Was St. Paul a Psychopath?

When I was researching JOANNA, I discovered what it meant to be a psychopath. Born with an under-developed frontal lobe in the brain, a psychopath was destined to live their lives unable to experience emotional empathy, unable to feel guilt, unable to love. I listened for many hours to psychopaths talking, I read copious studies by neuroscientists, and I even managed to find two mothers of psychopaths who were prepared to talk to me. By the time I came to write JOANNA, I knew how a psychopath would think and behave, and I could imagine what it would be like to live with one.

However, the whole time I was writing JOANNA, striving to make an interesting story that would also show the reader everything I had learnt, I had a nagging doubt. If someone was born a psychopath, were they doomed? What did the disorder mean from a spiritual point of view? Psychopathy is a mental disorder, not an illness. It cannot be cured. It is a genetic condition, it cannot be prevented. Whilst the vast majority of psychopaths are not killers, and are never convicted of any crime, they will still be difficult people to live with. They will still be ‘bad’ people. So, what does that mean in terms of Christianity? Could a psychopath be a Christian?

Now, I believe that whilst God can, and does, sometimes heal people of physical disabilities, in the vast majority of cases, he does not. So a blind person who becomes a Christian will be a blind Christian. A Downs Syndrome person who becomes a Christian will be a Christian who has Downs Syndrome. God can use those situations, but he rarely changes them. As psychopathy is a physical condition, I think it unlikely that God would necessarily heal a psychopath. So what would a psychopathic Christian look like?

I began to read the Bible with this in mind. I knew that a psychopath would be unaffected by physical cruelty towards others. They would be ambitious for their own advancement, and possibly a leader within either the established religion or start their own. They would have no obvious emotional ties, and be quite capable of rejecting anyone who they felt was holding them back, even if that person had made huge sacrifices in order to follow them. They would have no fear, and be able to walk into dangerous situations, even if they knew it was risky. In fact, as thrill-seekers, psychopaths will often do things which they know hold high risk. Psychopaths are often eloquent, and their lack of fear makes them excellent public speakers. There is something mesmerising about them, people cannot help but listen to them (look on YouTube for clips of Charles Manson or Ted Bundy speaking – you will not be bored).

But what about God? Could a psychopath follow God? Well, a psychopath’s main motivation is to look after themselves. So, if they had an experience which proved to them beyond all doubt that God existed, they would definitely decide to follow him. They would do whatever was necessary to ensure they were on the ‘winning side’. They would not risk their soul, not if they knew, absolutely, that God was real.

Now, when we read the accounts about Paul, he shows many of these traits. Was he a psychopath? We do not have enough information to make that statement, and certainly some of his writings suggest that he was not. But I think it’s possible. I wanted to try and explore this further, so I wrote CLARA. As I wrote, I used the knowledge I had gleaned about psychopaths, and I very much had the character of St Paul in mind as I wove the story. The character of Clara is not St. Paul – but I think you will notice some similarities.

CLARA – A Good Psychopath?
ISBN 978-0-9954632-5-7
The Cobweb Press

I hope it is also a book you will enjoy, though at times it makes for uncomfortable reading. It is exciting, but there are funny moments. It shows how someone who is very bad, can achieve something that is very good. Are you prepared to be challenged? This is not a cosy portrayal of Christianity, and some people will find the ideas disturbing.

Would you like to buy a copy? It costs £11.95 from Amazon and in bookshops (they can order it if it’s not in stock). But until the 31st March, it is available at a 33% discount, for £7.95 including free UK postage. Just send a message via the contact form below, with your postal address (this is sent directly to me, it isn’t public). Payment instructions will be sent with the book – you can pay by cheque or direct bank transfer. Why not buy a copy today?




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The Book of Job : Bible Blog 13

I have now read to the end of the book of Job. It comes right after Esther, which I think is a really weird book (although very important historically for Jewish people, who still celebrate Purim today). I found it uncomfortable for two reasons. Firstly, Esther is very much a pawn. She is first used by Mordecai, who sends her off to enter a harem (not what I would want for any female I cared about). Later, she is pretty much used at the whim of the king, even though she does manage to use this to her advantage (and save the whole Jewish race). The second problem I have with the book is that when the Jewish people are saved, they then violently kill all their enemies. Chapter 9 is pretty gory (which was never really mentioned when I was in Sunday School!)

However, if Esther is one of my least favourite books of the Bible, my favourite is probably the book of Job. Which is surprising, as until recently I did not understand it, and probably disliked it as much as I now dislike Esther. If you have never read it, properly, from start to finish, do it this week. It isn’t an easy book to read, and the themes seem strange and complicated, but the message is huge.

