Confessions of a Questioning Christian

Archive for January 2012

Matthew 3

Posted on: January 31, 2012

Enter John the Baptist! Someday I’ll tell you all about how John the Baptist caused my brother to hide behind a vintage soda machine for a month.

I have two thoughts about John the Baptist: 1) This guy is crazy and reminds me of the creepy people who used to come to my college campus, stand at every corner, and hold signs up saying we were going to hell if we didn’t repent, and 2) How did he become this powerful, radical person? He seems to be an outsider to the norm as far as whatever Judaism was at the time. Enough that people were coming out of the woodwork to see him. What’s his deal?

John was somewhat reclusive. Jesus once said: “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He has a demon” (Mt. 11:18). “Eating and drinking” stood for socializing. The prophet was not a party-goer. His ascetic life-style appeared almost demonic, like those possessed of evil spirits who apparently frequented the desolate areas (cf. Mk. 5:2-3). He did not seek out the multitudes; rather, somehow, he attracted them.

The citizenry of Jerusalem and all Judea went out unto him as he moved about in the Jordan Valley (Mt. 3:5; cf. 13; Jn. 1:28; 3:23). The imperfect tense verb, rendered “went out” (Mt. 3:5), suggests a stream of auditors gravitating to the rough prophet. His influence was phenomenal. Hundreds, if not thousands, were immersed by him. And his success was solely in the message he proclaimed.

The multitudes said that he performed no “sign,” though they regarded his message concerning Christ as true (Jn. 10:41). This passage appears to indicate that John did not perform demonstrative miracles, as Jesus and the apostles did (cf. Mt. 10:1ff). It is certainly the case, however, that his message was from God, and thus infallibly true. The power of John’s preaching, together with the void in Israel’s hearts, was a winning combination. (christiancourier)

I can’t get a firm answer on where John got his instructions or why he did what he did. But Jesus wanted John to baptism him.

Now, to me, baptism is a very Christian thing to do, but Christianity as we know it today wasn’t even a thing yet. John was a Jew, Jesus was Jewish, and Jews were waiting for the Messiah. So why was John baptizing at all?

Background in Jewish ritual

Main article: Mikvah

Although the term “baptism” is not used to describe the Jewish rituals, the purification rites in Jewish laws and tradition, called “Tvilah”, have some similarity to baptism, and the two have been linked. The “Tvilah” is the act of immersion in natural sourced water, called a “Mikvah”[80][81] In the Jewish Bibleand other Jewish texts, immersion in water for ritual purification was established for restoration to a condition of “ritual purity” in specific circumstances. For example, Jews who (according to the Law of Moses) became ritually defiled by contact with a corpse had to use the mikvah before being allowed to participate in the Holy Temple. Immersion is required for converts to Judaism as part of their conversion. Immersion in the mikvah represents a change in status in regards to purification, restoration, and qualification for full religious participation in the life of the community, ensuring that the cleansed person will not impose uncleanness on property or its owners (Num. 19 and Babylonian TalmudTractateChagigah, p. 12). This change of status by the mikvah could be obtained repeatedly, while Christian baptism, like circumcision, is, in the general view of Christians, unique and not repeatable.[82] (wikipedia)

So maybe John was putting a new spin on the Mikvah – he was cleansing people of their sins. Or maybe John was just doing the Mikvah, and then when Jesus showed up asking for it, that’s what started the whole thing?

Baptism has been part of Christianity from the start, as shown by the many mentions in the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistles. Christians consider Jesus to have instituted the sacrament of baptism. How explicit Jesus’ intentions were and whether he envisioned a continuing, organized Church is a matter of dispute among scholars.[22] (wikipedia)

Later in Matt 2:11, the Holy Spirit is referenced again. And again, the Holy Spirit is a Christian thing – not Jewish, right?

