The Bible as Literature

The Bible as Literature

ephesusschool.org
Each week, Dr.


The Seed Does What the Seed Does
Oct 17 • 24 min
Today’s program marks the 300th episode of the Bible as Literature. Years ago, Fr. Marc and Richard’s wife, Hollie, were going back and forth on a title for the education program at St. Elizabeth—eventually, they opted for “The Ephesus School”—a name…
Birds, Kings, and Shepherds
Oct 15 • 16 min
This week, Fr. Paul wraps up his discussion of Genesis 6, giving Richard and Fr. Marc an opportunity to ask questions. As always, Richard opened Q&A with an insightful discussion of the original Hebrew, which lead to an excellent overview of kings,…
A New Tribe
Oct 10 • 27 min
In a culture that places family first, the Lord’s ambivalence toward his mother and his brothers in the Gospel of Matthew is confusing, if not utterly scandalous. Why would Jesus ignore his close relatives and leave them standing outside? The answer…
It’s an “Ark” Not an “Ark”
Oct 8 • 16 min
This week Fr. Paul highlights the connection between Genesis 6 and the story of Moses in Exodus. As always, this connection is impossible to discern in English—but this time there’s a twist. The English word “ark” in Genesis 6 sounds deceptively like the…
Mitzvah!
Oct 3 • 22 min
The ability to read biblical signs—which comes from hearing, reciting, and doing the commandments of Scripture—protects us from being fooled by false prophets. Is something a righteous act? What’s the difference between an exorcism performed by Jesus and…
Why Do You Call Me Lord?
Oct 2 • 13 min
In today’s episode we discuss why faith is better translated as trust. We also highlight how faith is not an intellectual concept, but a deep trust that is rooted in the firm belief in God’s promises and His coming Kingdom. With respect to the argument of…
The Nephilim
Oct 1 • 18 min
Drawing, as always, on the original Hebrew and his knowledge of Arabic, Fr. Paul explains the folly of the Nephilim who assume their own mightiness, but are, in Fr. Paul’s words, “unto fallenness.” English versions of the Bible refer to the Nephilim as…
Read the Signs
Sep 26 • 22 min
When human beings seek a sign from the Lord, the problem is two-fold. First, we think of a sign as proof, making our trust in God’s wisdom conditional. Second, because we do not trust this wisdom, the signs we desire in the world become a reflection of…
Third Time’s Not a Charm
Sep 24 • 17 min
After its use of the word ‘adam’ in chapter 5, the text of Genesis returns to the words ‘ha adam’ in chapter 6, referring to humanity in its entirety. This shift, Fr. Paul explains, also points to God’s provision of a third chance for human beings. By…
You Know a Tree by It’s Fruit
Sep 19 • 23 min
We human beings do not take responsibility for what we teach. We speak careless words motivated by self-interest and look the other way when our words—directly or indirectly—cause suffering in the world. It feels good to pretend that we are puzzled by gun…
Be Patient and Submit
Sep 17 • 16 min
Noting that biblical names appear and reappear purposefully in Genesis, this week, Fr. Paul emphasizes the importance of having patience with the scriptural God who operates on his own time table. (Episode 84)
The Ultimate Sin
Sep 12 • 22 min
Scripture is written to supplant human words and thwart human agency, so that its wisdom might govern the affairs of men in the place of human self-interest. When we sit at home, when we go out, when we lie down to sleep and when we wake up, we are…
There is No New Humanity
Sep 10 • 19 min
Following his discussion of the Toledot of Adam in Genesis 5, Fr. Paul explains how God manages to continue his plan and salvage humanity despite the people’s disobedience. (Episode 83)
Binding the Strong Man
Sep 5 • 22 min
When the Pharisees accuse Jesus of being in league with Beelzebul, Jesus slams them by exposing a fatal contradiction in their logic: if the only way I am able to’ cast out demons is by Beelzebul, how are your sons able to do it? I’ll tell you how. If you…
Son of Man
Sep 2 • 15 min
This week, Richard and Fr. Marc had the chance to follow-up Fr. Paul’s discussion of Genesis 5 with questions, leading to an important discussion of the anti-kingly tradition of the Bible and it’s connection with the phrase, ‘son of man.’ (Episode 82)
Teach and Move
Aug 29 • 21 min
Internet comment culture invites useless and emotionally charged conflict that accomplishes nothing, except to inflame everyone’s self-serving sentiments. That’s why, in Matthew, Jesus refuses to engage in any argument with the Pharisees. To do so,…
Ha Adam
Aug 27 • 17 min
This week, Fr. Paul uses his own family tree to help explain the tree of Adam in Genesis 5. Following verse 2, in which God “created them male and female, and he blessed them and named them man,” whether directly, as Seth or indirectly, as the followers…
The Lord of the Sabbath
Aug 22 • 27 min
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female slave or your…
Ha Adam or Adam?
Aug 20 • 18 min
This week Fr. Paul touches on the importance of the author’s purposeful use of the word Adam in some places and the words Ha Adam elsewhere. The various connections between biblical words, he explains, hinge not on philosophical premises, but the author’s…
God Doesn’t Need Our Bread
Aug 14 • 15 min
When the Pharisees complain about the disciples picking and eating grain on the sabbath, they betray both their ignorance of Torah, and their desire to control the consecrated bread of God’s instruction to consolidate their power. But God, Matthew…
When Men Begin
Aug 13 • 15 min
Dismantling the mistranslation found in Genesis 4:26, “at that time men began,” Fr. Paul explains that in the Hebrew, in the passive God merely allows—literally, it was allowed—to call on the name of the Lord. The action is initiated by God, without even…
The Father
Aug 7 • 19 min
In a society that consumerizes rebellion against parents both as entertainment and an axiom of pop-psychology, the basic premise of the New Testament—that the Son is disempowered because all glory and all power belong to his Father—is practically…
In Spite of Cain
Aug 6 • 15 min
This week, Fr. Paul continues to unpack the story of the new seed given to replace Abel, in spite of his murderous brother, Cain. Pointing to the Hebrew, where an ish posits an ish, Fr. Paul notes the actualization of God’s blessing in Genesis 1. The…
It’s Worse for Us
Aug 1 • 21 min
One of the strangest characteristics of religious psychology is the commonly held belief that those who have received instruction are better than those left untaught. We don’t phrase it that way, but the implication of consumerized evangelism is that…
A New Seed
Jul 30 • 16 min
This week, Fr. Paul continues his discussion of Genesis 4, explaining how the RSV’s mistranslation of the Hebrew not only misleads but betrays and deconstructs the biblical text. Unlike the birth of Cain, the subject of Eve’s action, Seth is received by…
Ideology is Idolatry
Jul 25 • 25 min
When we choose an ideological framework, we employ a system of ideas and ideals to bolster our self-styled morality. We want so desperately to have power over others that we create a false reality in which we are always right, always the victim, always…
What He Undertakes
Jul 22 • 18 min
In today’s program, Fr. Paul explores the functionality of biblical names in the genealogy presented in Genesis 4. (Episode 76)
More Than a Prophet
Jul 18 • 19 min
When we look at the world, intuitively, we betray Matthew’s admonition against judgment, assessing and interpreting people and texts based on our presuppositions. Instead of seeing everything through the lens of God’s teaching, we trust the lamp of our…
Name and Function
Jul 15 • 18 min
This week, Fr. Paul notes the significance of Cain’s construction and subsequent naming of a city after his son, Enoch, the significance of the name Lamech as a metathesis of Melek, and the problem of civilization connected with the city as the production…
Immigration Letter
Jul 13 • 7 min
“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart.” —Alexander Solzhenitsyn The letter read in today’s program quotes the following article in the…
The Kingdom of the Heavens
Jul 11 • 29 min
In Matthew 11, we discover that John the Baptist, who earlier preached the Kingdom of God in the wilderness, is now imprisoned. At this point in story, we do not know how John ended up in prison. All we know is that he preached the Kingdom. Looking a few…
The Only Avenger
Jul 9 • 13 min
This week Fr. Paul explains that in murdering Abel, Cain is responsible for his own sin and may not blame his forefather. Individual responsibility for sin, Fr. Paul explains, is a main feature of the chapter. The fact that Cain ends up in the same…
To These Little Ones
Jul 4 • 22 min
Today is July 4, a holiday in the United States. As is the custom of our church, over the centuries, many such holidays have been coopted to serve the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this spirit, on this day, we at The Bible as Literature remember all those in…
Cain and Abel
Jul 1 • 18 min
In today’s program, Fr. Paul begins his discussion of Cain and Abel, explaining the famous phrase, “sin is couching at the door.” He also reiterates the importance of the Hebrew word, yalad, noting that it can only be used in conjunction with the woman—an…
Bringer of the Sword
Jun 27 • 28 min
Bewitched by the lie of acquisition and consumerism, we have become of society of people whose actions proclaim the vulgar creed, “me first.” With supposed possessions in hand, we emerge as a nation of cowards, so terrified of losing what we think we have…
East of the Garden
Jun 24 • 20 min
This week Fr. Paul concludes his discussion of Genesis 3 with the expulsion of Adam from the garden, away from the Tree of Life. As always, he highlights critical connections in the Hebrew, in this case, technical terms that pertain to the keeping of…
Fear Wisdom
Jun 20 • 35 min
People claim to be members of God’s household—to be followers of his teaching—but in the Roman Empire, your master determines your household, and in the Bible, your fears reveal your true master. Insofar as our fears control us, the Matthean metaphor of…
The Curse
Jun 18 • 14 min
In today’s program, Fr. Paul explains how the dust of the ground is the curse, and uncovers a parallel in the text between Adam in the story and the kings that oppress God’s city city, a reading that hinges on the versatility of the Hebrew word…
Daniel Anthony del Castillo
Jun 15 • 28 min
This homily was delivered on June 8, 2019 at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in loving memory of Daniel Anthony del Castillo. May his memory be eternal.
How the Gospel Uses Fear
Jun 13 • 20 min
Critics of the Bible often complain about its violent stories. How could the Bible be considered sacred, they ask, when it is full of so much cruelty and abuse? The answer—of course—is that it is human civilization that is overflowing with cruelty and…
Nahash
Jun 10 • 18 min
This week, Fr. Paul continues his discussion of Genesis 3, highlighting the functional connection between nahash and idolatry, and concluding with a review of the Bible’s critique of Plato. (Episode 70)
Are You Worthy?
