking and searching you decide that God is a Trinity as defined by Creedal Trinitarians, that He is three persons that make up the One True God.  This is a pleasant conclusion for you because it happens to accord with tradition.  Yippee.

So you are teaching and preaching and screaming, Trinity! As a result and there in the church a humble man of letters (or not) publicly differs with you.  I mean, he voices to your congregation that he sees God as a binity – as two instead of three.  Right out the gate you have a decision to make, don’t you?  Here are your essential choices on how to proceed:

  1. The man is wrong.  He is dangerous to the truth and therefore to God. And he must be uninvited to your church.
  2. You will invite the man to lunch and invite him to reason with you through the scripture.
  3. You allow the man to both voice his beliefs freely and in love, and you admit that your views are limited, and you seek to grow in light of his findings all the while unconditionally fellowshipping with him.

Pastor, the first response is what letter-learning creates.  It is what created the attitudes in the scribes and pharisees in Yeshua’s day.  And while this approach certainly strengthens the borders of a group of like-minded believers, and helps craft a nice body of people, it doesn’t make it right, good or a blessing to others – it only reinforces your mindset in the world all the while ignoring the possibility that you might be wrong.

The second response, if you think that it alone will bring about good results because you are certain that you can actually use the written word to prove your point to anyone who will listen, will fail you for the simple reason that God Himself has not made understanding His make-up easy to grasp or find and that in a world of different people there will always be differences of opinion.  And even if you and the man ultimately do agree on an answer, it in no way means all other people who also seek, will agree.

No, Pastor, the only viable response that I can see, that will honor the written scripture as having value, that will unite all searching souls together, and that will lend to true faith in the living God, is when we allow God to do the teaching, we give all people the right to interpret the written word as we want that same right, and we DIFFER to agape love instead of dogmatic opinions.   What does this look like?

Go back to your pulpit.  You have just taught on the make-up of God and you have just opened your study up for comments and questions and the man in question raises his hand and proclaims that he believes God is better described as two.  And you respond to this by saying,

“Brother.  You may be right.  I presently see God as present in three persons that make up the one God but that does not suggest that I am dead on correct.  You might be on to something I have not considered and you and your views are as welcome here as myself.”

Can you see how agape love, instead of law and legalism over the written word will work to bring peace, love and understanding to the lives and world of those who are seeking Him in spirit and truth?  Can you see the error of making doctrinal demands on people using the written scripture and our interpretations of to establish fellowship?

Again, Pastor, can you start to see how far off the rails of what Yeshua did for the world when we grab the book about the Nation of Israel and what God did through it, assign it to ourselves today and lay claim to correct interpretation?  I have heard it said that the very definition of insanity is to do the same things over and over again and to expect the same results. Doesn’t this describe what we have done with material religion in the world since God destroyed the former best expression of it (meaning the Nation of Israel under the Law).

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