How We Use the Bible…

Hello, thanks for popping back to read this post, which continues from yesterday’s post about how the Bible was compiled. As we saw, the Bible was assembled gradually, and it was relatively recently that the Bible we have today came into existence (even though the books were written thousands of years previously).

Firstly, I find it interesting that our holy book was assembled using logical criteria. This is the way that God chose for people to learn about him, and it was put together logically. I think that sometimes today, churches rely too much on ‘supernatural’ inspiration —we want God to show us things miraculously. Yet the Bible was put together by a group of people making sensible decisions. When we read the Bible, we find this is consistent with how God often led his people, in both the Old and New Testaments. People tended to win wars/save nations, mainly by logical strategy, and less by miracles. We want God to “zap the answer to us” and yet, it seems, God has given us brains and he expects us to use them. Should we move house/rebuild the church/go and preach in darkest Peru? Perhaps, after prayer, we should think about all the pros and cons, and then make a sensible decision. You might see writing in the sky telling you the way, but that would be rare.

When we are disputing something, we need to be careful about saying: “It’s clearly written in the Bible that…” In my experience, people only say this when someone else has obviously NOT seen something as “clearly written” and has formed a different belief. If it was CLEARLY written, then there would be no differing of views amongst people who claim to believe the Bible. We should remember that the Bible was written originally in Hebrew and Greek, we are probably reading a translation, we will certainly be reading it in a different age and culture. Meanings can get lost, we can misunderstand things. A little humility when discussing the Bible would be good.

The Bible does not claim to be infallible. Some religions, such as Islam, believe that their holy book was dictated by God, so it cannot reliably be translated into other languages (because you always change the meaning slightly when translating things). However, the Bible was not dictated word-for-word by God. There are seeming anomalies between some of the books. This in my mind makes the Bible more authentic, because if people were going to sit down and write a ‘holy book’ they would make sure it had no mistakes! The Bible, however, was written by people who had witnessed God working, and they wrote their accounts, and they remembered some details differently—which doesn’t make the account untrue, it simply shows they were real people, writing what they honestly remembered.

What about the books which were rejected? Is only the Protestant Bible correct? This is tricky. I recently listened to a sermon about the book of Jude (which is included in the Bible). Jude refers to ancient Hebrew books, which we have since lost, but which Jude himself obviously regarded as ‘scripture’. Jude was a brother of Jesus—you would think he might know what was ‘holy’ and what wasn’t. Personally, I have no idea.

And that’s the thing really, the point of why I am writing this. We want everything to be sorted, we want God to be nicely tied up, to be sure we see the whole picture, know everything there is to know. But we don’t. God has not chosen to tell us everything. The Bible is, I believe, inspired by God—but we should be careful how we use it. Those early Christians were, absolutely, followers of God—they died for their beliefs. But they had a slightly different Bible to us. They relied on God, not texts, and God used their belief to explain the texts they had, so they could come to him.

Can we believe the Bible? It is the book which I believe God has given to people, to help us to know him. It is not an absolute, definitive, set of rules; we should be careful when we are applying it to others —people have used the Bible in the past to justify slavery and wars and all sorts of injustices. Be careful when you quote bits of it. Almost anything can be justified using selective editing of key verses:
Do I believe in reincarnation? No! (Can I find Bible verses which seem to support reincarnation? Yes.)
Do I believe some people were created to be slaves? No! (Can I find verses which seem to support slavery? Yes.)
Do I think we should be dishonest and scheming? No! (Can I find verses which seem to support gaining things through cheating? Yes.)

But if we read the Bible, honestly searching for God, then we will find him. I did, and I know other people who have…why not read it and decide for yourself?

Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels. They are available from bookshops and Amazon.
You can follow her blog at:
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Who Compiled the Bible?

I was challenged recently when I quoted a bit of the Bible, and someone asked me when it was written, and when it was included in the Bible. I had absolutely no idea, so did a little research. If you know more than me, and can correct any of the following, then please do—otherwise, this is where the Bible came from:

The first 5 books of the Bible were thought to have been written by Moses, and are called The Pentateuch. They were probably established as ‘scripture’ by Ezra and Nehemiah, and they are what the Jews today still mean when they refer to the Torah. (These books were in existence way before Ezra and Nehemiah, but the early Jews pretty much ignored them until the prophets reminded them they were important.)