Jun 6 • 21 min
So often, we hear Scripture in translation and assume a meaning for its words based on how we use those words in our modern language. When we do this, we make three mistakes. First, we forget that the way words are used can change over time; second, we…
The Serpent
Jun 3 • 21 min
This week, Fr. Paul explains the Hebrew word play in Genesis 3, underscoring, as always, the criticality of the original languages. While he has often emphasized that Genesis 1-4 contains the entire message of the Bible, he is quick to point out that this…
Do Not Muzzle the Ox
May 30 • 23 min
The famous Negro Spiritual, “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize,” captures the spirit of Matthew 10. The hymn calls to mind an array of Scriptural passages to encourage and enjoin the faithful to run the race set before them. In its famous verse: “Keep your hand…
Man and Woman
May 27 • 15 min
This week, Fr. Paul expands on his discussion of the creation of woman, noting the introduction of two new words to define ha adam—ish and ishah—terms that twist the original intention of God in the story. (Episode 68)
The One Who Betrayed Him
May 23 • 15 min
Insofar as Matthew’s Genealogy in chapter 1 dismantles and ridicules the patrilineal line of David, it provides context for our understanding of the names of the Twelve in chapter 10. Where the name Matthew looks ahead, offering the hope of his gospel for…
Out of the Man
May 21 • 18 min
In this week’s episode Fr. Paul continues his discussion of Genesis 2 highlighting its interconnection with Genesis 3. Beginning with verse 16 and the Lord God’s commandment than man not partake of the tree of knowledge, Fr. Paul will explain how death as…
First Things Last
May 15 • 20 min
As in the case of the Matthean Genealogy, our understanding of the summoning of the Twelve Apostles in Matthew 10 depends heavily upon the meaning of names. Not only their meaning, but their placement within Matthew’s list and their language of origin,…
To Serve and To Keep
May 13 • 21 min
In this week’s episode Fr. Paul explains how verse 15 of Genesis 2, literally impossible to hear in translation, serves as a powerful hinge for the entire Bible. (Episode 66)
The Lord of the Harvest
May 9 • 23 min
Among the many themes emphasized in the Gospel of Matthew, none are more ominous than the admonitions given to those who would teach. It is the teachers of the people who must protect what is sacred; it is the teachers, above all others, who must not…
Toward the East
May 6 • 19 min
In this week’s episode, Fr. Paul continues his discussion of Genesis 2 with the importance of rain, breath, and the garden of Eden, located toward the east in the Syrian desert, a critical point in his book, the Rise of Scripture. (Episode 65)
Don’t Address the Critics
May 2 • 22 min
Of the many attributes of a society in decline, none are more despicable than the degradation of speech. The inability to listen, the intent to smear and demonize so that others are not heard, the ideological delusion that leads us to believe such smears,…
Elleh Toledot
Apr 29 • 16 min
Fr. Paul explains the interplay between Genesis 1:1 and 2:4. (Episode 64)
Two Blind Men
Apr 24 • 22 min
Instead of teaching Hebrew and Greek (to empower others to read Scripture) modern Christians talk about how wonderful Jesus is, how much he has done for them, and how much they love him. Instead of leading Bible study, they “testify” to miracles in their…
The Seventh Day
Apr 23 • 18 min
This week, Fr. Paul begins his discussion of Genesis 2. (Episode 63)
Clean and Unclean
Apr 18 • 22 min
Ritual purity, which depends on the Temple and its customs to relieve people of their burdens, falls short of the cleaness demanded in the Bible. Does touching something really make you unclean, or was the Law given to show that you are not clean and you…
Male and Female
Apr 15 • 25 min
In this week’s episode Fr. Paul explains the significance of the phrase “male and female he created them.” (Episode 62)
The Bridegroom
Apr 11 • 22 min
When the disciples of John ask why the disciples of Jesus do not fast, they betray their disregard for the Lord’s unique station as the Messiah and earthly representative of the Father. Jesus is their king who brings the Law of the Kingdom. As the…
Image and Likeness
Apr 8 • 20 min
The first part of Fr. Paul’s concluding remarks on Genesis 1, (Episode 61)
The Tax Collector
Apr 4 • 27 min
By reason of his profession, Matthew, like Paul (who persecuted the church), was sent to preach the gospel as one despised by his addressees. How could a Jew who collaborates with Roman authorities approach his fellow Jews to collect taxes for their…
Ish and Isha
Apr 1 • 24 min
Fr. Paul discusses the Hebrew terms ish and isha in Isaiah 2 as they relate to Genesis. (Episode 60)
The Forgiveness of Sins
Mar 28 • 21 min
Students of the Bible often wrongly emphasize the sins of individuals over and above the forgiveness of sins as a general proclamation of the King. When this proclamation is contextualized in the New Testament, it pertains to redemption—literally, ones…
Living Breath
Mar 26 • 22 min
Fr. Paul discusses the belittling of man in Genesis 1. (Episode 59)
On Caesar’s Turf
Mar 21 • 21 min
When Jesus crosses the Roman sea in Matthew, he brings the good news of the Matthean genology—of the liberation of God’s people from captivity—to the gentiles living under the control of Caesar. The Gadarene exorcism consolidates a pattern in Matthew:…
Eretz and Adamah
Mar 19 • 29 min
Fr. Paul revisits the term eretz in his exposition of Genesis 1. (Episode 58)
Pressure and Order
Mar 14 • 30 min
In the face of situational chaos, all of us appreciate strong leadership. We value the clear and confident voice of the one who knows what to do—we value their knowledge—and we listen to what they say. Leadership provides clarity, order, and the pressure…
The Dry Land
Mar 12 • 16 min
Fr. Paul continues his analysis of Genesis 1. (Episode 57)
Leave the Dead
Mar 7 • 28 min
At the start of the New Testament, the Matthean Geneology remedies an incorrect understanding of Abraham’s line by belittling of the kings of Judah, highlighting the failure of tribal lines. Thus, Matthew reorients his readers to the original intent of…
The Second Day
Mar 4 • 19 min
Fr. Paul discusses Geneis 1:6-9. (Episode 56)
Peter’s Household
Feb 28 • 14 min
The head of the household, in biblical terms, is the one responsible for leading with the teaching of Scripture. Where civil characterizations of this role emphasize the acquisition of wealth, the Bible stresses obedience to God’s instruction as the chief…
One Day
Feb 25 • 19 min
Fr. Paul continues his discussion of Genesis 1. (Episode 55)
The Roman Household
Feb 21 • 23 min
Too often, students of Scripture dismiss difficult texts by separating the culture of the biblical era from what they consider the real ”message” of the biblical story—but this is a fallacy. Empirically, the text—the letters and words inscribed on the…
Light and Darkness
Feb 18 • 21 min
Fr. Paul resumes his reading of Genesis with a discussion of light and darkness in 1:3-5. (Episode 54)
The Witness of the Leper
Feb 14 • 24 min
In the Gospel of Matthew, knowledge of Scripture determines the value of a Levitical priest. What are the specific rules of Leviticus and what do they mean? What is the priest commanded to do when he encounters a leper? What does the Levitical sign of…
Grammatical Functionality
Feb 11 • 19 min
Fr. Paul concludes his discussion of functionality in Scripture. (Episode 53)
These Words
Feb 7 • 23 min
As teachers and students, we delude ourselves with abstraction. How many of us, instead of teaching the words of the Bible, offer a cheap summary or moral extraction to get at (what we call) the gist of the story? How often have you heard someone talk and…
Biblical Function
Feb 5 • 21 min
Fr. Paul discusses the central importance of functionality in Scripture. (Episode 52)
Not Everyone Who Says, “Lord, Lord”
Jan 31 • 21 min
It’s unclear how or when the phrase “I love you” became the sacrosanct rubric of America’s devolving mating rituals, but it did. In the place of duty, honor, and commitment, we peddle the fake importance of a self-involved, emotionally insecure obsession…
The Waters
Jan 29 • 23 min
Fr. Paul explains the function of the waters in Genesis 1:2. (Episode 51)
Beware of False Prophets
Jan 24 • 23 min
Priorities control a person’s speech. If a pastor’s goal is to share the words of the Bible, he will speak the words of the Bible. If his goal is to grow his parish, he will add to (or subtract from) the words of Scripture to appeal to his target…
Tohu wa-bohu
Jan 21 • 22 min
Fr. Paul continues his reading of Genesis with an analysis of the words tohu wa-bohu in 1:2. (Episode 50)
The Narrow Path
Jan 17 • 25 min
In the modern Internet of Consumers, everyone is treated as a profit center. Content, images, and themes are all engineered to attract the widest audience possible. If everyone likes your message, it must be good, right? This profit centered model has…
The Title of Scripture
Jan 14 • 23 min
In the fourth part of his introduction to the Book of Genesis, Fr. Paul discusses the importance of the Hebrew words bereshit bara. (Episode 49)
Ask, Seek, and Knock
Jan 10 • 22 min
Too often, the Lord’s promise in Matthew 7:7, that those who ask will receive, and those who seek will find, is reframed by a consumer mindset, as though prayer is the adult version of writing a letter to Santa Claus. But if we hear this verse in the…
Toledot
Jan 7 • 21 min
In the third part of his introduction to the Book of Genesis, Fr. Paul revisits his discussion of the Hebrew word toledot. (Episode 48)
Dogs, Swine, and Pearls
Jan 3 • 24 min
Too often, teachers use Matthew 7:6 to cast aspersion on the unchurched, difficult students, or people who are not interested in what they have to say. In doing so, they twist the meaning of the Gospel to serve themselves at the expense of others. When…
The Triliteral Root
Dec 31, 2018 • 20 min
In the second part of his introduction to the Book of Genesis, Fr. Paul continues his discussion of the language of Scripture with an overview of triliteral roots. (Episode 47)
Only One Opinion Counts
Dec 27, 2018 • 23 min
Too often, we co-opt the prohibition against judgment in Matthew as a mechanism of our self-imposed fragility. We don’t want to be challenged with our sins, so when confronted, we blather, “who are you to judge?” Fortunately, Matthew 7 renders this…
The Language of Scripture
Dec 25, 2018 • 21 min
In the first part of his introduction to the Book of Genesis, Fr. Paul expounds on the language of Scripture. (Episode 46)
Sufficient for the Day
Dec 20, 2018 • 29 min
When we step back to consider the full scope of any effort, even when the work in front of us pertains to God and not to mammon, it’s easy to become paralyzed by stress and anxiety. In Matthew, Jesus solves this problem by narrowing the scope of our…
Five Smooth Stones
Dec 17, 2018 • 28 min
Fr. Paul explains 1 Samuel 17:40. (Episode 45) “Breakdown” Kevin MacLeod (http://incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/) (http://incompetech.com/) (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://…
The Lilies of the Field
Dec 13, 2018 • 35 min
Everyone loves Matthew’s passage about the lilies of the field. We love it because who doesn’t want to be consoled and encouraged not to worry about anything? But our enthusiasm is misplaced. We get excited about our freedom from worry in the same way…
Adamah and Eretz
Dec 10, 2018 • 32 min
Fr. Paul discusses the use of the Hebrew terms adamah and eretz in Ezekiel. (Episode 44)
Treasure in Heaven
Dec 6, 2018 • 20 min
“Those who want to become rich,” St. Paul writes, “fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. “For the love of money,” he continues, “is the root of all evil, and some by longing for…
Possess vs. Inherit
Dec 3, 2018 • 38 min
Fr. Paul discusses the terms possess and inherit in the language of the Bible. (Episode 43)
The Lord’s Prayer
Nov 29, 2018 • 35 min
When Mr. Miyagi, the eighties era fictional Karate master, set out to teach his disciple, he asked him to paint a fence, wax cars, and sand a huge floor using inefficient, repetitive motions that made the work difficult and tedious. Sick of repetition and…
Hypertextuality
Nov 26, 2018 • 38 min
Fr. Paul discusses hypertextuality and the contributions of Bartosz Adamczewski to the field of Biblical Studies. (Episode 42)
It’s Not Hyperbole
Nov 22, 2018 • 25 min
When someone makes a statement that is difficult or unreasonable, human beings rationalize in order to ignore or moderate their words. Maybe the person didn’t mean it, or maybe they have some hidden strategy that explains their otherwise irrational…
The Maccabees
Nov 19, 2018 • 33 min
Fr. Paul discusses the significance of the Maccabees for the formation of the New Testament. (Episode 41)
False Humility
Nov 15, 2018 • 22 min
The expression “false pretense” is very strange. By definition, a pretense is the act of giving an appeance. In the Bible, anything that presents an apperance is already a lie, the depth and breadth of which is evident without the use of a modifier. In…
Saul
Nov 12, 2018 • 33 min
Fr. Paul discusses the biblical meaning and function of the Hebrew word Saul. (Episode 40)
Be Perfect
Nov 8, 2018 • 23 min
The United States is at a crossroads. Regrettably, all of us listened to our parents, teachers and Walt Disney, who conspired to convince us that we should believe in ourselves—and now, everyone believes in themselves. It’s a disaster. We believe in…
Biqah, Shinar, Babel
Nov 5, 2018 • 31 min
Fr. Paul discusses the Hebrew terms biqah, shinar, and babel. (Episode 39)
Empty Promises
Nov 1, 2018 • 25 min
People love to talk about what they want to do, what they should do or what they believe is right. We love it. We go online to brag about it and to cajole each other. Everyone is a fake preacher. We give lip service to lofty ideals (lying to ourselves and…
Shemites
Oct 30, 2018 • 37 min
Fr. Paul explains the significance of the word shem in the biblical tradition. (Episode 38)
Love is Not a Feeling
Oct 25, 2018 • 24 min
To our peril, we think about love and relationships in terms of how we feel about a person or how that person makes us feel. This attitude is understandable in children, but when adults think this way in marriage, the failure of their household becomes…
Moses as Anti-Hero
Oct 22, 2018 • 32 min
Fr. Paul examines the role of Moses as anti-hero. (Episode 37)
Every Last Cent
Oct 18, 2018 • 20 min
Christians come up with strange explanations as to the relationship between the Law of Moses and Pauline grace. Maybe, they argue, only part of the Law is valid—like the Ten Commandments—but the rest is draconian and Jesus came to rescue us from legalism.…
No Better Establishment
Oct 16, 2018 • 29 min
Fr. Paul explains how the biblical story does not propose a better establishment. (Episode 36)
Not One Iota
Oct 11, 2018 • 26 min
“Being instructed out of the Law,” are you “confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, [and] a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the…
The Purpose of the Greek Epics
Oct 9, 2018 • 34 min
Fr. Paul explains the purpose of the Greek epics and the way in which the biblical story pushes back. (Episode 35)
Salt of the Earth
Oct 4, 2018 • 14 min
If an author writes the words, “red lead,” is she directing a person named Red to lead a group of people or is she referring to a lead based substance that is colored red, as in, “red lead?” If she is speaking and we cannot see the spelling of her words,…
Scripture as a Totality
Oct 1, 2018 • 35 min
Fr. Paul reviews interconnected terminology, geographic references, and narrative themes in the Bible that point to Scripture as a totality. (Episode 34) This week’s episode falls on the occasion of Fr. Paul’s 75th birthday. Happy Birthday, Abouna!
