My great-grandfather Luther Weigle [pictured here] was the dean of Yale Divinity School and chair of the translation committee for the original RSV Bible. He incurred the fury of the fundamentalists when he chose to translate the Hebrew word almah in Isaiah 7:14 as “young woman” instead of “virgin.” They actually burned RSV Bibles and sent the ashes to him in the mail. The reason? Isaiah 7:14 is referenced by Matthew’s gospel as an explanation for Jesus’ virgin birth. But Isaiah 7:14 also refers to the “young woman” who was Isaiah’s prophetess wife and definitely not a virgin. In Isaiah 7 and 8, she bore Isaiah two children with prophetic names related to their immediate historical context. Does the doctrine of Christ’s virgin birth depend on translating almah as “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14? Only if Isaiah 7:14 is expected to function as a prooftext for that doctrine, which raises a larger question: to what degree should Old Testament prophecy be used as prooftexts? And if Isaiah 7 is allowed to have less than a perfectly mapped correspondence to the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, then can we apply the same hermeneutical boundaries to the relationship between Isaiah 53 and the circumstances of Jesus’ death on the cross? Continue reading
Our youth pastor invited me today to talk about atonement with our confirmation class. As you know, I am very passionate about offering a better explanation than the Four Spiritual Laws of how Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection reconcile us to God. I’m not very good at turning confirmation lessons into silly activities with cotton balls and papier mache. So what I offered them was pretty simple: a single sheet of paper with a brief description of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection at the top and then seven different concrete problems that Jesus’ atonement provides a solution for (realizing that’s not an exhaustive list). I gave them scripture passages to read and had them try to answer based on the scripture how Jesus’ atonement addressed the stated problem. Continue reading
In 1999, I wrote a sonnet while sitting on a couch at a party watching the girl I had a crush on make out with another guy about 5 feet away. I turned it into a song with the same chord pattern as U2’s “With Or Without You” a couple years later and it became the opening song on the only album of my short-lived rock band the Junior Varsity Superheroes who broke up after our CD release party in 2006. About three years ago, I started to get the sense that Jesus feels the same way that I felt at that party every time He sees us make out with idols. And today He told me to record it. I added some interspersed Biblical narrative to the original song. Tell me what you think. It was recorded by my iPhone on my favorite piano in the world in Goodson Chapel at Duke Divinity School at about 1:50 pm on Monday, October 15th, 2012.
It’s quite presumptuous for a Christian to write about an Israeli political issue in the context of a Jewish holiday, but I do so as someone who has been blessed immeasurably by Jewish thinkers and public figures like Abraham Heschel, Martin Buber, Elie Wiezel, Hannah Arendt, Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida, and many others. I love Torah. I love the Tehillim. If I didn’t struggle enough to read my Christian Daily Office and pray my Jesus Prayers every day, I would strive to embrace the mitzvot of Orthodox Judaism because I know they would draw me into deeper intimacy with my Creator. But I’m grieving this Yom Kippur for the people of Palestine, especially in Gaza. I’ve heard the spin about how the activists are romanticizing the poverty of Gaza. I’ve seen the pictures of the skyscrapers and beachfront resorts. I know Israeli soldiers aren’t monsters even if a few of them have done monstrous things, and that I have no right to put myself in their shoes. I just want for Jews and Palestinians both to have a homeland where there is peace and justice. And I want to tell you what I would do if I had clout and could gather a contingent of American Jews, Christians, and Muslims with clout to visit the Holy Land. Continue reading