Judaism

Main article: Holy Spirit (Judaism)

The term “holy spirit” only occurs three times in the Hebrew Bible. (Found once in Psalm 51:11 and twice in Isaiah 63:10,11) Although, the term “spirit” in the Hebrew Scriptures, in reference to “God’s spirit”, does occur more times. In JudaismGod is One, the idea of God as a duality or trinity amonggentiles may be Shituf (or “not purely monotheistic”). The term Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is found frequently in Talmudic and Midrashic literature. In some cases it signifies prophetic inspiration, while in others it is used as a hypostatization or a metonym for God.[16] The Rabbinic “Holy Spirit,” has a certain degree of personification, but it remains, “a quality belonging to God, one of his attributes” and not, as in mainstream Christianity, representative of “any metaphysical divisions in the Godhead.”[17] (wikipedia)

and also

Fire was often a symbol of wrath, and so linking the Holy Spirit with it superficially appears to clash with portrayals of this Spirit elsewhere in the New Testament as a gentle thing. Some translations avoid using the word fire due to this, but when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, it appeared that several of its texts make the connection between Holy Spirit and wrath, and so most scholars now see the wording here as original, and the other portrayals as misinterpreted. (wikipedia)

Matt 3: 15 – I think we already discussed that.

Matt 3:16 – What can I say, there seems to be no information affirming or refuting this from happening. It must simply come down to faith as to whether and how this happened. It is said that Luke is emphatic that something like a dove came down, while Matthew leaves things vague, and therefore perhaps something “dove-like” happened.

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I wrote this on my personal blog about a year ago. 

I have what was recently described as an “ambiguous relationship” with the Christian church.  However, for all intents and purposes, most people would categorize me as a Christian.  But here’s the deal.  I hate religion – HATE IT.  I try to respect all people regardless of their religious preference.  However, I’d say I’m most judgmental of Christians, for a million unjustified reasons.  I’m working on that.  But I don’t like to be called a Christian.

Instead of saying I’m a Christian, I think the more accurate way to describe my spirituality is that I do believe that Jesus was who he said he was.  I deeply appreciate and respect what he said while he was on this earth and what he did for the people he met.  If you aren’t sure why I’m saying this, then read the Gospels (first four books of the New Testament).  To be honest, although I’m pretty sure I’ve read almost the entire Bible, the Gospels are the only books that I can point to and say, “Yes, THAT is what I believe in.”  If you want an explanation, just ask.  To sum it up, he showed the world what love means, by loving people that nobody wants to love.  I can’t speak for anyone who came after Jesus and claimed to be a Christian or who claimed that their rules or suppositions about what Jesus would have done were correct.  I can only follow what Jesus said for myself, as best as I can.  So please don’t assume that I’m anything like anyone else you’ve ever met who is a Christian.  And don’t assume that just because some Christian along the way said something totally awful to you, that we’re all like that.  There, I’ve covered both bases – some “Christians” are hateful people who probably aren’t really Christians at all (and I really dislike those people), and there are also lots of people following Jesus’ example and doing beautiful, terribly difficult, and desperately needed social justice around the world.  People who say they are something and act the opposite of it – it’s the same in almost every religion.  Period.

Ok, moving on.  I am not easily swayed by religious rhetoric.  In fact, I’ve learned to question what I hear at church or from church leaders, because lots of things I grew up believing were from God just aren’t (I’m not blaming anyone – it was just that it took me a long time to start critically thinking about religion).  So I have to really consider some things, check what the Bible actually says, and also weigh out what I think the context was for when and where and why a certain verse was written.  I do not follow blindly.  And I believe God gives us grace to do this – it isn’t a lack of faith in God; it’s a lack of faith in hubritic people who act like they know who God is or what God wants.  Sometimes I just need to study for myself.  And lots of Christians in my life have ostracized me for that.  I don’t really mind anymore, but it’s essential to know that this is a reason my defenses are up around Christians.

Unlike many people I know, I don’t believe God is a puppet master, humans his marionettes, and the world his little stage.  I detest the notion that everything happens for a reason – it doesn’t.  The world is both beautiful and scary, lovely and dangerous, understandable and chaotic.  Some people grow up in a ranch style house in America.  Some people grow up in a brothel and are raped up to twelve times a day until they are so riddled with AIDS and other STIs that they are thrown into the streets to die in their early 20s.