In summary, Job is like a piece of theatre. It is an ancient story, and was told for generations, to show why God is worshipped. The dating of the book is difficult, and there is some evidence that shows it may have been written even before Moses’ times. It was a story that was told, some scholars think that even King Solomon used it, and it is thought to have been originally written in Arabic (so some of the translations are unsure). Job himself is thought to have been a real person, possibly a descendent of Nahor (Abraham’s brother). He is not part of ‘the promised race’, so it’s very interesting that this book is included as part of Jewish scriptures, and given equal weight to their other holy books.

The story is about Job, a good man, who worships God (which is significant, as he was a gentile). He is rich, with a family, and God allows just about everything to go wrong for him. So he loses his family, and all his possessions, and finally his health. Most of the book shows him, wretched and in despair, and we read the dialogues between him and his friends. His friends tell him that the calamity is due to his own evilness, that he has sinned against God, and therefore everything has gone wrong. Job defends himself, and says he has always been true to God, and it isn’t fair, because there are rich, happy, successful people who are evil. Then God speaks. God shows his might, his absolute power, his authority over everything. Which is why people should worship God. He is worthy of worship. Mankind is insignificant, so how can Job protest? Job, and his friends, repent, and God gives Job more than he had at the start of the story.

I love this story for several reasons. Firstly, I love the language of the last few chapters, when God is speaking. It talks about dawn holding the skirts of the earth, describes storehouses of snow waiting to fall; such beautiful imagery. I also like the main theme, that God should be worshipped because he is God. Our religion can be a useful way to achieve this – but sometimes it gets in the way. Sometimes the singing, the sermon, the Bible study can detract from what we are meant to be doing, which is worshipping God. We do not worship because we’ll be given peace, or blessings, or help through troubles. We worship because God is worthy. That is all. This is something we need to learn, and constantly remember. God is worthy, and that is all.

If you imagine a power-rangers type movie, where there are huge forces fighting for power, would you not want to be on the team of the power that will win? Don’t you want to be allied with the right side? That is what this book is about. It does not promise health or wealth or anything else, it just points out that God’s side is the best side, and so we should be on that team.

Now, I will admit, some of the text is a bit awkward. This might be because it is a translation.

There are some difficult ideas too, so Chapter 40 seems to be describing a dinosaur, and Chapter 41 has a pretty accurate description of a sea-living dragon, complete with fire-breathing capabilities. So what does that mean?

Some scholars have tried to explain this by saying they are mistranslated, and actually describe hippos and crocodiles. But if you read the texts, to my mind, this is a cop-out and not what is written. A crocodile does not breathe fire, and a hippo does not have a straight strong tail (like a brontosaurus).

My theory (based on nothing other than a desire to believe that dragons may have once existed!) is that there is no reason why early man would not have discovered fossils of prehistoric creatures. If they uncovered fossils of huge, fierce, dinosaurs, would they not have reasoned that these creatures existed? The world was pretty small in Bible times, people didn’t travel very far, so to believe that somewhere undiscovered, were huge animals, was not unreasonable. God was then using these beliefs when giving examples of his might (which was not untrue, because God did create the dinosaurs, even if Job had never encountered one). This is consistent with other Bible passages, where God used the beliefs of the day to explain something – such as the sun moving across the sky (whereas we now know that the earth moves around the sun). God has always met people where they are, and has made his explanations understandable for people, even if their own basic beliefs have been wrong.

So, there it is, my reasons for loving the book of Job. I used Matthew Henry’s commentary for help with the difficult bits. Now onto Psalms, and I will refer to a book by Michael Wilcock while I’m reading.

Thank you for reading. Take care.
Anne x

You can follow my blog at:

I have written several novels, and one non-fiction book. My latest novel has recently been released, and although it is fiction, the overriding theme reflects the one in Job.

CLARA – A Good Psychopath?
ISBN 978-0-9954632-5-7
Published by The Cobweb Press

Would you like to buy a copy? It costs £11.95 from Amazon and in bookshops (they can order it if it’s not in stock). But until the 31st March, I can sell copies at a 33% discount, for £7.95 including free UK postage. Just send me a message via the contact form below, with your postal address (this is sent directly to me, it isn’t public). I will then send a book, and enclose payment instructions – you can pay by cheque or direct bank transfer. Why not buy a copy today?

Thank you for reading.

Bible Blog 12 – I Finished Chronicles

I have now read to the end of 2 Chronicles. Some bits were boring, but I’m glad I did it, as it gave me a real overview of that period of Jewish history, and also an insight into the character of God. The books are basically lists of kings, giving their name, who their father was, and any major events. They finish each brief biography by saying that everything else the king did is recorded in different books. (We have some of the other reference books, in Kings and some of the prophets – like Isaiah. Others are lost.)