Blessings and Insults
Sep 26, 2018 • 22 min
The suffering of others should make us feel ashamed. When we see a neighbor in need, in poor health, overcome by calamity or besieged by violence, their burden is both a call to action and a check on our ego. Honestly, what right have we to complain about…
Shamar
Sep 24, 2018 • 20 min
Fr. Paul provides an overview of the term shamar in the book Genesis. (Episode 33)
Clarity of Purpose
Sep 20, 2018 • 27 min
Hunger and thirst are clarifying. When you are desperate for a drink of water, or you have not eaten in days, your biological needs control your actions. In turn, your actions reorder your thoughts, and you acquire clarity of vision—you know what you…
The Chicken or the Egg?
Sep 18, 2018 • 33 min
Fr. Paul explains the terms flock and sheep and the problem individualism poses for our hearing of Scripture. (Episode 32)
The Fruit of the Spirit
Sep 13, 2018 • 27 min
When we hear the Beatitudes for the first time, it’s tempting to philosophize—about poverty, humility, sadness, etc.—as though the Beatitudes themselves are a bunch of Greek platitudes. But if you’ve been with our podcast from the early days, you know a…
Who is the Adversary of Whom?
Sep 10, 2018 • 29 min
Fr. Paul explains the meaning of the name Job. (Episode 31)
Direct My Footsteps
Sep 6, 2018 • 24 min
When we talk about behavior, we imagine that a degree of separation exists between our thoughts and our actions—as the saying goes, between mind and body—but this is incorrect. Just as a muscle integrates with fat and bone, our thoughts (themselves…
The Maskilim
Sep 4, 2018 • 30 min
Fr. Paul explains the meaning of the term maskilim in the Bible. (Episode 30)
Nets of Our Own Making
Aug 30, 2018 • 18 min
Man toils in his service, acts on his behalf, and slaves for personal gain. Even when he strives to gather food for his family, the human being does so selfishly—for his family—a community readily exploited to fulfill his personal needs. The act of…
Flip of the Coin
Aug 27, 2018 • 25 min
Fr. Paul explains the function of chosenness in the Bible. (Episode 29)
On the Margin
Aug 23, 2018 • 19 min
The first three chapters of Matthew portray a confrontation between the God of Abraham and the many false gods and kings that rule the earth. Even as these kings—represented here by Herod—struggle to cling to power at the visible center, the Lord moves…
To Be, or Not to Be?
Aug 20, 2018 • 25 min
Fr. Paul discusses the biblical term exist and the problem of its conflation with the verb ”to be.” (Episode 28)
Jesus Does Not Speak
Aug 16, 2018 • 34 min
When a child reads a letter of St. Paul aloud in church, it does not matter if the child himself understands the reading, it only matters that he pronounce the text correctly. When the words of the letter are pronounced correctly, it is as though Paul…
King David
Aug 13, 2018 • 26 min
Fr. Paul discusses the meaning and development of King David’s character in the storyline of the Bible. (Episode 27)
W.W.J.B.?
Aug 9, 2018 • 25 min
To the extent that Christians believe in the power of their actions and the value of their ethics, it’s understandable why they would interpret the Bible as a set of moral guidelines, or the life of Jesus as a moral example. But this is nonsense. The…
Eden and the Four Rivers
Aug 6, 2018 • 27 min
Fr. Paul discusses the four rivers that flow out of biblical Eden. (Episode 26)
The Axe is at the Root
Aug 2, 2018 • 26 min
It’s difficult for us to wrap our minds around, but the fact is, God does not need us. He does not need our abilities, our sentiments, our help, our efforts, our offerings, our deeds, our families, or our communities. God needs nothing from us yet…
Lost in Translation
Jul 30, 2018 • 34 min
Fr. Paul explores the versatility of the term Eden and the loss of its literary interconnection in translation. (Episode 24)
Subjugation of Identity
Jul 26, 2018 • 31 min
People assert and impose an identity from their king, their nation, their city, their tribe, and their family—all of which are dismantled and repurposed in Matthew’s genealogy. Now, in chapter 3, on the lips of John the Baptist, we come face to face with…
Shepherdism
Jul 23, 2018 • 34 min
Fr. Paul talks about shepherdism in Greater Syria and it’s significance for the Bible. (Episode 24)
A New Branch
Jul 19, 2018 • 27 min
When a person’s behavior improves, we naturally speak of how they have grown or changed, when, what has changed is not the person, but the instruction that controls their actions. Scripture bypasses human psychology to focus strictly on commandment and…
Judges 2:10-23
Jul 16, 2018 • 21 min
Fr. Paul discusses Judges 2:10-23. (Episode 23)
It’s Not a Fortune Cookie
Jul 12, 2018 • 22 min
Modern students of Scripture dumb down the power of the New Testament by dealing with the Old Testament as a kind of antiquated fortune cookie. They see a connection between Matthew and Jeremiah, and exclaim, “You see! Jeremiah predicts Matthew!” Even if…
Palásh
Jul 10, 2018 • 28 min
Fr. Paul discusses the term palásh as it relates to the word Philistine. (Episode 22)
The Liberation of Egypt
Jul 5, 2018 • 22 min
In secular ideology, we tend to depict everything as a struggle between bad actors and (so-called) good actors; between victims and oppressors. Thankfully, this self-righteous view of the world is dismantled in the Bible, which assumes that all humans are…
In Christ Jesus
Jul 2, 2018 • 34 min
Fr. Paul unpacks the literary function of the expression ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. (Episode 21)
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride
Jun 28, 2018 • 21 min
The most difficult part of following the Bible is accepting the factuality of our powerlessness. Human beings repeatedly invent ways to sustain the illusion of control and self-importance, scheming tirelessly to defend and secure the passing fallacy of…
Hope As a Mindset
Jun 25, 2018 • 25 min
Fr. Paul explains the function of hope in the biblical story. (Episode 20)
And You, Bethlehem
Jun 21, 2018 • 22 min
Everyone emphasizes Jerusalem. It’s the big city, the important city, and the object of David’s kingly ambitions—but it’s not the city from which (or to which) David was called. On the contrary, it is Jerusalem’s little sister, the city of Bethlehem, that…
Raised
Jun 18, 2018 • 28 min
Fr. Paul discusses the usage and meaning of the term raised in the biblical canon. (Episode 19)
The People’s Hero
Jun 13, 2018 • 24 min
People read religious and philosophical symbols into the Bible all the time. They study other traditions or the symbols of ancient mythologies and jump to conclusions, reading biblical metaphor against a non-biblical context. Worse, they make horrific…
Aman
Jun 11, 2018 • 25 min
Fr. Paul explains the importance of the term aman in the Bible. (Episode 18)
Not From Men
Jun 7, 2018 • 27 min
When we talk about children, spouses, siblings, parents, family, or even friends, we can’t help but refer to them as our posession: “My” son, “my” wife, “my” family—we arrogantly refer to individuals the same way that we refer to property. In the biblical…
Hebel
Jun 5, 2018 • 21 min
Fr. Paul explains the importance of the term hebel in the Bible. (Episode 17)
The Last Generation
May 31, 2018 • 15 min
In the book of Leviticus, the Jubilee year is a time when everyone—even slaves—are restored to their families, their land, and their original homes. With this in mind, it is striking that Matthew draws a connection between the generation of Jesus…
Denial of Cultural Superiority
May 29, 2018 • 25 min
Fr. Paul reviews the Bible’s systematic critique of cultural superiorty. (Episode 16)
God Will Establish
May 24, 2018 • 34 min
In the first section of the genealogy in Matthew, the story behind the names helps readers piece together the puzzle of the book’s teaching; but what about the last section? What can be understood from a list of names with no backstory? If you think of…
The Septuagint
May 21, 2018 • 21 min
Fr. Paul explains the importance of the Septuagint translation of the Bible. (Episode 15)
Perpetual Decline
May 17, 2018 • 21 min
When human beings discuss society and culture, we do so with an unstated premise: that there is such a thing as a correct society and that such a society is attainable through correct ideas or actions. Unfortunately—and far from its own ideal—this…
The Language of the Biblical God
May 14, 2018 • 22 min
Fr. Paul discusses the scriptural language of the scriptural story. (Episode 14)
The Intent of Man’s Heart
May 10, 2018 • 19 min
When a person does something questionable, almost always, defenders step forward to say, “he’s a good man,” or “she has good intentions,” as if either statement can erase the outcome of a person’s mistakes. Even worse, both statements openly contradict…
Biblical Mashal
May 7, 2018 • 20 min
Fr. Paul expounds on the term mashal (Hebrew: משל) and its centrality for Scripture. (Episode 13)
Solomon the Wise?
May 3, 2018 • 22 min
In a tradition that mocks Greek philosophy and human wisdom, it goes without saying that the wisdom afforded Solomon in the Old Testament is central to the Bible’s critique of Hellenism. What’s not so obvious—at least at first glance—is how this critique…
The Anti-Homeric Epic
Apr 30, 2018 • 21 min
Fr. Paul explains the how the biblical school undermines classical Greek literature and philosophy. (Episode 12)
The City of David?
Apr 25, 2018 • 19 min
In a typical Disney movie, the writers present a protagonist-coming-of-age who faces adversity (usually an identity crisis, an injustice, or both) discovers who they are, overcomes their challenge, and then, finally, realizes their true destiny…as king,…
The Imposition of Greek
Apr 23, 2018 • 17 min
Fr. Paul explains the use of language by Alexander the Great and the reaction of the biblical school. (Episode 11)
Breaching the High Wall
Apr 19, 2018 • 19 min
In the ancient world, kingly genealogies, like kingly cities, were constructed to establish a monarch’s credibility, divinity, authenticity, and permanence. It should come as no surprise, then, that Matthew (like Genesis) deconstructs the king’s genealogy…
Cyrus, His Anointed
Apr 16, 2018 • 22 min
Fr. Paul explains anti-ethnicity in the Bible and the significance of the Lord’s favor towards Cyrus of Persia. (Episode 10)
Prime Real Estate
Apr 12, 2018 • 19 min
As the first book of the New Testament, Matthew enjoys the distinct honor of headlining and setting the tone for all of part two of the Bible. Like a carefully placed advertisement in your social media feed, every verse, every word, every letter in the…
Tadmor in the Wilderness
Apr 9, 2018 • 23 min
Fr. Paul explains the significance of Tadmor, the “indomitable” city, found in 2 Chronicles 8:4. (Episode 9)
What Kind of Messiah?