Then, about 200BC, the writings of the prophets were added. Later, the book of Psalms was also included as ‘scripture’.

Now we come to the time of Jesus’ birth (about 5BC —historians have discovered things since we set our calendar dates!) It was very important at this time for the Jews to have a clear understanding of what their holy books were. Jews were beginning to move away from Palestine, and they wanted to know exactly what defined them as a race, what their core beliefs were. So, in Palestine, when Jesus was alive and referred to ‘Scripture’ he would mean the 39 books we now have in our Old Testament. (Though the Jews combine some of the books, so I think they have 24–but they’re the same content.)

However, further afield, other Jews included other books as part of their scripture. The further away from Palestine they lived, the more books they seemed to include (some had as many as 15 extra books in their ‘scripture’). Books translated in Egypt make up the Septuagint, and this contains hidden books (known as Apocrypha which means ‘hidden’). Some of these books have since disappeared, and we don’t know what was in them.

So, what about the New Testament? Well, after Jesus left, the people who believed in him, began to separate from the Jews into a new religion. They still regarded the 39 books to be scripture, their holy books, and when in the New Testament letters they refer to ‘scripture’, this is what they meant. However, gradually, people began to write other things. People who had seen and listened to Jesus began to write accounts of his life and teaching. Later, other people interviewed them, and wrote their own accounts. The early church began to decide what it believed (such as whether non-Jews could be Christians) and the leaders of the early church wrote letters, teaching the church. Letters were called ‘epistles’. People within the church basically chose which of these letters and writings they regarded as sacred. So, there were the letters written by Paul, as well as letters written by Thomas…and the ‘Shepherd of Hermas’ …and the ‘Apocalpse of Peter’ …and the ‘Epistle of Barnabus’…and so on. Some of these writings contradicted what Jesus had taught, and some had a definite bias. Gradually, over several years, the early church began to accept some writing as being from God, and disregard other writing.

Then, in AD325 (so rather a long time later!) the church decided to state, once and for all, which books should be included as ‘scripture’. They formed a committee (because churches, it seems, have always liked committees) called the Council of Nicea. As far as I can tell from my research, they didn’t actually decide very much.

In 381, the church had another try. They formed the First Council of Constantinople and set out clear criteria for which books to accept, and which to reject. The criteria for inclusion was:

*The book was written by a first-hand witness of Jesus, or someone who had interviewed witnesses (such as Luke).
*The book was written within 100 years of Jesus (which meant, if it had been wrong, people alive at the time would have said so).
*The book should be consistent with the other books of the Bible.

This Council decided which books should be part of the Bible. They chose the books we have today, including the books of the Apocrypha.

In AD 400, St. Jerome assembled the books of the Bible, in Latin. It was called ‘The Vulgate’.

In the 16th century, a man called Martin Luther was studying the Bible, and trying to discern what it meant. He decided that actually, the Apocrypha should not be included as Scripture. The church formed another committee (the Council of Trent) who decided that Luther was wrong. This is why today, the Catholic Bible contains different books to the Protestant Bible.

Okay, that’s the end of the history lesson (interesting, huh?) So, what are the implications? This is getting too long, and I want to talk about it properly, so I will write another post tomorrow.

Bye for now. Take care.
Love, Anne x

 

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and non-fiction books. You can find her work in bookshops and Amazon.
Why not sign up to follow her blog today?
anneethompson.com

Being Loved

I was reading Matthew 22 today, and there is a parable in the first 14 verses which seemed a bit odd. Jesus is talking to the leaders of the day, the Pharisees, and he tells them a story about a king throwing a party, and all the invited guests refusing to come. I understood that analogy – the invited guests were the Jews, and many of them were messing up their gift of a relationship with God.

So, in the story, the king sends his servants out into the streets, and they invite everyone who they meet to come to the party. I understand that bit too – after the Jews (well, some of them) messed up the whole ‘people having a relationship with God’ gift, Jesus made the gift available to other people (the ‘dirty gentiles’ – that’s most of us!)

But then there’s something which seemed very odd. In the story, the king arrives at the banquet, where all those people who have accepted the invitation are sitting, enjoying the party, and he sees someone who is inappropriately dressed. The king is so angry, he throws out (in effect, banishes him to hell). Now, what does that mean? Surely, if you invite people who live on the streets to a party, you have to expect them to be inappropriately dressed? This seems a little unfair.