So I don’t often credit God for the things I see around me.  I thank God for good things, I ask him for wisdom when things aren’t so good.  I believe he hears my prayers.  I just don’t believe he wants to meddle with my life – I believe he wants to see what I will do with it.  I also believe that he can and does communicate with humans (especially the humans who are talking to him – that’s kind of how a relationship works, right?); sometimes we expect it, other times we don’t.  I think it’s important to be cautions of saying we heard God say something or we know God was behind something – it gives people a very warped view of God unless you happen to be right (and I’ve seen lots of people be wrong).  But as someone who is spiritual, even if it’s a cautious spirituality at the moment, I also have to call a spade a spade: when I am praying for something and I am given an answer to a question I haven’t even asked yet… well, I can’t give you faith in my faith.  You either believe me or you don’t, and that doesn’t bother me at all.

 

I wrote this on my personal blog about a year ago. This explains the issue I’ve had with the Christian church becoming political – and the toll it’s taken on my life.

A while ago I wrote something like a confession of faith, where I explained my beliefs about God and my beliefs about Christianity.  You should read that if what I have to say next doesn’t make sense.

I am going to talk about something now that some people won’t like.  I’ve been terribly scared to mention it or bring it up because I think what I have to say will make some people so angry or upset or bitter or disappointed in me that they’ll write me off for good.  I yearn for the support of so many people, but I have been afraid to show them what I really believe because I think I’ll lose their support.  But I realized that I don’t really have their support if they don’t know who I really am.

Here I go.

I grew up believing that if you are an American citizen and you choose to vote for a Democrat, then you could not possibly be a Christian – or you were a very misguided, stupid Christian who didn’t understand anything about the Bible.  I don’t think anyone actually ever said these words to me (actually, I do remember a time they were said to me almost exactly like that, but it was when I was older), but they didn’t need to be said.  They were implied: when I was praying at church, when politics came onto the television, when politics were brought up (albeit rarely) at my house, etc.  And it usually, obviously, came down to two planks in the party platform: abortion and homosexuality.

Abortion was called murder and homosexuality was called an abomination.  Of course I was never told to say this type of thing out loud (it’s kind of rude), but it was certainly what was taught.  And how could these two glaring topics be ignored?  The other planks in the party platforms really did not matter – we had to abolish abortion and prevent gays from marrying (after all, marriage is created for one man and one woman).

As you can see, religion and politics went hand in hand.  In many ways, politics became a form of religion – sometimes the loudest part of Christianity.  But where is the grace, love, kindness, and mercy in politics?  Although we didn’t know what the circumstances were behind the individuals who were getting abortions or coming out of the closet, we were prepared to judge them and argue with them and call them sinners if they didn’t change their minds.

I went to school to study political science, and proudly declared myself a Republican when people asked – although the only parts of being a Republican that I was familiar with were these two topics.  I didn’t care – I decided that nothing else mattered; if my vote would save unborn children, I didn’t care what the rest of the planks were in the platform.

Of course, after a few years of studying politics, I realized that other planks in the platform do matter – politically.  And more importantly, as I studied the Bible, I realized that Jesus wanted nothing to do with politics, and what he really cared about was showing people love – especially, perhaps, to the types of people who got abortions or were shunned for being gay.  I didn’t see a lot of love when it came to the way Christians were using these two topics to ostracize and demonize people.  There was no compassion or mercy, let alone consideration for the consequences of what would really happen if their political ambitions were realized.

I won’t go into all the revelations I had that moved me across party lines, because there are many, and some are heartbreaking.  However, at some point I realized that, looking at the total sum of political topics I agreed with (now that I actually knew what they all were), my political beliefs more often sided with the Democrats than the Republicans.

This was a very scary revelation to make – and still is today.  Because some of the most important people in my life are born and bred RepubliChristians, and questioning the Republican Party was literally like questioning my faith in God.  And that’s exactly what happened.  My best friends, family members, family friends – they all began to tell me that I was wrong.  Gravely wrong.  That I had been lead astray by false prophets, that I wasn’t being smart or that I needed to read the Bible and pray more.  Nobody would listen to my reasons, nobody believed that I was reading the Bible and praying every day, and if they did listen they went back to the old standby reasoning: abortion and gay people!  That’s wrong!  Ignore the rest!  Nothing else matters!