Apr 4, 2018 • 21 min
In the very first verse of the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew raises a question that looms over the entire story: Whose son is Jesus and what kind of messiah will he be? How does Jesus relate to David? Why the mention of Abraham? Will the reign of…
The Hellenistic Period
Apr 2, 2018 • 23 min
Fr. Paul discusses the historical background of the content of the Old Testament, the way that its stories were written, and the critical role of Semitic languages. (Episode 8)
A Time for Shade?
Mar 29, 2018 • 27 min
“The lust for comfort,” wrote Khalil Gibran, is “that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master.” Jonah, called by the word of the Lord to serve Nineveh, grapples instead with the tyranny of comfort. From the…
Two Exiles
Mar 26, 2018 • 20 min
Fr. Paul discusses the Egyptian and Mesopotamian exiles, noting the recurrence of the former and its literary significance. (Episode 7)
Who is Wasting Whose Time?
Mar 22, 2018 • 18 min
Everyone thinks about inconvenience in terms of how it impacts their time and their personal comfort. Rare is the individual who thinks not of personal preference, but of the needs of others. A teacher burns the candle at both ends to make time to teach…
Ur of the Chaldeans
Mar 20, 2018 • 19 min
Fr. Paul discusses the importance of Ur of the Chaldeans and its role in the inclusion of all nations together with Abraham. (Episode 6)
How Many Times Do I Have to Ask?
Mar 15, 2018 • 26 min
Communities and individuals always overestimate their own importance and abilities. This illusion is reinforced by the self-serving narratives we create to bolster confidence in ourselves and in our institutions. Nations, religions, ideologies,…
The Syrian Desert
Mar 13, 2018 • 25 min
Fr. Paul discusses the importance of the geography of the Syrian Desert as the setting for the Scriptural story. (Episode 5) From this week’s show: https://www.bassam.com/the-new-book
The Word is in Control
Mar 7, 2018 • 31 min
Students of the Bible typically overstate the importance of Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the whale, assuming that he was vomited onto the dry land because of repentance; but a closer look at the text of the prayer tells a different story. Was Jonah…
Genesis 1-11
Mar 5, 2018 • 19 min
Fr. Paul reviews critical aspects of Genesis 1-11 and how this section of the Bible “controls” the broader scriptural story. (Episode 4)
Remedial Prophecy
Mar 1, 2018 • 24 min
“Obey everything [your teachers] teach you, but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.” (Matthew 23:3) Like the warning, “do not judge,” (Matthew 7) this beautiful admonition is often abused to lessen the burden of our…
Saved Under the Regime
Feb 26, 2018 • 21 min
Beginning with Exodus and Esther, Fr. Paul analyzes terminology and narrative structure to explain the biblical contrast drawn between slavery to human masters and slavery to the good and beneficent master. (Episode 3)
The Sword of the Spirit
Feb 22, 2018 • 32 min
When faced with a conflict between two parties, our natural tendency is to assume that there is a right side and a wrong side. Why? Because we fancy ourselves to be right, or we imagine that we can become right, and thus fail to see what is obvious in…
Biblos Geneseos
Feb 20, 2018 • 16 min
In this week’s episode, Fr. Paul discusses Biblos Geneseos in the Gospel of Matthew and in the greater context of Scripture. (Episode 2)
Arise, O God, Judge the Earth
Feb 15, 2018 • 22 min
Psalm 82 1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted…
The Rise of Scripture
Feb 12, 2018 • 54 min
In the first episode of our new show, “Tarazi Tuesdays,” we are re-broadcasting a lecture presented by Fr. Paul on January 12, 2018. The talk was given during a book signing at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Phoenix, Arizona. The content makes…
Your Acceptance is Not Required
Feb 7, 2018 • 26 min
A directive does not require understanding, agreement, or acceptance in order to be carried out. In a high performing team, once a clear decision has been handed down, people are expected to follow it—even if they disagree. Some employees may harbor…
Do Not Be Amazed
Feb 1, 2018 • 21 min
Throughout the Gospel of Mark, the primacy of sowing the seed of the Bible, the folly of misplaced amazement and the sin of the fear of men are all demonstrated by means of the Lord’s instruction and action. Most importantly, the teaching of Christ’s…
You Foolish Galatians
Jan 24, 2018 • 22 min
One of the many ways that Scripture teaches us is by testing us. In the first verse of chapter 15, Mark tells us that “the whole Council” deliberated, bound up Jesus, and delivered him to Pilate. The whole Council. During the Crucifixion, the public…
Into the Darkness
Jan 18, 2018 • 28 min
Students of the New Testament can’t help but impose their understanding of triumph on the story of the Crucifixion. Desperate to find hope in human strength, they rush to what they see as the happy ending in Mark, minimizing the lengthy stretch of…
Trust in the Lord
Jan 11, 2018 • 28 min
In popular American stories, defeat is used either to amplify our sense of good vs. evil or to indulge the illusion that we, the supposed underdogs, will be victorious in the end. Consumed uncritically, these stories reinforce a self-percieved victimhood,…
Gilgal Golgatha
Jan 4, 2018 • 37 min
In Semitic languages, the link between various words is established, not by a term’s imagined or abstract meaning, but by its mechanical structure. Certain words contain specific consonants in a particular order, and words built around those consonants…
The Bringer of the Law
Dec 28, 2017 • 30 min
In the discipline of Jiu Jitsu, when an opponent strikes you, his aggression is understood as an opportunity to use his power against him. A similar principle is found in the Bible, with a slight twist: throughout the Old Testament, the Lord uses the…
Neither Nor
Dec 21, 2017 • 20 min
Too often, the Bible is coopted by people who seek to advance a personal agenda. Whether laying claim to a piece of land, as in the case of Manifest Destiny, or justifying slavery in the Civil War era, we Americans have a long history of mixing apples and…
Stockholm Syndrome
Dec 14, 2017 • 17 min
To the extent that the Old Testament repeatedly hammers the worship of idols, it’s understandable why so many are quick to dismiss its relevance. These days, most people understand that the many statues of the ancient gods are just statues, hunks of stone…
Peter and Judas
Dec 7, 2017 • 23 min
When confronted with the failure of the Lord’s disciples in Mark, it’s tempting for hearers of the gospel to weigh and measure betrayal as a matter of degree. Why? Because while we may be willing to admit that we sometimes betray, even the best of us are…
How Do You Catch a Cloud?
Nov 30, 2017 • 28 min
When we take any action—especially in rebellion—the emotional satisfaction of doing what we want whenever we want creates the illusion of freedom. But what does it mean to be free? To the extent that Scripture knows exactly how we are going to behave when…
All Have Turned Aside
Nov 23, 2017 • 22 min
“What then,” Paul exclaimed to the church in Rome, “Are we better than they?” Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; There is no one who…
Seeing With Your Ears
Nov 16, 2017 • 24 min
In the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus commands his disciples to keep watch, the biblical writer is drawing upon a broader system of terminology in Scripture that stresses vigilance at all hours—even at midnight, when most are people are sleeping—through the…
Table Fellowship
Nov 9, 2017 • 31 min
All of us know something about the worst of ourselves but all of us struggle to hide from it. Arguably, a direct correlation exists between mental illness and our inability to be honest with ourselves about ourselves. Driven by fear, we deflect criticism…
We Are Judas
Nov 2, 2017 • 21 min
When Scripture deals with any sin, our natural reaction as human beings is to look around and single out others for committing that sin. Once this happens, it’s not long before we accuse or abuse others in the name of righteousness, or worse, as in the…
A Scathing Self-Critique
Oct 26, 2017 • 20 min
When any community—religious or otherwise—attempts to promote its agenda, the discussion always begins with an accounting of what makes their group special, or, alternatively, of what is wrong with all the other groups. Both approaches, whether…
Opinions Are Cheap
Oct 19, 2017 • 26 min
When people gossip, they oppose the Gospel of Jesus Christ in two ways: first, they show disregard for the biblical warning that no one is allowed to judge anyone before the time; second, they show disregard for the actions demanded by the Lord’s…
I’ll Sleep When I Die
Oct 12, 2017 • 26 min
In the Gospel of Mark, the greatest threat—not just to humanity, but to life itself—is human behavior controlled by human perspectives. When an individual faces any question, they can’t help but ask how that question impacts their life. Will they suffer?…
The Time is Now
Oct 5, 2017 • 36 min
Human beings repeat two critical mistakes every day and every hour. First, we live each day of our life as though we are going to live forever; second, we make life and death decisions at every moment without having all the facts. I don’t mean the facts…
He Will Teach You What to Say
Sep 28, 2017 • 25 min
Whether a student is preparing for an exam or a professional is reviewing notes for their presentation, one thing is certain: when the hour comes, you can’t fake it. A professor knows which student worked hard all semester and which crammed the night…
Hurricanes, Temples and Tyrants
Sep 21, 2017 • 28 min
Whenever something terrible happens, someone always asks, “how could a just God allow bad things to happen?” Unfortunately, the question is silly and unbearably self-entitled. Bad things happen because that’s how the world works. Sometimes people cause…
All That She Had
Sep 14, 2017 • 29 min
Whether chasing wealth or reveling in piety, people aspire to ascendency. Looking to Caesar as their frame of reference, they measure everything in terms of progression, growth, movement, or expansion. But that’s not how Scripture works. The biblical God…
There is Only One God
Sep 7, 2017 • 28 min
People like to handle the Bible as though it were a mysterious or complicated story that can’t be easily explained in clear terms. We do so precisely because the content of the Bible is crystal clear, and at the same time, totally inconvenient. That’s why…
Commandment Without End
Aug 31, 2017 • 21 min
In Deuteronomy 25:5, the commandment to marry your brother’s widow is given for one purpose: to ensure the continuation of life, so “that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from…
Ideological Entrapment
Aug 24, 2017 • 24 min
All ideology is self-referential: it begins with a desire for self-preservation and achieves fulfillment by exercising power. Whether we wield this power ourselves or ask others to wield it for us—because it is self-referential—it is always employed at…
Unless the Lord Builds the House
Aug 17, 2017 • 28 min
Entitlement is the most destructive force on earth and no person, group or ideology is exempt from its barbaric cruelty. Students demand the “right” not to be offended; the wealthy contend that they’ve “earned” the fruit of “their” labor; and consumers…
Preaching With Authority
Aug 10, 2017 • 18 min
When we criticize others on the basis of personal experience or opinion, this criticism exposes our blindness to the truth of our own sins. In Mark, whether they realize it or not, the chief priests, the scribes and the elders question the authority of…
Read the Signs
Aug 3, 2017 • 22 min
Everybody sees signs. I’m not talking about street signs. I mean the things we see in life. We look at a withering tree, a flock of birds, or we experience something—painful or joyous—and we assign meaning. That’s how human beings make sense of the world.…
Nothing But Leaves
Jul 27, 2017 • 16 min
Imagine the following. A teacher walks into class to announce the final exam: “If you do well on the test,” she explains, “it is not because of you. You are clueless. If you happen to do well, it is because I am an awesome teacher, so please do not expect…
The Boss of Me
Jul 20, 2017 • 16 min
No one likes being told what to do. We dislike it so much that we have come to idolize rebellion as a moral good. We long for a world without authority, criticism or the pressure necessary to change how we live. When a teacher rightly judges our child, we…
Blind Trust
Jul 13, 2017 • 29 min
In all aspects of life, human beings would rather exercise control than risk placing trust. We treat relationships like business deals, as though marriage, family, community, and friendship are all quid pro quo, and we establish rules and policies to…
Wisdom Bears Repeating
Jul 6, 2017 • 21 min
Whether by instinct or experience, our minds construct a subjective model of the world around us in order to ensure our survival. In terms of risk mitigation, this system is efficient and effective. For example, if a loud noise in the dark resembles your…
True Wisdom is Painful
Jun 29, 2017 • 25 min
Let me share a few quotes with you: “Nothing is more fallacious than wealth. It is a hostile comrade, a domestic enemy.” “Our money belongs to God, no matter how we have gathered it.” “The love of money leaves everything corrupted and in ruin.” “The love…
God is the Possessor
Jun 22, 2017 • 15 min
In popular culture, when someone says, “don’t judge” or “who are you to judge,” what they mean is, “how dare you criticize me?” This common adulteration undermines the commandment’s original purpose, namely, to invalidate and supplant human opinion…
Suffer the Kingdom
Jun 15, 2017 • 20 min
The disciples in Mark’s gospel struggle to understand the Bible because they refuse to surrender their ideas to it. They approach Jesus with preconceived notions—of God, his Kingdom and his Messiah—that breakdown whenever Jesus speaks or takes action. The…
What Does the Law Say?