The thing is, as you read, you see how the kings kept on ignoring God. There would be a good king, the temple would be repaired, the laws upheld – and then his son would take over and we would read, “… who did evil in the sight of God”. It was a recurring theme. A king would take over, he would introduce new ideas about where/how to worship God and introduce other gods, the people would follow his lead, God would allow bad things to happen (like defeats in battle or famine or illness). Over, and over, it kept happening. Then, at last, there would be a king who tried to return to the rules God had given in the past, he would rebuild the temple, get rid of foreign gods, tell the people to observe the Passover. And God would forgive the people. Over, and over, whenever they returned to him, God gave them another chance.

This was interesting. As a mere reader, an unattached observer, I became fed up with the Jewish people. When, yet again, a bad king took over and the people followed him and ignored God, I was very irritated with them. As I read those words, “who did evil in the sight of God,” I found I was groaning. Oh no, surely not again. Then, when after a few generations, someone turned back to God, realised things were wrong, tried to do the right thing, I kind of wanted God to say no, stuff it, you didn’t learn last time, now it’s too late. Because that’s what I would do, after so much deliberate wrong-doing, after they continued to ignore what they knew from the past, after they stopped following God yet again. I would run out of kindness, tell them they’d blown it. But God didn’t. Every single time they came back to him, whatever had gone before, God accepted them.

You really have to read the whole of 1 and 2 Chronicles to get a feel of what I’m saying, which takes some discipline, but at the end, you are slightly amazed by the patience of God. It’s like a pre-runner to the story of The Prodigal Son, where a boy is shockingly rude to his father, shames him publicly, messes up big time – and then the father takes him back as soon as he returns. Such love. Love way beyond what I am capable of, almost beyond what we can even understand. This is my God.




Jehosh-….Who? (Bible Blog 11)

Another Strong Woman Who We Never Hear About.

Do you know the story of Jehosheba? She’s another strong woman, whose story is included in the Bible, but who we rarely hear about. I discovered her as part of my read-through the Bible, and she pops up in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. She is considered to be so important, the writers couldn’t even get her name right!

The story is as follows: The Jews are basically split into two nations – Israel and Judah. This is after King David, and both nations have their own kings, some of whom follow God and some who decide to include other gods too, as a way of keeping their options open. One of the kings in Jerusalem, Ahaziah, has just been killed. (The names make this story very confusing, as they all – to Western minds – seem very similar. But try to keep track.) His mother, Athalia (see what I mean?) decides that she will now rule Judah, so she starts to kill the whole royal family.

Whilst they are being killed, Jehosheba* hears what’s happening, and goes to where her baby nephew Joash is. (He’s a son of the recently dead king.) She whisks away Joash and his nurse, and hides them in a bedroom, so they aren’t slaughtered with everyone else. (I’m not sure why no one noticed he was missing. Perhaps in the frenzy, no one was keeping track of corpses. Or maybe they did realise he wasn’t there, but couldn’t find him, and he remained a mystery, like the princes in the tower at The Tower of London.)

Now, although Jehosheba’s actions only manage one verse in Chronicles, if you think about what she did, it was amazingly brave. Imagine the scene. There was a powerful person, killing anyone who might challenge her ability to rule, and Jehosheba defies her, to do what is right. She wouldn’t have had much time, she must have acted fairly instinctively, risking her own life to do what she believed was right. Even today, nations have leaders who are blatantly doing the wrong thing. It’s not easy to decide to risk all and continue to behave correctly.

So who is Jehosheba? We’re not even sure of her name, as sometimes she’s called Jehoshabeath. She was the daughter of a king, and sister to Ahaziah. She was also married to a priest, which is interesting, because after he was rescued, Joash lived secretly in the temple, guarded by the priests. Did Jehosheba suggest to her husband that he should arrange this? We aren’t told – but in those days, the man was the ruler of his wife, so it’s unlikely they would record that, even if it happened. Women of every era are usually very good at persuading their husbands, so I suspect she did.

The story continues with Joash being kept safe until he was about 7, when he was made king. He was then a good king, and ruled well – until he was older, and went bad. But it wouldn’t have happened unless Jehosheba had acted when she did. Another strong woman.


*As I’m sure you know, the Bible is a collection of ancient manuscripts. They’re not arranged chronologically, and so it can be a little confusing if you start at the beginning and read through. The books of Kings were written to give an historical account, and show the order of events for that period. The books of Chronicles were written at the same time, and record the same events, but add some commentary. (There were other books written at the same time, which are about the prophets of the time.) In Chronicles, she is called Jehoshabeath. In Kings, Jehosheba. No idea why.