STOP THINKING AND FALL INTO LINE.  It’s all I really heard them say.

The worst thing is that I really couldn’t get anyone to separate politics from religion, because I see them as separate entities, dangerous when woven together.  Nobody would consider that God didn’t have a political preference.  Nobody could think outside of these two topics, let alone the American two-party system for that matter.  Nobody was willing to let me question.  Many Christians decided independently that I could not be a Christian if I didn’t agree with them politically.  I was a misguided, lost soul, a goat among sheep, because I didn’t vote Republican.

After a while, I decided I couldn’t bring up politics with people.  Everything was black and white, except it wasn’t.  In one breath I would be told that you could be pro-life and pro-war/pro-death penalty, or that gay marriage should be regulated by the state, even though Christians were legally allowed to get divorces.  They had loopholes in their reasoning, but if I tried to point them out I was once again condemned for being too liberal, and therefore no longer a Christian.

As you can see, I still have some bitterness about this – mostly because I’ve lost people I love dearly over this subject.  And absolutely not by my choice.  I’ve been deeply, permanently scarred by the ease in which I’ve been cast out by people who say they follow a God who loves everyone.  It’s not all that much different to still be in the lives of some people but know that they dismiss my opinions and thoughts completely because I was brain-washed by a liberal state university.

Today I was again reminded that some people think that my voter registration will also be requested when I get to the gates of heaven – and if it doesn’t say “Republican,” I will be surprised when I’m turned away.  Except that I believe God isn’t Republican or Democrat, and that the laws of our countries have nothing to do with my salvation or faith.  If you believe in Satan, I find it ironic that you don’t realize that this is one of the easiest ways he could use to divide Christians and turn them against each other.  Jesus didn’t say to vote, let alone tell us how to vote, because he wasn’t political!  He said to work with the widows and orphans, hang out with prostitutes and others dismissed by society, and show love to even the lowliest people we know, including our enemies.

So the truth is that I follow Jesus – that’s my “religion.”  And the truth is that I usually vote liberally (American liberal) – that’s my politics.  And I fear who will turn me away in this round of Kim v. Religious Right.  Because God knows I don’t want people to stop caring about me or loving me, and God knows that my heart literally breaks because someone always does.  But God knows my heart, and he knows yours too, and I hope that this will be enough for you to keep loving me.

Matthew 2

Posted on: January 31, 2012

Ok, let’s continue! Matthew 2 continues to show how events in Jesus’ life fulfilled numerous prophesies – all before he was making any decisions about his young life.

Matt 2:6 makes another reference to Jesus coming to save his people. I just want to know what the bible scholars say about this. I understand that the apostles spread the news of Jesus to the Gentiles… but it does make me wonder how much Jesus really cared about saving the whole world? Was he thinking about the rest uf us – about me? Or am I just an afterthought?

My next note comes from Matt 2:9, describing the star that the magi followed to get to Jesus.

The Magi are popularly referred to as wise men and kings. The word magi is the plural of Latinmagus, borrowed from Greekμάγος magos,[5] as used in the original Greek text of the Gospel of Matthew. Greek magos itself is derived from Old Persianmaguŝ from the Avestanmagâunô, i.e. the religious caste into which Zoroaster was born, (see Yasna 33.7: “ýâ sruyê parêmagâunô ” = ” so I can be heard beyond Magi “). The term refers to the priestly caste of Zoroastrianism.[6] As part of their religion, these priests paid particular attention to the stars, and gained an international reputation for astrology, which was at that time highly regarded as a science. Their religious practices and use of astrology caused derivatives of the term Magi to be applied to the occult in general and led to the English term magic. (wikipedia)

It’s pretty funny to me that the guys we love to include in the Christmas nativity (although they were not there on Jesus’ birthday) were basically in love with horoscopes (the things that my church said I should not even look at in the newspaper because it was a sin). Somehow, their magic and astrology-loving ways helped lead them to Jesus, which some believe fulfills more prophesies about who Jesus is. Interesting.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, the Magi found Jesus by ‘following’ a star,[20] which thus traditionally became known as the Star of Bethlehem. Various theories have been presented as to what this phenomenon refers to, since stars do not visibly move and therefore cannot be followed. Some believe that they followed a planet, which without a telescope could be mistaken as a star, as it slowly moved across the sky. (wikipedia)

Great – I’m glad that the star is a bit of a mystery to bible scholars, too. Seems a bit sketch, but then again, these guys were into magic, so who knows, huh…?