Jun 8, 2017 • 30 min
Much of what passes for religious debate is driven by a desire to be pure or to be right. A lawyer approaches Jesus to make sure he knows how to follow the Law, so that he can be right. A rich man approaches Jesus seeking the best of both worlds—he wants…
Context, Context, Context!
May 31, 2017 • 19 min
What is going on when Jesus talks to his disciples about cutting off a hand or a foot or, worse, of plucking out an eye? Too often, readers stumble over these words, ignoring, dismissing, glossing over, or worst of all, inventing an interpretation. In…
Selective Hearing
May 25, 2017 • 23 min
“Don’t waste your time with explanations: people only hear what they want to hear.” Insofar as Paulo Coelho’s quote reflects the truth of human behavior, it also reflects the behavior of the disciples in the Gospel of Mark. Time and again, Jesus explains…
Jesus, Give Us a Word!
May 18, 2017 • 24 min
If you want to understand someone, you need only examine their motivations. What does a person want? Why do the crowds in Mark approach Jesus? Most often, they approach because they want to save their own neck; they want something for themselves. Rarely…
It’s All About Priorities
May 11, 2017 • 21 min
People like to complain. They complain that they don’t have enough time; that it’s too difficult to understand; that it’s impossible to do; or that something else gets in the way. Worse, when they see another person do it, they heap praise, saying, “I…
Listen to Him
May 4, 2017 • 25 min
In the Gospel of Mark, the teaching of the Old Testament is the teaching of Jesus. In obedience to his Father, when the Markan Jesus speaks, his words never go beyond what is written in Scripture: most notably, Isaiah, but also Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,…
Who is the King of Glory?
Apr 27, 2017 • 22 min
In our culture, great emphasis is placed on the opinion of the individual. We are told that our opinion counts; that our vote matters; and that our personal preferences are relevant. We are taught to think this way because it benefits the institutions we…
Who is Testing Whom?
Apr 20, 2017 • 24 min
When students are challenged in the classroom, their first impulse is to avoid being tested by attempting to test the teacher. Is the assignment difficult? There must be something wrong with the teacher. Is it hard to understand? It must be the teacher’s…
The Bread of Life
Apr 13, 2017 • 25 min
When people use the word “truth” they usually mean a worldview framed by personal experience or established by philosophy. For these ideological systems—whether personal or corporate—truth is understood as someone’s abstract statement about the world. In…
This People Honors Me With Their Lips
Apr 6, 2017 • 20 min
All through Mark’s gospel, Jesus instructs those around him not to tell anyone about his miracles. Most dismiss this pattern as the “Messianic Secret,” an attempt by Jesus to hide his true identity. When William Wrede coined this phrase in 1901, he…
She Has Ears to Hear
Mar 30, 2017 • 19 min
People make assumptions about each other based on appearance, personal affiliation or both. A well-dressed person is assumed the better candidate; good taste is mistaken for competence or moral credibility; worst of all, people judge each other by…
Do Not Follow Your Heart
Mar 23, 2017 • 24 min
A wise person, no matter his or her beliefs, understands that human motivations and desires are naturally selfish. We humans think and act from the shallow perspective of personal experience on behalf of our biological imperative: self-preservation. Our…
Call No Man Unclean
Mar 16, 2017 • 26 min
Human communities fixate on self-preservation, naturally forming traditions and customs that protect them from outside threats. The problem of protectionism is amplified when a group’s leaders benefit from it, turning the community against itself—even…
Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Heat, Nor Gloom of Night
Mar 8, 2017 • 26 min
According to the website of the US Postal Service, their motto, “chiseled in gray granite over the entrance to the New York City Post Office on 8th Avenue,” comes from an ancient account of the Persian Wars by the Greek historian, Herodotus: “Neither…
The Voice of the Shepherd
Mar 2, 2017 • 19 min
When studying biblical literature, it’s easy to fall into the trap of attempting to lock down the meaning of the Bible’s characters and symbols. For example, students of the Bible often assume that “Egypt is evil,” or, “Assyria is evil,” ignoring…
It’s Your Move, Herod
Feb 23, 2017 • 17 min
“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” These words, spoken by Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese author and civil leader, reflect almost…
It’s Not About the Teacher
Feb 16, 2017 • 16 min
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus repeatedly emphasizes the will of his Father in Deuteronomy, that any prophet or worker of miracles who seduces people from “the way (ὁδός) in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk,” should be ignored, or worse, put to…
Familiarity Breeds Contempt
Feb 9, 2017 • 25 min
When people are taught to change their behaviors or to admit their shortcomings, they use whatever means available to transfer blame for their sins to someone else. Almost always, they lash out against the messenger, pointing to the hypocrisy of their…
Give Her Something to Eat
Feb 2, 2017 • 26 min
Self-righteousness is dangerous. When people who believe they are “right” apply rules to each other, even rules that were meant to protect us become instruments of abuse, cruelty and exploitation. You need look no further than the barbarity of Twitter…
The First Disciple
Jan 26, 2017 • 21 min
When Jesus permitted the unclean spirits to leave the Gerasene, he demonstrated two things: not only his ability to control a man whom no one could subdue, but his total power over Caesar’s legion. You had better believe everyone was terrified by the…
Why Are You Bowing?
Jan 19, 2017 • 16 min
When it comes to bowing, our culture is schizophrenic. We teach people not to bow down to others or to let others tell us what to do, yet we bow down all the time. We bow to men of wealth; we bow to people and things of beauty; we bow to eloquent speech;…
Why Are You Afraid?
Jan 12, 2017 • 23 min
Like the prophet Jonah, Jesus was sent to sow the seed of God’s teaching on other soil. Unlike Jonah, Jesus trusted God’s will, carrying out his Father’s instruction without hesitation or the slightest hint of rebellion. So you can imagine the Lord’s…
Like a Mustard Seed
Jan 5, 2017 • 21 min
A farmer sows seed because he wants security. He wants to know that he will have enough money and food in storage to secure his family until the next season. This understanding of farming is anti-Scriptural. In the Book of the Twelve, we are repeatedly…
#cursed #afflicted #persecuted #amen
Dec 28, 2016 • 26 min
In the Gospel of Mark, the Lord Jesus said, “Whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” (Mark 4:25) In our consumer culture, this verse is almost always taken out of context and…
It’s Not About the Soil
Dec 21, 2016 • 23 min
When hearing the parable of the sower in Mark, few people stop to consider that seeds are embryonic plants. That’s right, the seeds tucked away in a box on your shelf are already pregnant. Not only does the seed contain the instructions needed to make a…
Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
Dec 15, 2016 • 17 min
The proclamation of the forgiveness of sins is integral to the content of the gospel. After all, it was the forgiveness of sins that opened the path for gentiles to become children of the Bible. In the Gospel of Mark, the sharing of this news is the…
He Sent Them Out
Dec 8, 2016 • 22 min
According to Google, to rationalize is to “attempt to explain or justify (one’s own or another’s behavior or attitude) with logical, plausible reasons, even if these are not true or appropriate.” According to Mark, people do this all the time. Is Jesus…
Bread and Circuses
Dec 1, 2016 • 19 min
Human beings make decisions and take actions based on assumptions. We do so because without assumptions, we are paralyzed by complexity. In some cases, an assumption is based on data, but almost always, our presuppositions stem from innate selfishness. As…
Jesus Proclaimed the Letter of the Law
Nov 23, 2016 • 20 min
We’ve all heard it. On every corner. In every school. At every church. There is always somebody spouting platitudes about the “dangers” of taking the Bible literally. This is usually the same person who explains that “religion is the cause of all wars,”…
Step Forward or Step Aside
Nov 16, 2016 • 28 min
Have you ever had a ton of work to do, only to be pulled into long meetings with people who talk endlessly to avoid action? You know that feeling when you have a simple question for customer service, but the automated attendant makes you answer fifteen…
Don’t Be Fooled by the Crowds
Nov 9, 2016 • 23 min
People deal with the miracles and parables of Jesus as biblical vignettes that can be extracted from the gospels and presented on their own. Biblical scholars refer to these vignettes as “pericopes,” literally, a section of the Bible that has been cut out…
Do Not Be Amazed, Be Obedient
Nov 2, 2016 • 23 min
The fallacy of the Messianic Secret is based on a presupposition that openly contradicts the teaching of Mark’s Gospel. While scholars assume that Jesus is preoccupied with his identity and secrecy, in the text of Mark, Jesus is in a big rush to preach to…
A New Teaching?
Oct 26, 2016 • 22 min
Teaching is tedious work. No matter how many times you explain something, for every one person who doesn’t get it, there are a thousand people you can’t get to. It’s even harder when the teaching itself is so counterintuitive that even people who think…
Pleased With Himself
Oct 19, 2016 • 17 min
Ancient religions stood on a simple premise: find a way to please the gods or face their wrath. Are you afraid of bad weather? Make a sacrifice. Worried about your family? Make a sacrifice. Afraid of impending war or plague? Make a sacrifice. Like all…
A Path in the Wilderness?
Oct 12, 2016 • 22 min
The first few verses of Mark’s gospel are packed with prophetic imagery. From the impossible concept of a path in the wilderness to the Baptist’s position outside Jerusalem, the Markan prologue heralds the victory of the Prophets’ teaching against…
Eye of the Needle Jokes
Oct 5, 2016 • 20 min
The biblical system proposes hyperbole, scandal, and logical contradiction as a means to disassemble the statues and false gods we construct in our minds. At the same time, hearers of the Bible tend to rationalize these tensions away, explaining to…
Third Time is Not a Charm
Sep 28, 2016 • 25 min
We Christians assume that God’s love is unconditional and that it is never too late to change our ways. Although comforting, this idea contradicts the story of the Bible. Yes, it’s true, God is patient. In fact, he is so patient in the Bible that by the…
It’s Not a Two-way Street
Sep 21, 2016 • 21 min
In broken families, parents complain that their children “owe” them and children delude themselves that their parents “need” them. From each perspective, the relationship devolves into extortion. A broken parent shames their child because they want…
Silence is Not Golden
Sep 14, 2016 • 21 min
What good would it be if a man were to ascend to the highest heaven and return with nothing to say? Would you be impressed by him? Would you brag about him to others? If so, what would you say? If this man has nothing to say about his so called…
Let No One Think Me Foolish
Sep 7, 2016 • 20 min
People embrace social norms in much the same way that fundamentalists embrace religious rules: as a means of self-approval. A person feigns modesty either to win acceptance or to exemplify correctness. That’s why St. Paul’s disciples in 2 Corinthians are…
The Great Corinthian Brain Hack
Aug 31, 2016 • 25 min
How can a teacher reach someone who is set in their ways or engulfed by ideology? What if the way a person looks at the world — their unstated assumption about everything — is backwards? Is it possible to help them reason their way out? Can you talk…
A Yo Yo for Your Sake
Aug 24, 2016 • 27 min
Unfortunately, Christians often co-opt the Bible to justify philosophical axioms, such as, “it is good to be humble,” or, “it is wrong to boast;” “it is good to be nice,” or, “cruelty is evil.” You get the point. We take the Bible, which turns human…
No Thanks to You
Aug 17, 2016 • 23 min
Is it possible to do something good without allowing yourself to take credit? I’m not talking about haughty expressions of socially encouraged self-deprication. On the contrary, is it possible to do something good while knowing—with absolute…
The Bus Keeps Moving
Aug 10, 2016 • 22 min
People tend to overestimate their own importance while ignoring—or at least underestimating—the value of others. This problem is keenly felt in the church at Roman Corinth, where Paul uses the success of others to realign the self-view of his disciples.…
True Equality is Not Fair
Aug 3, 2016 • 22 min
On some level, people recognize the importance of being fair. We know that our laws should treat people equally and we understand that no one should take more than their “fair share” from anyone else. From the moment we step on the playground as kids…
The Story of God’s Will
Jul 27, 2016 • 18 min
Life coaches love to talk about having confidence in their clients and the importance of building self-worth and self-esteem. Fortunately, for the church in Roman Corinth, Paul does not view his followers as customers and he definitely does not have…
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat!
