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The Kaleidoscope of our culture

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“For a fool speaks nonsense, And his heart inclines toward wickedness: To practice ungodliness and to speak error against the LORD, To keep the hungry person unsatisfied And to withhold drink from the thirsty.” Isaiah 32:6

Just as I previously pointed out some errors of interpretation with the New Testament, we tend to do the same thing when interpreting the day to day realities of people who lived thousands of years ago or even a century ago through the prism of our modern day life. To know that at one time only prostitutes wore makeup is probably shocking to people in our culture of Mary Kay, Calvin Klein, Victoria’s Secret, etc…

In our modern world, we have blogs, facebook, perhaps a billion websites and rapidly growing, digital cameras, web cam, I Want to Marry A Millionaire, Authorized Biographies, well you name it. Kids and their mothers are hurrying around buying school supplies on tax free weekends while dad is checking out the hunting or sporting gear.  In the ancient world, you just didn’t walk into Wal-Mart and buy notebook paper and pens. Mary and Joseph didn’t get off at the next exit and check in at the Motel 6 where magically there is an innkeeper working at 3 a.m.

Sumerian cuneiform tablets from 3000 B.C. show a poppy harvest, as do ancient Egyptian scripts and Greek statues adorned with poppy crowns.

Other forms of communication would have been inscriptions or paintings on cave walls.

Our modern life may be one of growing up in the suburbs complete with a two-story house, two-car garage (or even more than that in some cases), mom and dad who have upstanding reputations in the community, the dog running around in the backyard while the hamburgers and hot dogs are grilling, afternoon soccer practice, Little League Baseball games and PTA meetings.

This certainly raises the question: what exactly does one need in order to be happy? Is having any or all of these things necessary to be happy or even successful?

If a woman weighs 100 pounds, we feign horror that she is too thin and needs to eat a Big Mac from time to time. If she weighs 120 pounds, we are truly horrified and suggest she go on the South Beach Diet or get liposuction while at the same time seeing a plastic surgeon for a nip and tuck.

If a pro football player weighs 350 pounds, we just assume he is out of shape whereas if he was 330 pounds, he is the ideal weight for a lineman. The scouts want to know if a quarterback is 6’2 7/8″ or maybe 6’3 1/8″. Then convert him to receiver because he was “too short”. Then again if Anthony Munoz was getting started in today’s NFL weighing 280 pounds (his general playing weight), coaches wouldn’t know what to do with him.

We think food grows on grocery store shelves.  In ancient times and even today, what you probably ate today would be the equivalent of what most people get in a week or two.

What we think we know about how people live in other parts of the world is solely based on TV. We actually think it is an accurate portrayal of life. Therefore, when we see people not wearing Armani suits, riding a camel (which has its origins in North America dating back 40 million years ago) instead of driving a pickup truck or tending to their flock that they are “uncivilized”. Therefore, we need to send our troops (most of whom come from poor and middle class families) all over the world to make them more like us at the point of a gun.

Which brings me back to the New Testament. It is often asked about Jesus how tall was he? What did he look like? Was he a Democrat or a Republican? Perhaps he was a libertarian. What language did he speak? Was he married?

Generally ancient writers wrote about a person not in terms of what our modern culture wants to know, but in terms of being a certain type. You may read ancient accounts of Alexander The Great or even a more modern book on Thomas Jefferson being a red-head. Being a red-head carries with it connotations of being a step-child, being of pure, raw ambition or fiery independence. I have a particular thing for redheaded women.

Mark is generally thought to have been the first Gospel written sometime in the 70’s A.D., Matthew and Luke in the 80’s and John in the 90’s. Many of Paul’s letters (or letters dictated by his scribes) beginning with 1 and II Thessalonians were written between 52 A.D. and the time of his death in 64 A.D. But Paul certainly could have written more letters, but they just don’t all appear in the Canon.

The Gospel writers used a method of writing called BIOS (You would not read a love poem in the same manner as you would a recipe for chocolate chip cookies)! If you wanted to capture the essential character or nature of a person, you would use stories that reflect on this criteria. You would not be concerned about his bathroom habits or what brand of shoes he wore unless it was to reflect on his character.

Matthew portrays Jesus as fulfilling the Old Testament, a redeemer, restorer of the Law. Mark portrays Jesus as one who suffers, is misunderstood and he goes out of his way to not be heard or seen, but to do his deeds quietly. Luke portrays Jesus as being one who came to save the outcasts, the blind, the poor, the sick, women, and Lazarus. John portrays Jesus as one who goes out of his way to let people know he is divine and even on the cross, he is the one in control. The disciples doubted him, his family doubted him and the authorities doubted him. Only the demons and the Centurion acknowledged that perhaps he was who he said he was.

It has been said that God doesn’t change His ways to suit our agendas and desires. If this is how Jesus was portrayed in the decades after his death and if indeed the writers wrote because they were inspired by the Spirit of God, are we anywhere close to mirroring this portrayal?

Written by chrisforliberty

August 4, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Posted in General

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