Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Old Testament As History Or Story: A Reflective Approach


Dr Stavrakopoulou with some iconography referencing YHVH & Asherah together.

Entry 5

It is certain that YHVH, the God of the Israelites, had a consort in Asherah. Biblical scholars, Christine Hayes and Saul Olyan, suggest this is a remnant of polytheistic practices among the Israelites and as these stories found their way onto parchment they were essentially redacted into monotheism.[1] What is striking about the fact those around this time considered this a legitimate relationship between YHVH and Asherah, is that this appears very early in Israelite history; at least the 8th century BCE. And there are hints, remnants still in the Hebrew bible that suggest that Asherah was worshipped alongside YHVH (2 Kings 23:6). So the fact it is not more obvious in the Hebrew bible actually lends weight to Olyan and Hayes’ hypothesis. [2] Continue reading

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“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

A common theme among the gospels is to cloak their narrative in Hebrew bible narrative. There is good reason for this as we shall see. But first let us look at one of the greatest examples this, and it comes from Mark and Matthew:

After Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified, Jesus is treated reprehensibly. He’s spat on, and he’s naked since people were casting lots for his clothing, his disciples flee and he’s dying in loneliness. Mark especially, is not shy about showing these details. And as the story progresses, climaxing at Jesus’ death, his isolation grows. By the time he reaches the cross, he has been abandoned by all his friends, condemned by all human agencies, and now he feels himself abandoned even by God himself and then he utters his only words from the cross in Mark and Matthew; the opening phrase from Psalms 22:1 “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani” and the author translates that for us as, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” As it turns out, this is not the only phrase borrowed from the Hebrew bible… Note how many times Jesus’ Passion narrative overlaps with what we find in the Psalms, Isaiah etc.:

34, wine mingled with gall: allusion to Ps 69:21
35, division of garments: borrowing from Ps 22:18
38, death between robbers: possible allusion to Isa 53:12
39, passers-by wag their heads: cf. Ps 22:7; Lam 2:15
39-40, mockery: borrowing from Ps 22:7 (cf. 109:25)
43, mockery: borrowing from Ps 22:9
44, mockery: possible borrowing from Ps 22:7 or 69:9
45, darkness at noon: allusion to Am 8:9
46, cry from the cross: borrowing from Ps 22:1
48, vinegar to drink: allusion to Ps 69:21
51—3, earthquake and resurrection: use of Ezek 37; Zech 14:4-5

Go ahead, read it for yourself (Mark 15; Matthew 27) and you will see just how cleverly they have woven Hebrew bible narrative into their telling of the Passion of Jesus. This almost certainly casts doubt on the historicity of the account; the authors are just retelling the stories in Psalms only about Jesus as the protagonist! But why would they do such a thing?

The solution is simple—and like the truncated result of derivative mathematics—simply beautiful. Mark also has to deal with the fact that Jews were never expecting, or going to accept, a suffering messiah (especially one who was mocked, spat on etc.). Paul tells us that a suffering messiah was a σκανδαλον (skandalon) or stumbling block for the Jews (1 Corinthians 1:23). And so, by weaving in Hebrew bible narrative, Mark seems to be trying to show that God intended these things to befall Jesus after all. A Christ crucified was the plan all along!


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Evidence of Montanism in the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas

Perpetua and Felicity

Perpetua and Felicitas


There is much overlap between the early Christian movement, Montanism, and the wider Christianity of the early third century. Given this, it would not be difficult to show that any given Christian work during this time, such as Perpetua’s Martyrdom account, having links to Montanism. But is there any evidence that would be unique to Montanism? That is to say, a belief or practice that was magnified by adherents to Montanism and also appears, or is alluded to, in the only surviving witness we have of the martyrdom of Perpetua. If so, does this evidence allow us to conclude Perpetua was probably a Montanist and the account of her Martyrdom is a genuine Montanist expression? Continue reading

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Homosexuality and the Bible: An Unequivocal Condemnation?

One type of question I often encounter surrounds homosexuality and the bible. In episode 7 of the show I went over some of the reasons I do not think Leviticus chapters 18 and 20 are referring to homosexuality as a defined sexual orientation so I’ll just briefly outline those reasons here; essentially they simply couldn’t have since Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) culture did not make any such distinction. So we need to ask ourselves what is this most likely referring to if it is not homosexuality as a defined sexual orientation? Moreover, why are both to be put to death in chapter 20? First question first! What does “Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman” sound like that we know was practiced in the ANE? This seems to be acknowledging only the occasional act of male anal Continue reading


Filed under Homosexuality and the Bible