Tag Archives: Bible study

Long time ago in Bethlehem

The custom of naming years after whoever wore the crown lasted well into the time of the Roman Empire.

Two thousand and some years ago, a baby was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea—in the country we now call Israel. The baby was Jesus, son of Mary, the Holy Spirit in human form. He would grow up to begin a ministry that led to His crucifixion and resurrection—in order to save all of humankind. Jesus is the Redeemer; the Christos in Greek; the Mashiach in Hebrew.

The Christian evangelist Luke wrote about the Nativity before there were numbered years. How could he put a date on Jesus’ birth? Here’s how: Luke tells us that Jesus was born while Augustus was emperor of Rome and Quirinius was the governor of Syria. Luke knew his readers would remember when those guys were in charge and place Jesus’ birth in that time.

1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In fact, it would be 5 more centuries before someone thought of numbering the years.

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Time & Space.

https://biblehub.com/library/ramsay/was_christ_born_in_bethlehem/chapter_11_quirinius_the_governor.htm

The Torah and linear time

Linear time gives us the ability to recognize a long-reaching past and plan for a long-reaching future. That’s how our brains get changed.

The Hebrew Bible, the Torah, the Old Testament tells the story of the Jews from the beginning of mankind to the time of Babylonian captivity. It’s a long read, but because I’m a sweetheart of a guy, I’ll tell you the entire Torah in one sentence—if you don’t mind standing on one foot:

In the beginning, God creates everything time space the world plants animals and human beings who He tells not to do the wrong things but because the human beings had free will they always do the wrong things Adam & Eve eat the apple of knowledge and the perfect world falls into evil everybody splits up into separate nations and languages God makes a deal with Abraham if you have faith in Me I’ll make you your kids even your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandkids a great nation Abraham says okay so Abraham son Isaac & grandson Jacob are the fathers of the Israelites everybody moves to Egypt eventually Pharaoh makes them slaves so Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt God gives them the 10 Commandments they wander around the Middle East for 40 years then settle in Israel the Israelites keep disobeying God they try government by judges like Samson who is really strong because he promised God he wouldn’t cut his hair then kings like Saul who goes a little crazy then David who kills Goliath and writes Psalms but steps out with Bathsheba and wise Solomon who builds the temple but has 700 wives and worships other gods so it doesn’t work out so good and the kingdom splits into Israel & Judah the nations next door come in and conquer first Israel then Judah and cart everybody off to Babylon and Persia the prophets tell us where everything went wrong and what we need to do better from now on.

Okay, you can put your other foot down now. The Torah tells the story of a long parade of generations—“so-and-so begat so-and-so, who begat…” Those stories are told in linear time. Linear time is the natural medium for telling about many generations of people.

We claim who we are by telling our stories. There’s a reason the Torah was written down during the Babylonian Captivity. The Jews, separated from their homeland and their Temple, told us who they are by committing the Torah to paper. Without their own place, the priestly writers emphasized time—and made it sacred.

More about the Major Prophets: , Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.

Side note: Hebrews, Israelites and Jews refer to the same people. They were Hebrews up until Jacob wrestled with an angel and was renamed Israel (means ‘wrestles with God’) and his people renamed themselves Israelites. At the time of the Babylonian Captivity, Jews is what the Persians called people from Judah (because Israel had been wiped out). Of course there’s some overlap.

The Jews

“Let’s go! I gotta become Abraham!”

Back when we were talking about the Sumerians of Mesopotamia, I mentioned that Ur was the city Abram left so that he could become Abraham. Whatever became of him? Well, he and his wife Sarai (later Sarah) answered the call of the Lord and set up shop in Canaan—more or less the same place as modern Israel.

Click over here and scroll down to see a map—Ur is lower-right just above the globe. They traveled due west to reach Canaan (with a side-trip to Egypt).

Abraham was the forefather of the Hebrews, the Israelites, the Jews. He and they were (and are) monotheistic—they worshiped one God (mono = one, theo/deo = god). As we’ve seen, the Sumerians, Egyptians and Greeks had religions with more than one god—they were polytheistic. Worshiping only one God was a big deal. It made the Hebrews different from everybody else. Abraham’s story begins in the very last verse of Genesis Chapter 11 if you have a Bible handy.

Side note: adding the ‘h’ to Sarai’s and Abram’s names signifies ‘of many.’ ‘Abram’ meant ‘father,’ ‘Abraham’ means ‘father of many.’ ‘Sarai’ meant ‘princess,’ ‘Sarah’ means ‘princess of many.’ God was keeping up His end of the deal by making Abraham the father of the Hebrews (Genesis 17:5).

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Time & Space.

Your Friday morning message of cheer

I’m still working on the Book of Job. As you get ready for the weekend, here’s Zophar, Job and Eliphaz with comforting words to lighten your load and gladden your heart—

Bad Things 3

Yet another sketch from the Book of Job comic I’m working on.