Jul 20, 2016 • 19 min
Most leaders motivate others by boasting of their accomplishments. They talk about past goals they have achieved, they reflect on how effective they were at leading others to meet those goals, they praise others for their efforts, they explain the virtue…
Life is Not Gray
Jul 13, 2016 • 24 min
People resolve the tension of diversity either by clinging to fundamentalism or by embracing relativism. Unfortunately, both approaches share a desire to be right: to have the right ideas, to associate with the right people, to know who is clean and who…
Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It
Jul 6, 2016 • 21 min
We human beings love having an excuse; or having the opportunity to blame someone else for our problems; or having the freedom to blame our failures on unforeseen circumstances. Unfortunately for us, according to St. Paul, no matter who you are, no matter…
The Great Divorce
Jun 29, 2016 • 28 min
In one of his most popular works, C.S. Lewis talks about the inevitable divorce between good and evil: a comforting philosophical notion that allows adherents to be right or to be able to choose the winning side—as the sons of men often and arrogantly…
Don’t Get Comfortable
Jun 22, 2016 • 24 min
When Paul talks about being “absent from the body,” our Hellenized ears want to believe that he is talking about a dualism with some version of a Platonic soul inhabiting (or exiting) our “earthen vessel.” As appealing as this may be to some, it has…
Which Life is Life?
Jun 15, 2016 • 29 min
When someone sets out to do something difficult, they console themselves that their sacrifice is worth the effort because of what they will have achieved or attained. The problem, of course, is that we humans are as much aware of our own futility as we…
From Glory to Glory
Jun 8, 2016 • 25 min
When St. Paul contrasts tablets of stone with the human heart, or the letter inscribed in stone with the Spirit, or the Old Covenant with the New, Christians are quick to assume that the Old is incomplete without the New, or, worse, that the human heart…
Who is Testing Whom?
Jun 1, 2016 • 18 min
It is common for students to judge their teachers. Worse, students today are encouraged to do so, being routinely asked to fill out teacher evaluation forms. Some have even created websites to aggregate student gossip about their teachers. In a culture…
Wax On Wax Off
May 25, 2016 • 18 min
According to human standards of leadership, when Paul changes course midstream, it appears to his disciples that he is vascillating between “yes” and “no,” like a man who can’t keep his promises. In reality, it is the church that is wavering because…
The Blessing and the Curse
May 18, 2016 • 27 min
When Paul talks about comfort in 2 Corinthians, it is easy to receive his words as much needed nurturing, as though we have suffered unjustly and are in need of God’s intervention. But what if God has already intervened? What if the difficulties in our…
Whistling to the Flock
May 11, 2016 • 26 min
Without realizing it, when people hear the word “church,” they usually imagine a meta institution with clear organizational or ideological boundaries, akin to a government or global corporation. Worse, in our various expressions of Christianity, one way…
Baptism for the Dead
May 4, 2016 • 24 min
Isaiah 22:12 Therefore in that day the Lord God of hosts called you to weeping, to wailing, To shaving the head and to wearing sackcloth. 13 Instead, there is gaiety and gladness, Killing of cattle and slaughtering of sheep, Eating of meat and drinking of…
According to the Scriptures
Apr 27, 2016 • 33 min
Psalm 2:1 Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast…
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent
Apr 20, 2016 • 31 min
When reading an ancient text in translation—especially one laden with nuance—there is a high risk of misunderstanding. On the one hand, there are expressions, cultural and historical references, and terminology that are not immediately accessible to…
Five Words
Apr 13, 2016 • 31 min
Better to “speak five words” that give instruction, Paul explains, “than ten thousand words” that mean something to you but are useless for everyone else. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss 1 Corinthians 14:1-19. Prompted by listener feedback, this week’s…
A More Excellent Way
Apr 6, 2016 • 25 min
After spending the better part of 12 chapters putting the church’s household in order, in chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians, St. Paul crowns the power structure he established with something more excellent and of greater importance than any household station or…
Hell Was Created Just for Me
Mar 30, 2016 • 29 min
The key to understanding any idea, statement or position is to examine its premise. What underlying assumptions must be made for an idea to make sense? What motivations drive these assumptions? Once you are able to examine an argument in this way, even…
Paul’s Kung Fu
Mar 23, 2016 • 36 min
According to our friend Google, a contradiction is, “a combination of statements, ideas, or features of a situation that are opposed to one another.” According to St. Paul, this combination is a mechanism of wisdom, as in, “I will undermine power by…
A Tribe of One?
Mar 16, 2016 • 27 min
What if you know something is OK, but someone else does not? What if you know something is not OK, but others think it is fine? What if someone offers you something that is OK, and they think it is OK, but someone else is confused and thinks that it is…
First Among Average
Mar 9, 2016 • 21 min
What does it mean to be chosen in the Bible? What is the purpose of having a chosen people? How does God honor his chosen? What is expected of those who hope to join the ranks of the chosen? How long is a chosen person’s tenure? Doesn’t the whole idea of…
Trickle Up Economics
Mar 2, 2016 • 31 min
Can you make yourself the least of all by insisting on your title and station? Can you sacrifice everything for the sake of others without them liking it? Are you able to repeatedly flip an argument on its head until no one is able to stake out a…
Not So Smart After All
Feb 24, 2016 • 28 min
According to Wikipedia, “Illusory superiority is a cognitive bias whereby individuals overestimate their own qualities and abilities relative to others. This is evident in a variety of areas including intelligence, performance on tasks or tests, and the…
How To Play Both Sides Without Waffling
Feb 17, 2016 • 24 min
For as long as religion has been around, people have come forward with a single, destructive question: “O religious leader, what does our religion say,” or, “What does our religious leader say about X?” One way or another, people eventually find someone…
Not Your Ordinary Life Coach
Feb 10, 2016 • 26 min
When couples want marriage or divorce, they think “fairness.” When people are dissatisfied with their place in life, they think “change.” When people look at their own status, they think, “better” or “worse.” If all this makes sense to you, then,…
Égoïsme à deux
Feb 3, 2016 • 27 min
People love to defend themselves. They defend their choices. They defend their group. They defend their rights; their property; their beliefs. Oh, yes, and people love to be right. They love it. It’s like a drug. They love it so much that when something…
The Problem Within
Jan 27, 2016 • 24 min
At first glance, St. Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 5, that the faithful are not to associate with immoral people, seems to imply that the church should safeguard its purity by avoiding association people outside the community. No interpretation of 1…
The Art of Biblical Shame
Jan 20, 2016 • 33 min
When reading 1 Corinthians, it is easy to mistake Paul’s discussion of weakness and strength as a universal condemnation of power. On the contrary, Paul presents the teaching of the cross as a way of replacing one kind of power with another. You might be…
Neither is Anything
Jan 13, 2016 • 22 min
Scientists believe that plant life first formed on the Earth 700 million years ago and that the first fungi appeared on land 1300 million years ago. In contrast, human agriculture did not develop in the Fertile Crescent until 11,500 years ago. Now, I am…
Spiritual Authority
Jan 6, 2016 • 35 min
How can St. Paul emphasize the importance of weakness while boasting that his own preaching is a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power?” How can he preach weakness from a position of strength? Is Paul contradicting himself? Why would someone…
A Practical Impracticality
Dec 30, 2015 • 30 min
What does it mean to hope in the Kingdom of God and how does this hope differ from the false promises of idealism? How is the biblical teaching, which seems impractical, ruthlessly practical in its transformation of human behavior? Why is the content of…
An Appeal to Fellowship
Dec 23, 2015 • 32 min
What is the answer to every human conflict and how is this answer sabotaged by human wisdom? What does it mean, in biblical terms, to be called by God? How does St. Paul use praise as a tool of judgment against the church in Roman Corinth? This Christmas…
Epilogue: Freeing the Dove
Dec 16, 2015 • 68 min
In a special anniversary edition marking the 100th episode of the podcast, Richard and Fr. Marc take the opportunity to draw on themes from the show’s first two years while unpacking the surprising meaning of Genesis 47. An epilogue to their six part…
Unearned Suffering: In Memory of John Price
Dec 9, 2015 • 38 min
On December 4, 2015, John Ashton Price IV, age 18, and Jacob Flynn, age 17, were killed in an automobile accident in Lakeville, Minnesota. In concluding their six part series on the letter to the Galatians, Richard and Fr. Marc take time to reflect on the…
The Sons of Jacob
Dec 2, 2015 • 30 min
Hearing Galatians in translation and out of context, it’s tempting to conclude that St. Paul is arguing for some new alternative to the teaching of Old Testament; but for those who make an effort to hear the text in context, it becomes quickly clear that…
The Children of Hagar
Nov 25, 2015 • 35 min
What is the difference between a child and an heir in Roman society and what role does the Roman household play in the content of Paul’s gospel? Why does Paul use two different languages, Aramaic and Greek, to address the Father of Jesus? How could a…
Only the Dead are Perfect
Nov 18, 2015 • 34 min
What is the purpose of the Law in Galatians and how does it relate to Abraham’s faith in God’s instruction? What is the connection between the Law of Moses and the Crucifixion of Jesus? How and why does the Torah illustrate Abraham’s wickedness while also…
Broken for the Sake of the Poor
Nov 11, 2015 • 39 min
Why does St. Paul specify that he was away from Jerusalem for an interval of fourteen years? Does the length of time have any significance? Why did he insist on meeting privately with Peter and James during his visit? Why are Peter, James and John…
God is My Judge
Nov 4, 2015 • 29 min
What does St. Paul mean when he explains that no one, not even an “angel from heaven,” can contradict the gospel that was preached in Galatia? To what does Paul appeal in making the claim that his authority comes directly from God and not from men? How do…
No Oxygen Allowed
Oct 28, 2015 • 27 min
Rationalize (verb): to attempt to explain or justify (one’s own or another’s behavior or attitude) with logical, plausible reasons, even if these are not true or appropriate. Synonyms: justify, explain, explain away, account for, defend, vindicate, or…
Bless Thine Inheritance
Oct 21, 2015 • 20 min
What if someone wrote a book that imposed patriarchal authority at the expense of patriarchs, redeemed inheritance at the expense of wealth, upheld a patronymic without blessing the name, linked patrimony and childbirth to each other and to God’s teaching…
Hear, O Daughter
Oct 14, 2015 • 23 min
At your right hand stood the Queen in vesture of gold; Hear, O daughter, and see, and incline your ear! The rich among the people shall entreat your favor and the King shall greatly desire your beauty; For he is your Lord and you shall worship him.…
Waking Ned Devine
Oct 7, 2015 • 29 min