When You Don’t Know What to Do…….Bible Blog 10

I found another little gem in 2 Chronicles. There I was, ploughing through Chronicles, which is mostly a repeat of everything I’ve already read in Kings, when I came upon this in chapter 21. I’m not sure if I missed it in Kings, or if it isn’t included there.

The story concerns King Jehoshaphat – who has already been told off by Jehu (a seer) but is now trying to do the right thing. His problem is that a whole ton of enemies are approaching, including his so-called allies, and he’s heading for a brutal defeat. So, he prays. He basically comes to God, and says, “We don’t know what to do, but we’re looking to you to solve the problem.” Ever felt like that? I know I have.

In fact, the whole nation comes to God – it says they came with their babies, and children, and wives (the men would be expected to be there anyway in those days). They came, and prayed to God, because they didn’t know what to do. Not because they had a clever plan they wanted God to carry out for them (so, not like the prayers we often pray). They came because they were stuck.

God answers, and tells them not to worry, He will be with them. Even though they have ignored God multiple times in the past. Even though they have sometimes worshipped other gods. Even though they do not have a great history. God says, because they have honestly come to him in their time of need, he will be with them.

Then – and this is interesting – they worshipped him. They didn’t actually know what the plan was. And all the enemies were still marching towards them. But they chose that moment to worship, simply because they believed God was with them, and they trusted him to somehow sort it out.

The next day, they go to the place God told them to go, and then (this made me laugh) they tell the choir to stand in front of the army and sing praises to God. (I can just imagine that, the church is being attacked, and we tell the music group to stand at the front!)

Anyhow, the story ends with all the enemies basically killing each other, so Judah is safe. But isn’t that a great story? Hidden amongst reams of boring lists. I’ll let you know what else I discover on my read through the Bible.

Thanks for reading. Have a nice day.

Anne x

You can find my other Bible Blogs at: https://anneethompson.com/christian-tearfund-materials-and-poems/

King David and The Good Wife

Often, as I read the Bible, I come to a passage which makes no sense. Something happens, there is a reaction to it, and you are left wondering why. In the olden days (of not so long ago) people would have heavy tomes sitting on bowed bookshelves, and would pull down a version of their favourite commentary to investigate. Today we have Google.

However, the problem with Google, is that usually, you have no idea who has written something. Sometimes it’s difficult to know if someone is giving their own opinion, which is no more valid than your own, or if they are Biblical scholars and know what they’re talking about. And they write with so much authority!

Take a passage I read recently (as part of my task of reading through the whole Bible – which is taking me months). I read an account of King David, before he died, telling his minions to take a census of Israel and Judah, because he wanted to know how many people he ruled. (End of 2 Samuel.) This makes God angry, and there is a plague, which kills thousands of Israelites. Why? What is wrong with a census? I put the question into Google, and came up with dozens of results.

Several people said the problem was David’s reasons for taking the census, that it showed pride in his own achievements. Some people suggested that the problem was lack of trust, or wrong priorities – David was more concerned with how many people he ruled than what God wanted. All sounded very plausible, and were more or less what I’d decided myself.

Then I read another explanation, posted on a website called “gotquestions.org”. They came up with a different reason for the census being wrong. They said that in Exodus 30, God had clearly said that no one should take a census of Israel, because Israel belonged to God, and only he could instigate one (as he did when the book of Numbers was written). When the people were counted, they had to make sacrifices, showing that they belonged to God.

So, the reasons for the census (pride, wrong priorities, etc) weren’t the problem. Taking the census in the first place was.

There is also the issue of what prompted David to take the census. In 2 Samuel, it says God incited David to. But in 1 Chronicles (same story) it says Satan incited David to. So, which is correct?

Again, there were lots of answers online, people saying that actually it was God, who allowed Satan to incite David. Or saying that Satan was not a Hebrew word, and that is where the problem lies. However, scholars who actually know some Hebrew point out that actually, the verb ‘to incite’ has no subject in the original text. So it is better translated, “There was who moved David against them,” – which doesn’t make sense. So English translators added what they thought was best. Which means that to be definite in our interpretation of the English translation is foolish. There are, it seems, a lot of foolish people out there.

