Monday, November 30, 2015

The Promotion of Jesus

Academic biblical scholars generally don’t believe Jesus claimed he was divine during his lifetime. He might have claimed he was the Messiah, which is not the same thing as claiming to be divine. A messiah is one who is anointed in the sense that the ancient kings of Israel were said to have been anointed. Not all Jews of the first century were expecting a messiah, and there were different understandings of the Messiah among those who were, but the Messiah wasn’t necessarily expected to a divine figure. It’s interesting that Jesus was executed for supposedly calling himself the king of the Jews. That was a political charge, and if he actually did say that, the Romans would have seen it as sedition. The Romans had political control of the region. They were the ones who chose client kings or governors such as Pontius Pilate. Anybody who said anything different would have been challenging their authority. But it’s not clear that Jesus went so far as to claim even that. Maybe he called himself the king of the Jews privately among his apostles, but not publicly.

Jesus’ death and the belief by some that he was resurrected changed things. Following this event, scholars claim that a variety of beliefs about Jesus emerged. In recent years, scholars often subscribe to the idea that there was a general progression toward a greater and greater exultation of Jesus from the time of Jesus’ death to the end of the first century. There is some evidence that suggests immediately after the death of Jesus, some of his followers came to believe God had adopted him as his son. Jesus become divine through adoption. Others came to think that Jesus was adopted by God at his baptism by John. The Gospel of Mark, which scholars believe is the oldest gospel, seems to imply that. Mark doesn’t have a birth narrative. Mark’s gospel begins with Jesus’ baptism.

Ehrman thinks that Paul believed Jesus was an angel who was elevated to a higher status following his death. If that’s correct, then Paul’s view would be a kind of hybrid. Jesus was divine before his earthly existence, but he was only an angel. Then he got a promotion after his death as a human being. Paul’s letters are believed to be the oldest surviving Christian texts. They predate the gospels. (But scholars believe that some of the letters in the New Testament attributed to Paul were not actually written by Paul.)

In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, you’ll find the birth narratives. (And they are different from one another, but this time of year, they are often conflated in the Christmas plays.) They suggest the idea that Jesus was divine from birth. God impregnated Mary, and she gave birth to a special divine child, the son of God.

John is the last gospel, and it is quite unlike the three earlier gospels. The author skips over the birth narrative, and in this gospel, Jesus is presented as a lofty figure from the start. Jesus claims to be at one with the father, and he claims to have been with the father since before creation.

So to start off with, you have this poor carpenter fellow from a small town who was inspired to start teaching an apocalyptic message about the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God. He tells his followers to prepare for this by repenting and to start living as though they were already in this kingdom…love your neighbor, don’t engage in violence, share your stuff with the poor. He goes to Jerusalem during the Passover celebration, gets in trouble with the authorities and gets himself killed. After that, his followers, or some of them, come to believe he was resurrected. Then he goes from the adopted son of God, to the actual son of God who was divine from conception, to a divine being that predates creation.

Of course, the Gospel of John didn’t settle the matter. There were all kinds of interpretations of Jesus in the second century. Some (the Ebionites) claim Jesus wasn’t divine at all. Others (the Docetists) claim he was divine but not human. Some stuck with the adoptionist idea. Some thought a divine spirit entered Jesus’ body at his baptism and then left his body before he died. But the proto-orthodox believed, as the author of the Gospel of John, Jesus was a divine being who predated creation and that he became human so he could suffer and die for the sins of humanity.

However, that view leads to the question of Jesus’ relationship with God. Are their two gods? God the Father and God the Son? Or is Jesus divine but somehow subordinate to God the Father who is really God. Many of the proto-orthodox accepted a modelest view. There was only one God, but God had different modes. He could be God the Father. He could be God the Holy Ghost. And he could be God the Son. Just like a human being can be an aunt, a sister and a postal clerk. Some person, different modes.

That’s a neat way of looking at it, and many Christians sort of seem to think that way even now, but the problem is, the proto-orthodox were kind of stuck with those first century gospels. Those were the gospels they had promoted as authoritative, and in those gospels, Jesus and God are presented as two different beings. And Jesus prays to God. So was Jesus talking to himself? Eventually, modelism was condemned as heresy, and the Orthodox explained how you could have God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost and still have only one God with the unfathomable doctrine of the Trinity.


I won't kiss and tell.

Sebastian Sauve

Nicholas Hoult

Nice outfit.

Nice outfit.

Summer Fun

That Look

Timothy Lawrance

Nice outfit.

Swing Time

Stu and Tanner


For the bear lovers.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Francisco Lachowski

That Look

Jack Haslam

Eliot Margueron

Hamed Del Toro

Happy Bikers

Brock and Chris

Snappy Dresser


The Book Lover

Take It Off!

Shakeel Simmons

Funny Face

Kevin W.

Piotr Kopertowski


Who will be Mr. Universe next year?

Here is my crass, materialistic Christmas wish list.

I’m not expecting these things, but I, too, have my desires. Some you can’t buy with money, but here are a few that come with a price tag.
Nearly everybody who knows me can guess that a cottage in the woods is at the top, but that’s not very practical. Even though I’d settle for something quite modest, buying and maintaining a cottage would take more money than I’ll probably ever have. There’s also the problem of transportation. I don’t drive. And not only would I need to get out for practical things like going to the store and doctor’s appointments, I know from experience that I would need to get away from time to time. So I would also need travel money. I love the woods of West Virginia, but one of the things I hated about living in that state was the feeling of being stuck. If I had the money to go to D.C. or New York a couple of times a year, it would have made all the difference.