So the magi of unknown number and unsure origin show up and provide Jesus with some fab gifts – perhaps Mary and Joseph used these to help pay for all the moving they were about to do. One of those gifts was myrrh, which I think I used to know about but can’t remember. I looked it up on wikipedia, and it’s a gummy substance used for medicinal healing (in the west it is used in healing salves and ointments, and also can be found in mouth washes and gargles). Wikipedia talks about how each gift has a special meaning –

The three gifts had a spiritual meaning : gold as a symbol of kingship on earth, frankincense (an incense) as a symbol of deity, and myrrh (an embalming oil) as a symbol of death. (wikipedia)

I also noticed that people (namely Joseph, but also the magi) get divine communication from dreams. Is that why we always feel like sharing our dreams with people? I know that I have often wondered if there is extra meaning in some dreams I’ve had.

Okay, Jesus’ family moves to Egypt! Cool! When I was a child, my church always put on Christmas pageants with the children. Usually it was always a variation of the nativity, with up-beat and exciting songs, reminding the congregation of how awesome and important Jesus’ birth was (even though, apparently, the story we perpetuate every year doesn’t even come close to pointing out all the prophesies that were fulfilled, and we always have the “kings” showing up at the wrong moment). But when I was in sixth grade, my church acquired a Christmas pageant that talked about when Jesus was living in Egypt as a toddler. Sixth grade was the oldest you could be to be in the pageant, so naturally I got to be the star, and I was Cleopatra. That’s right, even though it was a fun, new twist on the Jesus-as-a-baby story, it still wasn’t very historically accurate. I digress.

So they stayed in Egypt until Herod died. How long was that? First I had to figure out which Herod this one was. I think it was Herod the Great (remember that there are two more King Herods that appear in Jesus’ life – Herod Archelaus who Joseph fears later in this chapter, and Herod Antipas who kills John the Baptist). Actually, I’m giving up on trying to figure out how long they were in Egypt, since it’s not clear what year they went there or exactly when Herod died.

So this whole thing is called the “Massacre of the Innocents.” Apparently Herod was known for killing kids a lot, and did similarly terrible things on a much grander scale throughout his kingship to insure that he remained king. The historian Josephus wrote about Herod killing his own children to protect his position. However, there is doubt among many historians that this particular massacre even took place, as there is no other record of it. On the other hand, many scholars believe that the number of boys this massacre accounted for was probably less than 50, far fewer than other massacres of children Herod did throughout his life, and thus wouldn’t probably register as even a blip in the grand scheme of murders under Herod’s rule. So who knows.

(For the record, I have a hard time believing that everything that took place in the Bible literally happened, but that the way things happened and the way things were written about is a cultural issue. Perhaps part oral history and part myth and part truth, nonetheless, the Bible paints a story of love and hope and redemption, so it doesn’t bother me all the time when things don’t feel real. However, I also have faith that everything that the Bible said could have of did happen, and that time may reveal the truth… and maybe it won’t. It doesn’t matter to me at this stage in my life.)

Moving on.

So Joseph gets a few more dreams that help save Jesus’ life. Hello, Joseph gets no credit in the church these days. Everyone talks about Mary – but Joseph is the one who was always getting the phone calls from God. Joseph is the one that is told to stay with and protect Mary, then move the family to Egypt, and then back, and then to avoid Herod Archelaus. In all of this, apparently, Jesus ends up in numerous places that had been prophesied that the Messiah would have been. That, my friends, is pretty cool (or, to the cynic, a well written story).