I did some research, and this is what I think it means: God invites everyone to come to him. Like in the parable of the prodigal son, he is a loving father, he will do everything possible to meet us where we are, he wants to save us. (Remember, in an earlier blog, I explained how when the son says: “I have sinned before man and before God,” he is actually quoting what Pharaoh said when he wanted the plagues to stop – he wasn’t sorry, he just wanted things to get better. But the father met him anyway, and that love, that willingness of the father to save the son even when he was continuing to behave badly, was enough for the son to realise that he couldn’t earn his way back, he simply had to accept what the father/God was offering.) So what does the bit about the clothes mean?

Well, I think, that yes, God wants everyone to come to him, and he has done everything necessary for us to know him. However, we also have to accept that. Now, apparently, in the days of Jesus, a king would have provided appropriate clothing for a guest (a bit like when you turn up at a posh restaurant, and they have ties for you to borrow because you didn’t realise there was a dress-code). I guess the clothes would signify the willingness to change, to become what God wants us to be, to let him alter us. Therefore, although we can all come, unless we let God change us through his love, then that is not enough. If we truly are responding to God’s love, rather than using it as a sort of ‘get out of jail free’ card, then we will let that love change us. We will be pleased to wear the garments appropriate for a party. If we don’t, we have missed the point. Which would be worse than never acknowledging that great love in the first place.

I think that’s what it means anyway. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Thank you for reading.
Take care this week.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels, which are available in bookshops and Amazon.
Anne writes a weekly blog – why not sign up to follow?
anneethompson.com

Nahum

Nahum is one of those little books which you sort of know is in the Bible, but can never find when you want to, and always end up looking in the Contents page. It comes between Micah and Habakkuk – not that this represents when the books were written. It is all about the fall of Nineveh (which you will have heard of from the story of Jonah).

Scenes on walls, in the city of Nineveh – found when the ruins of the city were discovered.

Nahum was apparently originally written as a poem – possible as an acrostic poem (each line beginning with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet). This has been somewhat lost in our modern translations, though some of the descriptions do read more like poetry than history. It is thought to have been written either just before the downfall of Assyria (making it a prophetic book) or just after (making it a history book) – so dated about 615/612 BC. Most people seem to think it was written after the fall of Thebes (which was 663 BC) and before the fall of Nineveh, and it certainly sounds like a warning to me, rather than a poem about what has already happened.

It seems that although the people of Nineveh had listened to Jonah and changed their ways, about 100 years later, they were back where they started, ignoring God and oppressing people and generally being bad. Nahum says they are going to be destroyed, and sometimes the descriptions are shockingly graphic (again, not something we ever studied in Sunday School – I would have remembered!)

The basic message, for today as much as then, is that God is holy, and will not tolerate evil forever. He is slow to anger, and he wants people to change and return to him, but he is a just God, and if people continue to ignore him, he will destroy them. God loves justice, and everyone will be judged. Sometimes, when we watch the news, it feels like God has gone to sleep, that awful things are happening and there is no justice. I especially felt this when I saw photographs of the children in Syria being torn apart by the war. However, this book reassures us, that God will act, when the time is right.

Art from Nineveh.
The art was discovered in the remains of the destroyed city, and are now in the British Museum.

Next week I’ll tell you all about a trip to ‘Spoons and the Tate. Why not sign up to follow my blog, so you don’t miss it?

anneethompson.com

Carved in Stone, Thrown to the Lions, and Defaced…

I told you in my last last blog all about how the ancient Egyptians thought that if something was carved in stone, it was true forever, and how therefore if they didn’t like part of history, they simply never recorded it – because then it never happened. They also applied this to statues, so if they didn’t like someone they chipped the face off (hence ‘defaced’).

Scenes on walls, in the city of Nineveh – found when the ruins of the city were discovered.

There was lots of stuff in the British Museum which at first glance (to me) looked completely boring, but when I listened to the explanation of what I was looking at, was very interesting. We saw things like the wall tiles from the city of Nineveh (of Jonah in the whale fame).

An interesting story was the defeat of Lachish, by a chap called Sennacharib. Sennacharib was a great warrier, and there were walls of carved stone, showing the triumphal defeat of Lachish, people being taken as slaves, the king bowing down to Sennacharib – a huge ego stroke, in other words. Except, Lachish was a small, weak, city. Conquering it was not such a big deal for someone as powerful as Sennacharib – so what wasn’t he saying? What was missing from the engarvings on the palace walls? Well, this is the time that Sennacharib was holding the city of Jerusalem in seige, and in fact, one panel lists all the plunder taken from the temple. After the defeat of Lachish, the plan was to return to Jerusalem, finish the job, and lead away King Hezekiah in chains.

