‘Messiah’ used to refer to a political king. Scripture scholar John J. Collins explains we got from there to Jesus Christ.
The story of the Messiah in the Bible is a complicated one. In the earliest biblical texts, the word originally referred to the present king. It later came to refer to some future ruler, then eventually a heavenly redeemer along the lines of the archangel Michael before, in the New Testament, Jesus is born and the mantle of Messiah falls firmly on his shoulders. The word’s history is convoluted, and to understand it’s necessary to know a little about apocalyptic visions, ancient Near Eastern mythology, and ancient Hebrew.
Baby Jesus isn’t just a cuddly cute bundle of life.
Advent is a wonderful season because it’s all about waiting for a baby. Who doesn’t love babies? Religion is sweet when it concerns a tiny bundle of life we can hold in our arms and upon whom the very hope of the world depends. More people would sign up for church membership if it were all as lovely and cuddly and charming as this.
But be forewarned: The baby is a thief.
The New Testament parable of the 10 virgins shows how when it comes to character, you positively have to supply your own.
It’s hard not to play favorites, even with scripture. Many churchgoers accept that the Bible is composed of sacred writings from one end to the other. Still, while some of these texts may sound holy to us, others are simply annoying.
From the archives: What Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego can teach us about racial justice.
It’s one of those Bible stories that, from my childhood, has captivated me: three men, true believers, refuse to worship a golden idol and are thrown into a furnace by an evil king. But God saves them. The flames are so intense that the king’s henchmen are burned up, but Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego don’t even break into a sweat.
It’s a perfect story (Dan. 3)—simple, clear. You can see it, even feel it.
And then, of course, there are the songs that make it richer still.
Paul’s New Testament letters give us a window into life in the early church.
Twenty years without a word! That’s how long the early church went without written texts. From the resurrection of Jesus to 50 A.D. there wasn’t a shred of paperwork until Paul sat down and wrote his first apostolic letter. Before the year 50, no Christian texts were necessary. The community of believers was a pretty local phenomenon. Anyone involved in the story lived within walking distance of Jerusalem. The first gospel wouldn’t be composed for another two decades.
How do Christians make sense of some of the Bible’s more graphic stories?
There are some Bible stories that don’t appear in the Lectionary. Like that of Yael, in the book of Judges, who drives a tent peg through an enemy general’s head, killing him instantly. Or that of Uzzah, who reaches out to steady the Tabernacle in 2 Samuel and, as a reward for his consideration, is instantly struck dead by God.
Knowing the ‘Catholic answer’ does little good if we’re not asking the right questions.
My college roommate Nadine was a Pentecostal Protestant. She read her Bible for an hour faithfully every night after classes and before tackling her other assignments. I marveled at her fidelity to a book that I, a Catholic with 12 years of parochial schooling behind me, had never opened.
It might not happen immediately, but stick around for a lifetime and see what happens.
Bored friends sometimes shoot me emails from their desks at work. They share some trifle that’s going on in their lives, then ask the inevitable question: “What’s up with you? What’s new?” To which I most frequently reply: “Nothing.”
More and more Catholics are sitting quietly with a Bible in hand in the presence of our God.
Do you own a Bible? I don’t mean in the sense of having one gathering dust on a bookshelf but in the commitment sense of the word own. Can you say, “I own a Bible, and it influences my life, daily decisions, relationships, work, recreation, spirituality, and prayer life”?
Sometimes our faith is as miraculous as a high-wire act.
Why does the thought of a circus creep me out? Until recently, I’d experienced only one back in my teens. Unlike folks who report being afraid of clowns, I didn’t find the bulbous-nosed performers or their deeply physical brand of comedy at all scary. Nor did the exotic animals or high-wire acrobats provide me much cause for fear. The minor traveling troupe in their worn tent pitched on muddy ground outside of my little hometown seemed simply sad to me. Tired, really. As if they wished the performance were behind them so they could get on with whatever they did after the show.