Which actually, is my point (I know, you were wondering if I had one!) The reason the title mentions The Good Wife, a series on Netflix which I very much enjoy, is there is a character, a judge, who insists that when the lawyers present their arguments, they should always say, “In my opinion.” I think this would be a good rule for people who expound the Bible, whether they do it online or teach, or preach. To give an opinion on part of the Bible, and to say this is absolute, when perhaps you are using a translation (eg, a version written in English) is dangerous. I would even go as far as to suggest it might be wrong. Yet people do it all the time.

My understanding of the ten commandments, is that the second commandment, is relevant here. It’s the one that says, “Do not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” (Exodus 20) I was taught that this does not mean casual ‘swearing’, using the name of God as a meaningless word, saying, “Oh God!” when we drop something (though that is also wrong, but for a different reason). It means, do not claim something is from God when it is not. Do not say, “God told me to…” if you’re actually not sure if it was God or your own mind. Do not claim something is God’s word – an absolute explanation of the Bible, if actually it is just your own opinion. Especially if it’s based on a translation.

People should not be so forceful when telling others what they believe, because they might be wrong. To say: “If you want to come to God, you must first say you are sorry, because that is what happened in the parable of the prodigal son,” would be wrong. ( I have explained this in my article on understanding stories : https://anneethompson.com/christian-tearfund-materials-and-poems/understanding-stories/) We can be sure of God, sure of our relationship with him, sure of his character. But when we are interpreting the Bible, we should show a little humility.

Perhaps those who take a particular stand on a subject, be it homosexuality, or the place of women, or euthanasia, need to be careful. Yes, we should pray about issues and ask God to guide us. Yes, we should stand up for what we believe is right. But we need to be ever aware that we are standing for what we believe. We do not speak for God. Sometimes we might be wrong. It worries me when I read Christians write about those who disagree with them, referring to them as, “Those who claim to be Christians,” clearly indicating that actually, their own view is correct, their own view is the true interpretation of the Bible, the others cannot possibly be right.

So please, next time you give your view about something, especially in a public forum, remember that it is your view, not God’s. Because, in my opinion, we can never be sure.



Anne E. Thompson is the author of several novels and a non-fiction book, How to Have a Brain Tumour.
Her books are available from bookshops and from Amazon.
You can follow her blog at: anneethompson.com


Are Women Possessions?

I have been reading through the Bible, from start to finish, and trying to blog about what I read as honestly as I can. Obviously I am partly a product of my upbringing (not necessarily bad) but I wanted to look with fresh eyes, to try and take the words written and understand them.

I ran into problems fairly early on. There was lots I didn’t understand, and then, in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, I came across things that just seemed wrong. Completely wrong. Which caused bit of a problem. How could I challenge the words, spoken by a prophet of God, as a direct quotation from God? Either I wasn’t understanding something fundamental, or the words of God were not something I felt was fair. It did not reflect my own understanding of God, a God who is just, loving, fair. The words reflected a God who I did not want to know.

Let me give you some examples. Now, I am a woman, but actually, this isn’t about female issues. I would think the laws were unfair whichever sex they related to. For example, in Deuteronomy, if a man thinks his wife might have been unfaithful to him, even if she hasn’t, and he has no grounds for thinking she has, he can take her to the priest to be ‘tested’. This test involves untying her hair (which I understand was a sign of shame in those days – perhaps like being shaved bald today). Then she is forced to drink poison. The poison will make her ill. If, when she recovers, she is unable to bear children, this will be proof that she has been unfaithful. If she recovers fully, she is deemed innocent. There is no penalty for the suspicious husband. How can that be okay? That is physical and psychological abuse.

I therefore took a break from reading through the Bible and blogging about it, and did a little research. I wanted to know, did God rate men above women, to the extent that women, and animals, and possessions were all equal, with men above them all?

There are multiple instances of wives being little more than possessions, with no rights whatsoever. If a man wanted to sell his daughter as a slave (including as a prostitute) then, that was okay. If a man wanted to beat his wife, provided he didn’t beat her enough to kill her, then that was okay. If a woman made a decision that either her father or husband didn’t like, they could overturn it, and that was okay. And to be clear, these are not the rules that evolved over time, these are the rules which are presented as dictated from God to Moses. Which caused me a problem. So I did a little research. This is what I have discovered so far (though I still have a way to go).

Firstly, in contrast to the apparent disregard of all females, there are some powerful women in the Old Testament. I hadn’t previously heard much about them. Perhaps churches should focus a little more on powerful women in the Bible, so everyone (men and women) realise the place they might have in today’s society.