But in the Old Testament, we read that God sent an angel, who went to where the army was camped outside of Jerusalem, and killed 185,000 men. When the people of Jerusalem woke up and looked out, there were thousands of dead bodies. However, although we have the Assyrian records – which show that Sennacharib sent an army of 200,000 men as the advance army to Jerusalem – there is nothing else recorded. Nothing. He simply reminded everyone of his triumph at Lachish, and had it carved in stone. Because if nothing was ever carved about Jerusalem, it never happened…(You can read the story in Isaiah 37.)

Lions were a symbol of strength in Babylon.
The tiles would be baked in furnaces, so the colour remains even today.

My favourite part of the tour was the stuff relating to Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar. Now, in the early part of Daniel, we read that his friends were put into a fiery furnace, as a punishment. When we looked at the artefacts from the time, this made perfect sense, because Nebuchadnezzar was keen on coloured clay wall tiles – and these would all need to be fired in furnaces – so they would be readily available for the odd execution when needed! Many of those tiles depicted lions, and we learned that lions were a big deal to those Babylonians, and represented great strength. They would certainly have captured them, and kept them for viewing, so again, Daniel being thrown into a den of lions makes perfect sense!

There was lots more that we saw and heard, too much really to take in. I need to do a second tour – or buy the book from the museum bookshop and walk round by myself. It really was, hugely interesting.

Thank you for reading. Hope you have an interesting week.
Take care.
Love, Anne

anneethompson.com

PS. I have always written a diary on holiday, so last Christmas, I decided to find all my old diaries and blogs, and make a book for my children. However, several other people also asked for a copy, so I have written a public version – it’s available on Amazon and has been described as “The Durrells meet Bill Bryson!”

The paperback version is currently available for £9.99, but as I will need to buy copies for book fairs, I will need to cover my postage costs, so this price is for a very limited time (I think it will be around £12 in the future, but I wanted to let you, my blog readers, know that they can buy it for the cheaper price, until March). It is also available as a Kindle book.

Why not buy a copy today? I think it will make you laugh.

The US link is here:

https://www.amazon.com/Sarcastic-Mothers-Holiday-Diary-ebook/dp/B07N95281F/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1549015525&sr=8-1&keywords=the+sarcastic+mothers+holiday+diary

The India link is here:

https://www.amazon.in/Sarcastic-Mothers-Holiday-Diary-ebook/dp/B07N95281F/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1549015429&sr=8-1&keywords=the+sarcastic+mothers+holiday+diary

The UK link is here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sarcastic-Mothers-Holiday-Diary-ebook/dp/B07N95281F/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1549014970&sr=8-2&keywords=the+sarcastic+mothers+holiday+diary

Deleting the Family Tree…

We began our tour in a large room full of Egyptian stuff. I didn’t know much about the Egyptians, and wasn’t sure how much I wanted to know about the Egyptians – but actually it turned out to be very interesting.

We were on a Bible Tour at the British Museum, and although I wasn’t completely sure what that meant, I figured I might learn something useful. We met our guide next to the stairs, picked up a folding chair (which I was later very grateful for, as the tour involved a lot of standing for those people who didn’t have chairs) and off we set – to the Egyptian room.

The ‘Family Tree’ of Ramesses – with all embarrassing relations deleted!

Before we could begin our tour, we needed to learn a fundamental truth about Egyptian psychology, which was that “If it isn’t carved in stone, it didn’t happen” and therefore anything unpleasant or embarrassing about their history, they simply deleted. So, when we looked at the Egyptian equivalent of a family tree for Ramesses (that well-known Pharaoh) there were lots of names missing. They weren’t missing because he didn’t know who his ancestors were, they were missing because those ancestors were embarrassing. (Now, wouldn’t we all like to do that!) As I said, anything ‘carved in stone’ was thought to be eternal, therefore anything not there, could be ignored, as if it never happened.

Having learnt this snippet of Egyptian psychology, we then began the tour proper – which was to look for evidence, beyond the writing in the Bible, that would support the events described. So, as the whole ‘Israelite slaves being saved by a God who sent plagues so that Pharaoh is defeated and those slaves can leave’ would be somewhat embarrassing to the Egypyians of the day, we were never going to find evidence, carved in stone, that would remind them of that piece of history. However, there were other clues, circumstantial evidence, that supported the Bible claims.