How is the content of Ruth reflected in the teaching of St. Paul and in the gospel narratives? Why, in Ruth, does it matter who is whose relative and who is connected to whom? Why do Richard and Fr. Marc make such a big deal out of biblical names? Why…
Dialogue is the Problem
Sep 30, 2015 • 24 min
Why do discussions about race in the United States always seem to widen the gap between neighbors? How do our assumptions about race cripple our ability to recognize oppression in unfamiliar places? Is racism the main issue, or is it symptomatic of a…
Their Confusion is at Hand
Sep 23, 2015 • 23 min
Why would Jesus, who warns against the sword in Matthew 26 threaten to use one in Matthew 10? Why would Jesus set a man against his father and a daughter against her mother, when in the Torah God commands that parents are to be honored? In Luke, the…
Grant Victory Against Me
Sep 16, 2015 • 26 min
The Passion narrative in John 19 is unequivocal: the life of Jesus ended in humiliation, abuse, abject betrayal, subjugation and utter failure. You might try to comfort yourself by arguing that Jesus was treated unfairly, however, in truth, the outcome of…
Knock Yourself Out
Sep 9, 2015 • 27 min
A recent article in Salon magazine views the ongoing decline in American religion “in part, as an inevitable result of the politicization of Christianity.” Where does the temptation to infuse church with political ideology come from? What does politicized…
The Empire Strikes Back
Sep 2, 2015 • 20 min
Often and wrongly promoted as a biblical precept, unconditional love works against the purpose of Jesus in the New Testament. Nowhere is this point more clearly expressed than in the parable of the wicked vinedressers in Matthew 21. What does Matthew’s…
The Tower of Babel
Aug 26, 2015 • 23 min
Of language diversity in the United States, Saul Bellow once quipped, “A melting pot, yes. A tower of Babel, no.” The Nobel Laureate’s comment, indicative of American norms, undermines the meaning of the parable he invokes. Where human institutions (in…
The Problem of the Justified
Aug 19, 2015 • 31 min
A culture’s moral platitudes expose the sins for which its adherents hope to atone. This tension is present in popular critiques of the biblical commandment, “an eye for an eye.” But what happens when our assumed high ground amplifies the sins we want to…
Until the Lord Comes
Aug 12, 2015 • 34 min
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens: Lo, it is better to be patient than arrogant, for the end of something is better than its beginning—not because your toil has ended, but because the reward for patience is…
Famous for Scrubbing Toilets
Aug 5, 2015 • 27 min
Since everything you have is already passing away, why hold onto it? Since you can’t control the weather, why worry about? Since everything you do is vanishing breath, why not do it? Yes, it’s true, you can’t add a single hour to your life span by…
Man Cannot Judge
Jul 29, 2015 • 28 min
Ecclesiastes 10 presents a world in which two paths, one foolish and one wise, both lead to the same outcome. Where temporal human eyes see the benefits of wisdom, the Preacher exposes folly. Where men see failure and assume folly, the Preacher proclaims…
Play the Cards You’re Dealt
Jul 22, 2015 • 23 min
According to the Preacher, no matter what you do, you are doomed to the one fate that awaits everyone. Are you a righteous man? Are you wicked? Can you, by your actions, determine the outcome of your life? Since all share the same fate, does it matter?…
Judgment As Hope
Jul 15, 2015 • 24 min
When a human judge seeks meaning in the abuses of the wicked or in the misfortunes of the righteous, if he is as honest with himself as the Preacher in Jerusalem, his pursuit of wisdom leads nowhere. As each door closes in his face and each path turns to…
Stick To It, Don’t Stick It To Yourself
Jul 8, 2015 • 31 min
If, for the sake of wisdom, death is better than birth, sorrow is better than laughter and mourning is better than feasting, what hope has the wise man of escaping ruin? Is such wisdom truly wise, or is it better to grasp righteousness without abandoning…
Back From Greece
Jul 1, 2015 • 24 min
What would happen if God gave you honor, riches and wealth such that nothing you desired was beyond your reach? What if he then invited foreigners to enjoy this wealth in your place? What does this mean? Is the foreigner wrong to partake of your treasure?…
You Can’t Take It With You
Jun 24, 2015 • 21 min
In a culture that loves money and values everyone’s input, Ecclesiastes 5 is a bitter pill. Human speech, cries the Preacher, is the sacrifice of idiots and the gathering of wealth a grievous evil under the sun. Let your words be few. Shun the acquisition…
Two Are Better Than One
Jun 17, 2015 • 20 min
Who is worse off, the oppressor or the oppressed? Is the power wielded by kings and empires real? Is a king of humble origins better than an old fool on the throne? What does Ecclesiastes have to do with Judas Iscariot or New Testament questions dealing…
Turn Turn Turn
Jun 10, 2015 • 23 min
There is a time for every season under heaven: A time to be silent and a time to speak; A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace: For many, these words call to mind a beautiful ballad lamenting the futility of war. However,…
The Pursuit of Happiness?
Jun 3, 2015 • 26 min
Is there a difference between a fool and a wise man? Does a man who acts correctly gain advantage over one who stumbles? What has the Preacher in Jerusalem to do with the suburbs in Minnesota? Richard and Fr. Marc continue their discussion of…
A Generation Goes and a Generation Comes
May 27, 2015 • 20 min
This past week, Fr. Marc’s dad, Paul Boulos, was transferred to a hospice facility. As Fr. Marc and Richard reflect on Paul’s life and the meaning of his death, no text in the Bible brings more clarity than Ecclesiastes. (Episode 71; Subscribe:…
Because You Have Rejected Knowledge
May 20, 2015 • 27 min
Fundamentalists are quick to apply biblical texts to current events, making fantastic claims about world leaders, foreign countries, and, as Matthew says, about “wars and rumors of war.” (Matthew 24:6) Aside from having no real or legitimate connection to…
Choosing the Better Portion
May 13, 2015 • 22 min
In the gospel of John, how do the actions of the Samaritan woman set her apart from the disciples of Jesus? What does it mean to be a disciple? Is discipleship only about learning and following, or is more required? Why does fundamentalism make…
It’s Not Who You Know
May 6, 2015 • 18 min
Religious and secular ideologies share much in common, including their emphasis on personality and identity. Who are you? What are you? What group are you from? What do you believe? Are you one of us? These questions betray our fear of each other and take…
What Has Athens To Do With Jerusalem?
Apr 29, 2015 • 27 min
It’s easy to allow symbols and ideas from outside the Bible to shape our understanding of the text. In contrast, serious biblical students set aside extra-biblical influences, so that only Scripture can interpret Scripture. In late antiquity, this tension…
Your Feelings Are Immaterial
Apr 22, 2015 • 23 min
What do the ending of John’s gospel and the first chapters of Acts teach us about the problem of human feelings? How do our assumptions about love and its relationship to emotion cripple our ability to fulfill God’s instruction? Why is it destructive and…
Be It Known to You O King
Apr 15, 2015 • 24 min
What do the narratives of Exodus and Daniel have to do with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Why were these stories understood historically as penultimate readings during Easter week? What is the common thread that connects these texts with gospel…
The Truth is Your Neighbor
Apr 8, 2015 • 27 min
Pilate’s insecurity about the trial of Jesus is often and wrongly understood as evidence that the New Testament was written to gain Rome’s favor. Some have gone further, claiming that the Gospel of John is anti-Semitic. This week, Richard and Fr. Marc…
Ignorance is Not Bliss
Apr 1, 2015 • 25 min
Like the other disciples in Mark 10, everyone who hears the gospel is quick to assume they understand why James and John were wrong to request positions of honor next to Jesus. Is it simply that this request is presumptuous or is something else going on?…
What is a Spirit?
Mar 25, 2015 • 27 min
How is the word spirit used in the Bible? What does it mean to be possessed by an unclean spirit? Are spirits real? What does the unclean spirit in Mark 9 tell us about the disciples of Jesus? Why is the afflicted child in Mark unable to hear or speak?…
Spend It Before You Lose It
Mar 18, 2015 • 24 min
Why does Mark associate prophetic concepts of abundance with the commandment to take up the cross? In what way do popular concepts of carrying the cross, associated with hardship, fall short of the commandment’s meaning? How does the crucifixion in Mark…
Fat of the Land
Mar 11, 2015 • 26 min
Much of Ezekiel is spent emphasizing God’s anti-locality, namely, that there is no structure or land to which the biblical God is chained. In Ezekiel, God moves freely upon the earth, outside the control of his subjects. With this in mind, the book’s…
Come and See
Mar 4, 2015 • 20 min
Given the Bible’s persistent emphasis on the problem of idolatry, why suddenly, in John, are we confronted with the phrase, “Come and see?” This seems especially odd, since the opening verses of John deliberately limit the reader’s purview to the divine…
Broken Records
Feb 25, 2015 • 26 min
In a biblical narrative that is overwhelmingly anti-kingly, how can one make sense of Paul’s apparent endorsement of governing authorities in Romans 13? Why would Paul ask the church to submit to ruling authorities in a setting where those authorities…
The Marketplace
Feb 18, 2015 • 22 min
How should the Bible’s addressees understand the parable of the wise and foolish virgins at the outset of Matthew 25? In what way does the metaphor of lamp oil relate to the story of the foolish stewards? How does the marketplace, first mentioned in…
Blood Sacrifice
Feb 11, 2015 • 21 min
What is the purpose of ritual sacrifice in the Bible? Why is so much emphasis placed on blood sacrifice as a means of expiation? Why would Ezekiel incorporate blood sacrifice in his depiction of the heavenly Jerusalem? In a continuation of last week’s…
Boring Texts
Feb 4, 2015 • 16 min
Why do chapters 41 and 42 of Ezekiel spend so much time talking about the monotonous details of temple architecture? Why would these details matter in a book like Ezekiel, which undermines the temple cult in Jerusalem? Are the design schematics outlined…
Interview with Fr. Timothy Lowe
Jan 28, 2015 • 29 min
This week, Richard and Fr. Marc interview Fr. Timothy Lowe about his paper, The Gospel of Matthew and the Law Interpreted for Jew and Gentile, one of several excellent papers presented in Phoenix, AZ at the 2015 Symposium of the Orthodox Center for the…
Wheat, Wine, and Oil
Jan 21, 2015 • 22 min
The BBC recently reported that “the share of the world’s wealth owned by the richest 1% increased from 44% in 2009 to 48%” in 2015 and that “on current trends, Oxfam…expects the wealthiest 1% to own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016.” What must…
What’s More Important?
Jan 14, 2015 • 22 min
What is the purpose of St. Paul’s discussion of gender and marriage in 1 Corinthians? Why is he seemingly ambivalent about the status of Roman slaves? On what basis does he chastise his disciples for airing their grievances in the Roman court system? How…
Interview with Dr. Mary Youssef
Jan 7, 2015 • 28 min
Dr. Mary Youssef is Associate Professor of Arabic Literature in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies at Binghamton University. Her research areas include Modern and Contemporary Arabic Literature, Postcolonial Studies, World Literature,…
Cloud of Witnesses
Dec 31, 2014 • 22 min
Is each generation an improvement on the previous one? Are people living today the apex of human progress? In practical terms, most of us intuit the problems of western idealism. Even so, we continue to cling to assumptions about human progress that…
Who’s Your Daddy?