I especially like the story of Deborah. (Deborah is the Hebrew for “honeybee”, which I think is a pretty cool name!) Deborah was a prophet, in the days when prophets, as direct messengers from God (like Moses) were more important than the priests. She sat under a tree, and people came to her to ask her judgement on matters. This was a woman with authority. She then summons Barak (which means “lightening bolt”) to come to her. Barak is the commander of the Israelite army, so somewhat powerful himself, yet he obeys and presents himself before her – a woman. Deborah then gives precise details of a military operation, and tells him to do it. Barak is too frightened to attempt it unless Deborah goes with him, so she does. They defeat the enemy. The leader of the enemy escapes, and another woman, Jael, tricks him into falling asleep under some blankets, and then hammers a tent peg through his head and into the ground. Not a woman to mess around one feels.

This shows that God does use woman. He even used women in the Old Testament, in a completely male-dominated society, and sometimes put them in positions of authority over men. You don’t get much more ‘in charge’ than hammering a tent peg through someone’s skull! So, what does it mean? Why is there the apparent discrepancy between women having absolutely no rights, and being in God-given positions of power.

As I read on, it became very clear to me that how women are treated by God, is very different to how they are treated by men. Men in the Bible absolutely view women as inferior, something to be used, owned. Even some of the ‘Bible greats’, like David, treated women in a shocking manner. David collected wives and concubines at will – if he fancied a woman, he acquired her. A bit like collecting horses. Even when he encountered a wise, Godly woman (Abigail, who defied her husband to save her people), he didn’t show much respect to her when he then “took her as his wife” – another wife added to the hundreds he already had. Being a wife was to be owned. (I don’t think I would like King David if I met him. ‘Womaniser’ comes to mind.)

Even later, in the New Testament, women are treated unfairly. When two people are found committing adultery, it is the woman who is hauled before the people and criticised, the man isn’t mentioned again. But in the New Testament, we see a change. We see how Jesus treats the women, and this is copied by his followers. Jesus treats women with respect, as equals to men. So do his followers.

There has been a lot preached about St Paul’s writings, how he said women shouldn’t speak in services, should cover their heads, and so on. He writes about man being created before woman, which some people believe means women are ‘second’ to men. But obviously that can’t be what Paul means, or all the animals would be above man. If you read commentaries by historians who understand the culture of the day and who are translating the original texts, it seems clear that actually, Paul viewed women as equal to men, with an equal right to speak and teach and lead worship. If you disagree with this, read some of the writings by Kenneth Bailey.

So, to conclude (I could write a whole thesis on this, but I’m trying to keep it short!). When you read the Bible, much of it is written as a historical account – it tells you what happened, what the laws were, but it does not make value judgements. So we might interpret that stories are ‘meaning’ something, but actually, they might not. They are simply accounts and to interpret them is always open to error. So yes, King David may have done some great things, but that did not mean he was always right. The way he treated women was appalling. Men in the Bible, pretty much always treated women as inferior. God did not. Men only appointed male priests, male teachers, male leaders. God appointed women as prophets, he used women to save the Israelites, he spoke to women, and gave them as much responsibility as he gave men. God does not see women as inferior. Men in the Bible treated women badly, but it does not mean that God thought that was okay; an historical account does not mean the actions described were condoned by the author. I still don’t understand those early laws which were so cruel to women – did Moses fudge what God had said, or were they modified by God to suit a corrupt male-dominated society? I don’t know. But when viewed in the light of the rest of the Bible, my belief is that the fault is man-made, not from God.

Churches today are perhaps slightly better balanced than the church I grew up in. When I was a child, men preached, men welcomed people at the door, men were the deacons who made all the decisions; women did the catering and looked after the children and played the piano. I think however, we still have a way to go before we are behaving towards women how God does. We need to be hearing more about the strong women in the Bible, women used by God to do amazing things. Because then our children will grow up knowing that a woman leader isn’t ‘second choice because no men were available’, they will understand that God treats men and women equally, and so should we. And women will realise that they have as much responsibility as men to listen to God, to speak out in society when something is wrong, to lead people in the right direction.

As a woman, I personally find it rather thrilling that God wants to use me. God doesn’t see me as ‘just a woman’ – he values me as highly as any man. Which makes me feel special, and love him even more. Thank you for reading.


I will continue to write my Bible Blog as I find things to write about.

Bible Blog 8 – Into Numbers

Numbers is well named – someone did an awful lot of counting. It is not an easy book, as the first part seems to be mainly lists of genealogies, and the second part has stories which I do not understand at all. I will tell you about the few snippets which seem to make some sense – the rest you can find someone wiser than me to explain. (I’m not sure if the problem is the English translation is dodgy, or if the books that were lost would explain more of the background.)