Lingering Questions

  • Does anyone know how long Jesus was in Egypt?
  • How do I get my dreams to mean something, too? I want God to talk to me in my sleep – or does he already? Or is this whole thing preposterous?
  • Did Jesus have any interest in the Gentiles? Or was his sole purpose to make an impression on Jews? (Because, if so, it seems that the Gentiles are way more impressed.)
  • Why can’t Christmas stories and nativities and pageants be more accurate? Do Christians really not care about these issues? It bothers me that we care more about the made up version of the story than what really happened. If Christians are willing to ostracize and even support legislation that stigmatizes anyone who doesn’t follow their brand of bible interpretation, why don’t they hold themselves to the same standards when celebrating holidays that are supposed to stem from things that happened in the Bible? Sigh.

Matthew 1

Posted on: January 30, 2012

I’m going to start with the New Testament, since I’m a Christian and I’m trying to figure out what that means. Might as well start at the beginning of Christ’s life on Earth, right?

Verses 1:1-17 are all about Jesus’ genealogy. My first question was, who cares? I looked that answer up online:

Interpretation principals
To better understand the genealogy of Jesus, it is important to know some of the notions Jews had regarding ancestral records. This section discusses property rights, prophecies, and Jewish use of the word son.

Property rights
Jews carefully maintained accurate genealogical records. They did so primarily because property rights in Israel were linked to family heritage.
When the Jews settled in Israel, the tribes were given portions of the land as an inheritance. Families within each tribe were given parcels of that land. The land could be farmed, developed, or sold. Every 50 years a dispossessed family could lay claim to the parcel of land which their ancestors had received when it was originally distributed.
Individuals who could not trace their family had no inheritance in the nation of Israel. They were treated as dispossessed foreigners. This factor alone contributed strongly to the Jewish preoccupation with genealogies.

Prophecies
Prophecies also contributed to Jewish interest in genealogies. God had promised several people that the messiah would be one of their descendants. To prove this descent, it was important to maintain accurate genealogical records. The table below shows the promises and their fulfillment.

 

Person Promise Fulfillment
Adam Genesis 3:15 Luke 3:38
Abraham Genesis 22:18 Matthew 1:1-2, Luke 3:34
Judah Genesis 49:10, Micah 5:2 Matthew 1:2-3, Luke 3:33
Jesse Isaiah 11:1, 10 Matthew 1:5-6, Luke 3:33
David 2nd Samuel 7:12-13 Matthew 1:1 & 6, Luke 3:31 

(lifeofchrist.com)

Of course, Matthew was a Jew, so it would be seem important to him to make sure to point out this information. Jesus was born into the right family to fulfill all the prophesies, and the prophesies in turn prove that he is (or at least could be, if there hasn’t been one yet) the Messiah the Jews have been pining for.

Okay, moving on. Matthew 1:18: Mary and Joseph are engaged, and Mary gets knocked up by the Holy Spirit. I think at one point in high school I was pretty sure I knew what the Holy Spirit was. But I can’t remember, so let’s find out (again).

When I typed, “What is the Holy Spirit?” into google, I obviously got lots of answers. Here are a few:

  1. The Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinity.  He is fully God. He is eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, has a will, and can speak.  He is alive.  He is a person.  He is not particularly visible in the Bible because His ministry is to bear witness of Jesus (John 15:26). – carm.org
  2. For the majority of Christians, the Holy Spirit (prior English language usage: the Holy Ghost from Old English gast, “spirit”) is the third person of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and is Almighty God.[7][8][9] The Holy Spirit is seen by mainstream Christians as one Person of the Triune God, who revealed His Holy Name YHWH to his people Israel, sent His Eternally Begotten Son Jesus to save them from God’s wrath, and sent the Holy Spirit to sanctify and give life to his Church.[10][11][12] The Triune God manifests as three Persons (Greek hypostases),[13] in One Divine Being (GreekOusia),[14] called the Godhead (from Old English: Godhood), the Divine Essence of God.[15] – wikipedia.org
  3. The Holy Spirit is a real person who came to reside within Jesus Christ’s true followers after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven (Acts 2). Jesus told His apostles…“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18)The Holy Spirit is not a vague, ethereal shadow, nor an impersonal force. He is a person equal in every way with God the Father and God the Son. He is considered to be the third member of the Godhead. – everystudent.com
  4. “The Holy Spirit is the bridge to God within you. It is the part of your mind—the part of your Spirit—that is joined with the Mind of God. The Holy Spirit is the Voice for God and acts as a reminder to all of God’s children of the unconditional love that God has for them. – thevoiceforlove.com