Living in a rent subsidized apartment in Portland is one of my dreams, and that is perhaps achievable, but it’s going to take some time and effort.

I’m pleased that my books sell and make money. It’s wonderful to get those royalty payments. But self-publishing costs money. I’m not a computer nerd, so I have to pay others to format my manuscripts. Books also need cover art, and I have to pay for that, too. I have one book that is available as an ebook and as a paperback. Two others are only available as ebooks. I’d like to get those into paperback format, but it would cost money. And I’m working on a fourth book, and I have two others in mind. As I said, my books are making money, but they probably cost almost as much as they make. Writing books is a labor of love, not profit. I would love to be able to afford to hire professional editors, but they are wildly expensive.

My toaster oven died on Thanksgiving, so I need a new one. I love toaster ovens, and I use mine every day. I plan to buy one on the first. I need one that is fairly large because it’s a substitute for my full-sized gas oven. The gas oven is too hot, and it burns everything. It also sets off the smoke detectors. I hate it. So I use the toaster oven for everything from toasting sandwiches and heating leftovers to baking biscuits and small cakes. I’ll get one, but it’ll mean I’ll be poor next month.

I didn’t know anything about Merced or the Central Valley when I moved here. I had no idea how dry and desolate it is. I don’t like it at all. The reason I chose Merced is because it was affordable, I could get an apartment immediately, and it was close to San Francisco and Yosemite. I imagined that I could visit both regularly, but as it turns out, I can only afford to visit Yosemite once a year. Even that is quite expensive for me, so I’m always thinking about where I’m going to get the money for my next trip to Yosemite.

I really want and need an apartment sized washing machine. Every time I go to the Laundromat it is an ordeal. I hate the place. It’s loud. It’s dirty. It’s filled with kids running around. There are few places to sit while you wait for your clothes to wash and dry. Every time I go, I have to interact with people I would rather not talk to. Something always happens that I find gross. I always either find some stranger’s panties or socks mixed in with my stuff, or I see someone stuffing filthy, unwashed bedding and clothing into the dryers. By the time I get home, I’m literally sick. My head is pounding, and I’m so exhausted I have to go to bed. Not from the physical exertion but the stress. Anxiety takes a lot of energy. That’s why it’s linked with depression. You can get an apartment sized washing machine that connects to your kitchen sink for less than $300. That isn’t so very expensive, but it is to me.

As anyone who visits my wall here on Facebook knows, I love photography. For a long time, it was a mystery to me how photographers were able to create such beautiful images, so I began to study the process a little bit. Now I need some practical experience, but I need a DSLR camera. According to several online sources, the Nikon D3300 is a good entry level camera, and if you buy a kit with a couple of lenses that give you a focal length range from 18mm to 200mm, then that’s just wonderful. I saw an ad earlier that a kit like that for $500.

Most of these things are not outrageously expensive. It’s not like I’m asking for a first class trip to Paris. (I wouldn’t turn it down, but I know that’s really out of my reach.) And I suppose if I had a decent income, I could probably get everything on the list within a year…except for the cottage in the woods. But I don’t have a decent income. I only get by. And I’m thankful for that. I’m glad I have a bed to sleep in, a bathroom, food in the kitchen, a computer, my Kindle Fire, and all of you, my internet friends. So maybe I should just stick to asking for world peace for Christmas.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Doubting Apostles

The Book of Acts, Chapter 1, Verses 1-3, New International Version (NIV):

“1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”

Interesting that according to this account, it wasn’t merely Doubting Thomas who had some trouble accepting that Jesus had been resurrected. The Book of Acts claims he stayed with the apostles for 40 days and gave them “many convincing proofs that he was alive.” Why would they need “many convincing proofs” if they were willing to believe from the start? They knew Jesus, and yet, according to this account, it took quite a lot of convincing for them to believe in Jesus’ resurrection even though he was standing right there in front of them.

The fundamentalists claim the Bible is literally true and inerrant, so they can’t very well dismiss this account. Yet they claim we have to believe Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected or we’ll be punished. They tell us we simply have to take it on faith. But The Book of Acts tells us not even the apostles were willing to take it on faith. And Paul didn’t believe it either until he had his own vision of Jesus.

I’m not trying to attack anyone’s faith here. Belief in Jesus is fine with me. I’m casting aspersions at fundamentalists who insist that their assertions must be accepted by everybody. I think faith, or the lack thereof is a deeply personal thing. I don’t think it’s at all strange that humans would have a variety of beliefs, and I don’t think this is a problem so long as we’re willing to live and let live.

Roman Todd and Chance Kidd

Ah, to be young, healthy and full of energy and to take joy rides with sexy shirtless buddies.

Kevin Warhol and Jerome Exupery

by Marcus Beach

William Chan

Alex Edmondson, Jack Bobridge, Rohan Dennis, Michael Hepburn and Glenn Olshea

Nice day for a run.

Cameron Monaghan

Relaxing with his thoughts.

That Look

Gym Boy

Nice shirt.

For the bear lovers.