Basically, the book is a continuation of the laws in Leviticus, with lots of strange sounding rituals, a few rules, and some common sense (like, a boy isn’t old enough to fight until he’s 20, and not sensible enough to serve in the temple until he’s 30, but by 50 things are deteriorating, and he should be relieved of his duties!) There is a clear emphasis on worship, and the tabernacle was always the first thing to get sorted, before the wandering Israelites set up camp. Moses continues to lead, and is mostly wise, asking for help from God and people as necessary.

The people seem to complain a lot, but life must have been fairly tough. At one point they were sent manna, to eat. This looked, apparently, like bdellium. I’d never heard of that, so have found you a photograph to show you what it looked like. Not especially appetising to look at, if I’m honest. They also wanted meat, so God sent quail. Soon after this there was a plague, which makes you wonder if the birds were carrying the disease.

Moses has a rough time, and is blamed every time the people are discontent. In my experience, this still happens – people like to moan about the leader. Either the sermons are too long, or certain things (their favourite bits) are not preached on enough, or young/old/families are not being reached. Rarely do churches, even today, see a problem and look to themselves, to see what they need to be doing differently. Much much easier to blame the leadership. Moses had the added disadvantage of having his own siblings as followers. Does anyone ever, really, truly honour their little brother?

We meet Joshua, who was really called Hoshea but Moses changed his name. No idea why. (“Hello, what’s your name? Hoshea? Wow, that’s a silly name, let’s call you Joshua instead…”)

Then we have the bit about spying out the land, and the people not trusting God to give it to them. After they were punished, they were sorry (people are often sorry when facing punishment) but they still didn’t really grasp that the issue was not accepting that God is God, not them. This is still a problem today (especially amongst adolescent males – ask any school teacher). So, even when people claim to ‘return to God’, they still usually want that to happen on their terms, like God owes them. Hard for us to really understand that God is worth worshiping because he is God, not because of what we can get. This crops up a lot in the evangelical churches, where people are promised peace, joy, love in return for turning to God. Then when the divorce still goes through and they lose their job and someone precious dies, they feel short-changed, like God didn’t do his part.

Chapter 15 is definitely in the wrong place. Someone got in a muddle there.

Now, here is something which I find very challenging/do not understand. Quite often in Numbers, things are given holy status. So, the bad priests’ censers were hammered into plates, but those plates were holy. Later, in Chapter 19, water is blessed and then has special qualities. Is this right? Can things (and presuamably places) in themselves carry something of the holiness of God? I was raised as a good non-conformist, we shunned all icons, were told that it was our relationship with God that mattered, that places and things were simply ‘stuff’, nothing was special. But is that correct? I find this slightly worrying, as I have never credited any mere thing as holy, not even the Bible – to me this is just a book, the meaning is special but not the pages (in fact, when I was reading the Bible to a friend and translating it into Mandarin, I ripped out the book of Luke, so she could have a copy for herself). Is this wrong? What do you think? Obviously there is a danger that the things might become objects of worship themselves, which is clearly wrong. But is the opposite view also incorrect? Should we be careful with the Bible; behave differently in an empty church simply because it’s a church; believe that some places are actually holy? I know Catholic people have lots of icons/holy places. Are they right?
That is enough confusion for one week, so I’ll finish. The end of Numbers is next, then into Deuteronomy. Hoping they don’t raise too many new problems….

Thanks for reading.
Take care,


On a different note…I spent yesterday putting JOANNA onto Kindle (not a stress-free activity!) It should now be available to buy as a Kindle book, if you search for it on Amazon, in whichever country you live in. JOANNA by Anne E Thompson. (If it’s not there, it should appear in a few hours, depending on when Amazon manage to make it ‘live’.)

If you live in the UK, the link is below (and if you could please please please add a quick review, it would mean so much. Thanks):

Bible Blog 7 – Continuing my read through the Bible.

Does God have a name?

I continued to plough my way through Leviticus. Not easy reading. Much of it seemed random. There are whole lists of laws, many of which are repeated, with no real explanation as to why they are laws. There may, originally, have been documents that explained them, but they have since been lost so we can only guess. Some of the laws are to do with being separate – the Israelites were called to be different to the surrounding tribes, and this was underlined by not mixing other things. No garments made from mixed fabrics, no sowing of mixed seeds in fields, no mixing of different types of body fluids.

One thing I discovered while researching Leviticus, was that the people were not monotheistic – they did not believe there was one God, they believed there were several, but they were only to worship one. This explains the “No gods before me” rules. I was a bit shocked by this, it was something we skipped in Sunday School. Is it okay to believe there are other gods, as long as we only worship God? If so, how do you know which God you are worshipping? Could the gods of Hinduism actually be the God of Christianity under a different name? Is Allah the same deity as Jehovah?