It’s interesting to me that there are so many definitions. Some Christians insist the Holy Spirit is a person – in which case, did a physical embodiment of God have sex with Mary, that person being the Holy Spirit, making her NOT a virgin? Some people define the Holy Spirit as something more whimsical – a bridge to God, a connection of minds, a ray of light and insight, a reminder of his love for us, a voice in uncertain times. Whatever the case, Christians consider the Holy Spirit as one of the three, creating the Holy Trinity. Three distinct persons that co-exist in unity. Although they are three, they are one (which leaves Jews scratching their heads), and the Holy Trinity is considered a mystery of Christian Faith. If it’s a mystery to them, I guess it shall remain so for me.

Okay, Matt. 1:19 says Joseph was going to divorce her, even though it says they were engaged. I assume this is a cultural thing, wherein being engaged means he already has rights to her as his property, in a sense, but they  had not “sealed the deal.” Whatever the case, they remained together, which is necessary, as it is Joseph’s genealogy that provides the proof of Jesus’ divine lineage.

In Matt: 1:21 and 1:23, I get a little confused about his name. The angel tells Joseph to call the baby “Jesus,” but the prophesy says to call his name “Immanuel.”

Further information: Jesus (name)Holy Name of JesusYeshua (name), and Messiah

“Jesus” is a transliteration, occurring in a number of languages and based on the Latin Iesus, of the Greek Ἰησοῦς (Iēsoûs), itself a hellenization of the Hebrew יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yĕhōšuă‘Joshua) or Hebrew-Aramaic יֵשׁוּעַ (Yēšûă‘), both meaning “Yahweh delivers” or “Yahweh rescues”.[35][36]

The etymology of the name Jesus is generally expressed by Christians as “God’s salvation” usually expressed as “Yahweh saves”,[37][38][39] “Yahweh is salvation”[40][41] and at times as “Jehovah is salvation”.[42] The name Jesus appears to have been in use in Judaea at the time of the birth of Jesus.[42][43]Philo‘s reference (Mutatione Nominum item 121) indicates that the etymology of Joshua was known outside Judaea at the time.[44]

In the New Testament, in Luke 1:26-33, the angel Gabriel tells Mary to name her child “Jesus”, and in Matthew 1:21 an angel tells Joseph to name the child “Jesus”. The statement in Matthew 1:21 “you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” associates salvific attributes to the name Jesus in Christian theology.[45][46]

Christ” (play/ˈkrst/) is derived from the Greek Χριστός (Khrīstos), meaning “the anointed” or “the anointed one”, a translation of the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Māšîaḥ), usually transliterated intoEnglish as “Messiah” (play/mɨˈs.ə/).[47][48] In the Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible(written well over a century before the time of Jesus), the word “Christ” (Χριστός) was used to translate the Hebrew word “Messiah” (מָשִׁיחַ) into Greek.[49] In Matthew 16:16, the apostlePeter‘s profession “You are the Christ” identifies Jesus as the Messiah.[50] In postbiblical usage, “Christ” became viewed as a name, one part of “Jesus Christ”, but originally it was a title (“Jesus the Anointed”).[51] – wikipedia.org

Maybe when the prophesy says “call his name Immanuel,” they don’t mean literally that his name will be Immanuel, just that it is what he will at some point be called.

Lingering Questions

  • I’m still unclear on how the Immanuel part fits into this, so if anyone can explain that, I’d appreciate it.
  • 1:21 says he will save his people. Does that only mean the Jews? I sometimes get the impression that Jesus only came to save the Jews, and that the rest of us were an after thought. Jesus got back to Heaven, looked at the Earth, had a Homer Simpson “D’oh!” moment, then went back and asked Paul and some others to finish up with the rest of the world. What do you think?
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