Senwosret was probably the Pharaoh who put Joseph in charge of all the agriculture.

In about 1875BC, Joseph was sold as a slave to Egypt, and while he was there, he told the pharaoh what his dreams meant, and was then put in charge of all the food. So, when there were 7years of plenty, they saved food, and when this was followed by 7years of famine, they could eat the stored grain. Now, we know that the pharaoh of the day was deemed to be responsible for everything, he was almost a god, and therefore a famine, of any length, would be his fault. This would make the pharaoh of the dreams very worried when Joseph told him the meaning of his dreams, and he would want to act.

Egyptian records, show that Senwosret took complete control of all the agriculture during his reign as pharaoh, which was a strange and significant thing to do. We also know that when he was buried, he shared his tomb with his vizier (the ancient Egyptian equivalent of a prime minister). There is a carving, which states this vizier was “ruler of all the world” – which is exactly what Pharaoh described Joseph as, in the Bible account. Pretty interesting, huh? You can see statues of Senwosret in the British Museum today (he wasn’t a looker).

The oppression of the Israelites, when they were treated as slaves, probably began during the reign of Ahmose. After him, came Thutmose, and he had a very powerful daughter (very unusual in those days) who even ruled for a while and had statues made in her image, in the form of a pharaoh. It would make sense if she was the “daughter of Pharaoh” who fished the baby Moses out of the river, and then raised him in the palace.

Thutmose III
Who was probably the Pharaoh during the Exodus, when all the Israelites left Egypt.

 

Later, there was a very powerful pharaoh, called Thutmose III. He ruled during the high point of Egyptian history, was well known for his building projects and so on. We know that Moses was over 80 when he started negotiating with Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave, so the timing fits. Then, half way through Thutmose III’s reign, everything begins to go wrong. We don’t know why (because there is nothing ‘carved in stone’ about it) but we do know that the next pharaoh was not his son, that all his power seemed to stop half way through his reign, and, even more significant, the pharaoh after him made it a priority to go and conquer other nations so they could capture new slaves. Sounds convincing to me, I reckon Thutmose III was probably the Pharaoh from Exodus (even if Hollywood thinks it was Ramesses!) You can see his statue in the museum, but someone has bashed away his belt (which was how the statue of a pharaoh was identified) and added the cartouche (the oval that contains the pharaoh’s symbols) of Ramesses on his chest. Because if it’s ‘carved in stone’, it must be true…

There is loads more to tell you about the museum, especially the ‘evidence’ for angels killing whole armies – but I’m out of space. I’ll tell you next week.

Bye for now,
Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels. They are available from bookshops and Amazon.
You can follow her blog at:
anneethompson.com
Why not sign up to follow today?

Micah – A New Year’s Resolution

Did you make a new year’s resolution for 2019? Do you plan/hope to improve something? It’s good to pause and take stock sometimes, to check how we’re living is how we want to live.

Micah is a book which I have often heard quoted, though have never read from start to finish before. It was written about the same time as 1 Kings, which is a history book, whereas this is a prophecy. It tells the people what will happen – that they will be taken into captivity – though it doesn’t say when. They were later taken captive by the Babylonians, and remained captives for much longer than they expected. There is also a snippet in Chapter 5, which foretells the birth of Jesus, and is often quoted (fairly randomly and out of context in my opinion!) at Christmas carol services.

However, for me, the most beautiful part of the book is chapter 6 and verse 8. This tells the people – and us – what God requires. Being a Christian, deciding to follow God, is not about rules or religion or rituals. Micah writes:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

This should be our code of conduct. Not grabbing what we can from the world, but being fair; not judging other people, but being kind; not declaring that we understand the Bible and other people are wrong, but being humble and following where God leads us. I think this is a good principle to try and live by this year, as we take stock and look forwards. It reminds me of something my cousin recently shared on Facebook, which I felt says it all, really. I will share it with you (I don’t know who originally wrote it, so I can’t credit them).

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motive.
Be kind anyway,
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
Give the best and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

I hope your new year is happy, and that you live it well.

Take care,
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and non-fiction books. You can find her work in bookshops and Amazon.
Why not sign up to follow her blog today?
anneethompson.com