Even after being afflicted with horrible, disgusting, festering boils, Job refuses to curse God. He tears his robe, shaves his head and goes to sit in the ash-heap—taking a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself with.

Oh, that Samson

samson.model050

So I’m trying to work up a character design for a project. It’s Samson, from the Bible—you know, Samson and Delilah, one of the judges of Israel, gets all his strength from his hair—and I want to show how he looks before he gets a haircut, and after. Here’s the problem: in the ‘before’ sketches hardly any of his face shows, right? Samson took a Nazarite vow never to let a razor touch his head. Between his hair and beard, only his eyes and nose can be seen. Below his beard, of course, is Samson’s magnificent physique. Get a load of those delts and pecs!

Now I want to show the same character after Delilah shaved him. No more beard, no more hair. You can see Samson’s face, but since you never saw much of it before, how do you recognize him after? That’s okay—everyone can still recognize his muscles. Except Samson lost all his strength when he lost his hair. His physique has to sag a bit. Kind of tough to see who it is. Hey, what about those eyes? Eyes are the windows to the soul—we’ll be able to tell it’s our boy from his eyes. Er, no. Those rotten Philistines blinded Samson as soon as they knew he was too weak to fight back. I put sunglasses on him. I can’t even let you know who it is with his eyes. What’s left? Samson’s NOSE. That’s it. That’s pretty much all I can give you to clue you in that it’s the same guy, before and after.

You can read Samson’s story if you have a Bible handy. It’s Judges Chapters 13 – 16. Samson is a not-so-bright lunk with a weakness for pretty girls. Maybe better you should click on this link. It’s G rated.

Sixty-Six Books

I just finished a poster for an upcoming event at my church—66 Books In 2 Hours. Pastor Greg will be cramming the entirety of Holy Writ into a frothy evening of dinner and a floor show.

If you are anywhere near Second Presbyterian Church in Oil City, Pa on Saturday, October 22nd, 5:30 – 8:30, I hope to see you there.

Here’s the rough sketch and final painting:

66books-skpastorgreg

Ezekiel

ezek72dpiHere it is, the fourth in my series (actually Ezekiel comes 3rd in the Bible) of Major Prophets of the Old Testament. Boiling down Ezekiel to a one-page cartoon took longer than I’d expected. As with all the prophets, he uses lots of visual imagery to make his messages memorable. There was tons of material that I left out, as when God charges Ezekiel to prophesy by commanding him to eat a scroll.

Would you like fries with that?

Would you like fries with that?

The Book of Ezekiel can be divided into three sections: God’s judgment of Israel, God’s judgment of Israel’s neighbor nations, and prophecies of better days ahead for Israel. The Chosen People have surely tried God’s patience—but before we gloat, let’s take a look at our own behavior! The words of Ezekiel and his pals aren’t merely for those long-ago times.

(Side note on vocabulary: PROPHECY/PROPHESY. “Prophecy,” the noun, (pronounced “PROF-a-see”) is a prediction. The verb “to prophesy” (pronounced “PROF-a-sigh”) means to predict something. When a prophet prophesies he or she utters prophecies.)

Of course, the big show-stopping image is Ezekiel’s vision of the wheel. This was the most fun to draw and I hope I stuck pretty closely to the biblical description. It is definitely the weirdest image in the Bible. I was tempted at first to make it a UFO but decided that would be too cheap a gag. I gave the human form enthroned atop the whole contraption a touch of John Steuart Curry’s John Brown.

A passage worth mentioning is Chapter 17, where the eagle plants a seed. It deals with God’s anger that a king of Israel broke his word to a Babylonian king—an enemy of Israel. How about that? Even though this Babylonian king is an enemy of God’s people, he must be dealt with honestly. The Jewish king’s covenant is an extension of God’s covenant. Each of us has a responsibility to behave with integrity no matter whom we deal with.

The last image I drew promises that David will be set up as the shepherd over God’s sheep. It’s possibly another foretelling from the prophets of Jesus’ coming. The evangelist Matthew begins his gospel with Jesus’ family tree showing that He descended from King David.

What did I forget? Oh, yeah—The Valley of Dry Bones! It’s the other big visual that Ezekiel is most remembered for. An entire valley of dried-up old bones brought back to life. How about some music? Here are the Delta Rhythm Boys singing Dem Bones. You want some more? Here are The Charioteers singing Ezekiel Saw The Wheel. Satan wears number 11 shoes. Yessir, I do love that old-time gospel music.

Now you know everything you need to about the Major Prophets. With your fund of Major Prophet info, you certainly will be the life of every party.

UPDATE—I’ve mentioned old-time gospel groups elsewhere on this blog. I should point out I first heard them and jazz groups from the same era on Rich Conaty’s radio show The Big Broadcast. Swing over and listen—and if you have a couple of extra samolians, drop something in the tip jar. Thanks!