In the early books of the Bible, there seem to be different names for God. There is the name Jahweh (or Yahweh – which is usually written without vowels : JHWH) This comes from the Hebrew for “to be” – which is what God told Moses to call him in the burning bush. I think I read somewhere that Jahweh is translated into the English Bible as LORD (all in capitals). Have a look at your Bible – is it written in capitals? But when I went back to check that, I couldn’t find it again (the joys of internet research).

There is also the name Elohim, which comes from the Semitic root “el” which means “god” and is found in names like “Beth – el” (which means “House of God”). It is also the root of “Allah” (the name for the Islam God). This name was later perverted into “Ba’al” – which became an idol.

The name Adonai, meaning Lord, or master, is also used.

In Genesis the name Elohim is used, which is unusual as it is plural, while being used to describe a single deity.

Then there are the terms of address which are more descriptive : Mighty, Counsellor, Father, and so on. When Christians pray, most have their own term of address, sometimes the one they used when taught to pray as a child.

I’m not sure of the significance of all this. I absolutely believe that God is real. I am also increasingly aware that I know very little about him in terms of knowledge, though as life goes on I am learning more and more about the character of God. I can tell you that he is holy, is worthy of our worship; he loves us, supports us, wants us to acknowledge him. As to which name he should be called by, or whether he would prefer we ate beef and not lobster – this I cannot say.

Next week I’ll let you know how I get on in Numbers.

Thank you for reading.

Bible Blog 6 – continuing my read through the Bible

 I have read to the end of Exodus and into Leviticus. They smoothly run each to each other, as if written at the same time, by the same author (like the Harry Potter books!) I wanted to know if this was correct, so did some online research. I learned that yes, they had been written, supposedly by a priest, and were therefore labelled by scholars as having been written by the source ‘P’. The first five books of our modern Bible make up the Pentateuch- the first of three divisions in the Hebrew Bible.

Now, what I didn’t know, is that actually, there were probably lots more of these early books. They are full of rules and measurements and descriptions (so I, for one, am not sorry they no longer exist.) However, it would mean that the Jewish religion, which is the basis of my Christian religion (and also seems to overlap hugely with Islam) went through some changes. Initially, it would be very ritual based – all the instructions were clearly laid out in multiple books. Then, in about 600 BCE, the babylonians attacked, and destroyed pretty much everything they could, including all the holy books. At the time of the attack, someone must have grabbed what they could carry, and managed to save the books that exist today. The Jews were taken into exile to Babylon, and their religion would have had to be more in their hearts, and less in their rituals. Those texts that they managed to save would have been incredibly special, and they began to view them as sacred (things always seem more precious when we only have a tiny bit). They would have studied these texts, trying to remember the parts that had been lost, striving to make sense of what remained. It had become a text based religion, but most of those texts were missing.

I found this enlightening. It explains why later Jewish scholars, those who lived hundreds of years later during New Testament times, focussed so much on the letter of the law. Something precious had been snatched from their culture, so they were clinging to the remnant (and had rather lost their focus of what it was actually for along the way.) The books we now have, though incredibly boring to read today, held huge significance. But they were only a fragment. We should remember that, when quoting a few Bible verses to prove a point – we too only have a fragment. They help to point us towards God, they are not the absolute last and complete word of God. Especially when translated into English. God has to be the focus, not our own understanding of the words of our holy book.

But, back to basics. The end of Exodus is full of instructions for the construction and use of the tabernacle. It is not a thrilling read. There’s one part, when Moses finally constructs the tabernacle in Chapter 40, which reminds me so much of camping as a child. We had a big family tent, and we had to all help sort the poles, then my parents screwed the basic shape together. We all had to stand at a corner (except my little brother, who was fairly useless) and when my Dad gave the signal, we raised the tent. When the poles were in place, the canvas was draped over the top. Something similar happened with the tabernacle. (I have no clever message relating to this, it just reminded me of camping as a child!)

The end of Exodus talks again about the cloud being in the tent, and when it rose up, the people packed up and followed it. At night, it was full of fire. I can find no natural reason for this, it was a physical miracle that all the people could see. Perhaps they needed to see, to be sure. They had messed up once, and made a golden calf to worship instead of God. Now God was making it easier for them, giving them something they couldn’t ignore to remind them who he was. I guess he does that with us too. I have (more than a few times) messed up, done things I shouldn’t, lost sight of what I believe. God always made it easy to go back to him, he helps us follow him, if we will let him.

I’ll discuss Leviticus in my next Bible blog. It’s bound to be thrilling…..

Thanks for reading.