Dec 25, 2014 • 18 min
When people think of meaningful passages in the Bible, the many lengthy genealogies found in Genesis and elsewhere rarely, if ever, come to mind. Yet, it is exactly one such passage—the genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew—that holds significant meaning for…
Playing All Sides
Dec 17, 2014 • 12 min
In this week’s episode, Richard explores the Lord’s counter-intuitive stance in Ezekiel, in which judgement falls on all sides and no human being finds favor in God’s sight. Why would the story present God as the one who brings evil against Israel? Why…
The Apostle Paul’s Book Club
Dec 11, 2014 • 19 min
Does it matter which book of the Bible you read or which testament it comes from? Where should beginners start? Are some books more important than others? What is the purpose of the New Testament? Is the concept of grace a new idea, or was it part of the…
Society of Biblical Literature
Dec 3, 2014 • 24 min
This week, Richard talks about his presentation at the Society of Biblical Literature gathering in San Diego, where he explored the various ways in which the study of language and poetry can enhance our understanding of the biblical text. The conversation…
The Dead Shall Hear the Voice of God and Live
Nov 26, 2014 • 16 min
Preachers often adapt themes from popular books and movies to make their sermons seem relevant for children and teens. But what happens when the content of the Bible is so nuanced that even C.S. Lewis can’t capture it in a popular story? What happens when…
Torah to the Gentiles
Nov 19, 2014 • 25 min
Richard interviews Fr. Marc about his new book, Torah to the Gentiles. The letter to the Galatians offers a brief but demanding exposition of the teaching of the Older Testament for a gentile audience. Highlighting the Bible’s struggle against idolatry,…
I, Paul
Nov 12, 2014 • 18 min
In a culture that thrives on positive messages and expects praise from everyone for just about everything, it is easy to assume that St. Paul’s use of praise in his letters is a gesture of kindness. Unfortunately for Philemon, a word of praise isn’t…
Do Not Feed Thyself
Nov 5, 2014 • 21 min
Richard and Fr. Marc continue their discussion of the biblical functions “shepherd” and “sheep,” exploring these roles in context of Ezekiel 34. Ezekiel’s critique exposes the corruption of Israel’s shepherds, but also undermines common assumptions about…
Ezekiel 33: Double or Nothing
Oct 29, 2014 • 20 min
Do our good deeds count for anything? Is there a difference between a wicked person and a person who behaves correctly most of the time? What does it mean to be a child of Abraham? Who get’s what inheritance? What is the inheritance of those who do not…
It’s All About the Shepherd
Oct 22, 2014 • 17 min
In this week’s episode, Richard and Fr. Marc discuss the parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15 and the importance of hearing the Bible in its proper historical context. Where modern disciples tend to impose a Hellenistic worldview on the story, this…
O How the Mighty Have Fallen
Oct 15, 2014 • 21 min
Time travel, alien tyrants, world domination, epic battles, post-apocalyptic cities, sudden drought, unnatural trees reaching above the clouds…despite what you are thinking, this week’s podcast is not about Dr. Who or an old episode of Stargate SG1; it’s…
Lamentations
Oct 8, 2014 • 18 min
The book of Lamentations offers a series of poetic reflections on the destruction of Jerusalem. Abandoned by God, hungry, homeless, and bereft of hope, once a queen among the provinces, Jerusalem had become a slave. Ridiculed by enemies, cast aside by…
Richard Goes to OCF
Oct 1, 2014 • 25 min
What is the purpose of campus ministry? What do we hope for our youth? What do we expect of them as they enter adulthood? In a contemporary setting, where campus ministry tends to emphasize social issues, religious identity, and topical theology, how can…
Whose wife or whose son?
Sep 24, 2014 • 16 min
A parable, like a short story, has a beginning, a plot, a set of characters, a complete thought, and an ending. With such a clear, simple structure, its tempting to take these stories on their own, outside the context of the broader story. To help…
Happily Ever After?
Sep 17, 2014 • 18 min
In this week’s episode, Richard and Fr. Marc reflect on the parable of the wedding feast in the gospel of Matthew. When the host’s invitations are rejected by his would be guests—some of whom went so far as to mistreat and then murder his servants—it…
Out of Egypt
Sep 10, 2014 • 21 min
What does the nation Egypt represent in the Bible? When Scripture mentions Egypt, Assyria, or any country, is it talking about historical empires, or is something more going on? What happens when we understand the nations mentioned in the Bible as…
Are You Rich?
Sep 3, 2014 • 21 min
This week, Fr. Marc and Richard reflect on the story of the rich young man in Matthew 19. Why was it wrong for the young man to call Jesus “good?” Beyond the obvious problem of greed, what does the young man’s wealth reveal about the aims of false…
Live from St. Cloud
Aug 28, 2014 • 19 min
In this week’s episode, Fr. Marc and Richard discuss the way in which St. Paul uses the categories “weak” and “strong” to undermine human judgment in 1 Corinthians. This sets the stage for God to shame the church in Roman Corinth with the foolishness of…
Not Before the Time
Aug 20, 2014 • 21 min
What is the biblical response to poverty, violence and suffering in the world? How does the biblical commandment to love the neighbor differ from progressive ideas of social justice? In this week’s episode, Fr. Marc and Richard explore St. Paul’s teaching…
Stay as You Are
Aug 13, 2014 • 19 min
In this week’s episode, Fr. Marc and Richard discuss the painful but critical role that slavery and hierarchy play in St. Paul’s epistles. Reflecting on the same teaching in Older Testament, they explore how the freedom proposed by the Pauline…
(#29 Republished) Our Daily Bread
Aug 11, 2014 • 18 min
Fr. Marc interviews Richard about a sermon he recently presented on Matthew 14:14-22 and 1 Corinthians 1:10-18. Richard explains how in both readings, the American obsession with “being special,” is undermined by the Bible’s critique of the natural but…
(#28 Republished) Jesus Goes to High School
Aug 11, 2014 • 23 min
According to a 2014 study published by the National Education Association, approximately 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying. In many cases, the experience of cruelty or isolation in American schools has led young people to commit…
Our Daily Bread
Aug 6, 2014 • 19 min
Fr. Marc interviews Richard about a sermon he recently presented on Matthew 14:14-22 and 1 Corinthians 1:10-18. Richard explains how in both readings, the American obsession with “being special,” is undermined by the Bible’s critique of the natural but…
Jesus Goes to High School
Jul 30, 2014 • 19 min
According to a 2014 study published by the National Education Association, approximately 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying. In many cases, the experience of cruelty or isolation in American schools has led young people to commit…
Do Not Heal Thyself
Jul 23, 2014 • 17 min
In the gospel of Luke (4:22-30) Jesus warns his own people that “no prophet is accepted in his own country.” Hearers of the story usually equate this with the demeaning American expression, “who do you think are?” In fact, Jesus’ people esteem his…
Thy Kingdom Come
Jul 16, 2014 • 23 min
Fr. Marc and Richard lament the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in light of the biblical teaching. The episode begins with a special prayer recited by the children of Ephesus School. (Episode 26) For a translation of the The Jewish-Arab Peace Song at the end…
Countless Teachers?
Jul 10, 2014 • 18 min
Fr. Marc and Richard reflect on the primacy of loyalty for the discipline of biblical wisdom. In a culture where information flows freely, why do we suffer from a deficit of wisdom? With our openness to the many treasured schools and traditions of human…
Jacob’s Folly
Jul 2, 2014 • 15 min
Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Hosea’s reading of Genesis, exploring the biblical concept of antiheroism as expressed in Hosea’s critique of the Patriarch Jacob. Along the lines of Hellenistic literature, the addresses of the Bible want to believe in its…
No Place to Lay Your Head
Jun 18, 2014 • 19 min
In this week’s episode, Fr. Marc and Richard discuss the function of circumcision in Galatians and it’s implications for human identity. What is the purpose of circumcision in the Older Testament? How does it relate to Baptism in the New Testament? Fr.…
Interview with Dr. Greg Paulson
Jun 11, 2014 • 18 min
In this week’s episode, Richard and Fr. Marc interview Dr. Greg Paulson, a biblical scholar and text critic who was recently invited to work on the 29th edition of Nestle-Aland, the standard edition of the Greek New Testament used by scholars, Bible…
Push the Text
Jun 4, 2014 • 19 min
Is a paralytic just a paralytic? Why did the priest in Luke walk down from Jerusalem and not up? What is the significance of being half dead, or left for dead on the side of the road? Why are we told in Luke, not once, but twice, that functionaries of the…
You Say You Wanna Teach?
May 28, 2014 • 20 min
In this week’s episode, Richard and Fr. Marc reflect on Jesus’ famous declamation against the Scribes and the Pharisees in Matthew 23. It is commonly assumed that by condemning the hypocrisy of religious teachers, Jesus is endorsing an alternative,…
Can These Bones Live?
May 21, 2014 • 19 min
In this week’s episode, Fr. Marc and Richard review Fr. Paul Tarazi’s exegesis of the healing at Bethesda, (John 5:1-15) reflecting on the function of weakness in the New Testament and the Lord’s commandment to keep the Sabbath. They discuss how these…
Interview with Fr. Sergius Halvorsen
May 14, 2014 • 27 min
In this week’s episode, Richard and Fr. Marc interview Fr. Sergius Halvorsen, Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in Crestwood, New York. In his work in the field of Homiletics, Fr. Sergius insists that his students…
Shame on Who?
May 7, 2014 • 25 min
In this week’s episode, Richard and Fr. Marc contrast biblical and worldly shame, reflecting on the central role that shame plays in the biblical tradition and the various responses to shame portrayed in the characters of Matthew’s gospel. In the Bible…
Who is the King of Glory?
Apr 30, 2014 • 16 min
According to a 2014 survey published by The American Bible Society, the number of people who consider the Bible just a book “written by men” has doubled in just three years. In this week’s episode, Fr. Marc and Richard examine factors contributing to this…
The Wrong Side of the Law
Apr 23, 2014 • 22 min
In this week’s episode, Fr. Marc and Richard reflect on John 12 and how the dialogue between Jesus and Judas illuminates an uncomfortable tension between Scripture and human systems of ethics and morality. Twisting a deconstructive prophetic mechanism…
Follow the Storyline
Apr 16, 2014 • 16 min
In this week’s episode of the Bible as Literature podcast, Richard and Fr. Marc reflect on Fr. Paul Tarazi’s discussion in episode 12 of a biblical storyline, elaborating on various examples of how the Bible functions as a single story and how this…
Interview with Fr. Paul Tarazi
Apr 9, 2014 • 21 min
Fr. Marc and Richard welcome their teacher and professor, Fr. Paul Tarazi, who discusses his understanding of the Bible as literature and its implications for Biblical Studies. (Episode 12)
The Merciful Father
Apr 2, 2014 • 22 min
In this week’s episode Fr. Marc and Richard discuss the parable of the Merciful Father, a story commonly (and unfortunately) known by the name of its secondary character, the Prodigal Son. Where modern hearers of the Bible expect the Father to show mercy…
Harlotry and Loyalty
Mar 26, 2014 • 20 min
Richard elaborates on the concept of “harlotry” in the Book of the Twelve, explaining how this metaphor is used to highlight the disloyalty and ingratitude of God’s people. He and Fr. Marc discuss how Israel turns their back on the Lord’s generosity,…
Destruction of Jerusalem
Mar 19, 2014 • 14 min
In this week’s episode, Fr. Marc and Richard discuss a dominant pattern of judgment in the Bible, sometimes referred to as the “Destruction of Jerusalem.” This topic was prompted by a conversation with a friend from Nigeria, who was lamenting the problem…
Suffer Little Children
Mar 12, 2014 • 14 min
Richard and Fr. Marc discuss their experiences reading Ezekiel with children and teens, dispelling the assumption that younger audiences are unable to wrestle with uncomfortable metaphors. In some cases, the children were able to intuit the story’s…
It’s Functional!
Mar 5, 2014 • 14 min
Fr. Marc and Richard discuss the concept of “function” in biblical studies; its application in word analysis, where it is used to help uncover the meaning of words, but also its implications for discernment with respect to human behavior. (Episode 7)
Whose Interpretation?
Feb 26, 2014 • 14 min
Fr. Marc and Richard discuss the problem of interpretation in Biblical Studies. (Episode 6)
Consumer or Consumed?
Feb 19, 2014 • 25 min
Fr. Marc and Richard discuss the connection between scriptural violence in Micah and the Eucharistic meal in the New Testament. (Episode 4)
Pain of Victory
Feb 19, 2014 • 20 min
Richard reflects with Fr. Marc on the implications of reading the Minor Prophets as a unified story. (Episode 5)
Written on the Heart
Feb 5, 2014 • 12 min
Fr. Marc interviews Hollie Benton, co-founder and Director of the Ephesus School. (Episode 3)
Interview with Dr. Nicolae Roddy
Jan 29, 2014 • 14 min
Dr. Nicolae Roddy, Professor of Older Testament at Creighton University, is co-director of the Bethsaida Excavations Project, a consortium of universities excavating Bethsaida, an important city in biblical narrative located on the north shore of the Sea…
Interview with Fr. William Mills
Jan 23, 2014 • 8 min
William C. Mills specializes in scripture, spirituality, and ministry. He holds a Ph.D. in Pastoral Theology from the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also the author of A 30 Day Retreat as well as numerous essays, and book…