Archive for the ‘Old Testament’ Category

Was Moses a Junkie?

March 7, 2008

Was Moses a junkie? According to Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem he was. According to Shanon Moses experiences on Mount Sinai were the result of taking psychedelic drugs made from concoctions drawn from the acacia tree which is frequently mentione din the Bible.

Acacia wood is mentioned 29 times in the Bible never in relation to a strange brew. In fact 26 times it is mentioned in relation to making furniture.

Again we find pseudo science masquerading as scholarship in relation to the Bible and capturing headlines. Shanon’s case is made on the basis of his experiences in the Amazon and have nothing to do with any kind of biblical research. Or for that matter any kind of proper research. He says Moses experiences cannot be based on a divine human encounter. Is this because of some empirical research? No, its because ‘I don’t believe [it]! Clearly no bias in his research then.

It would be interesting to know if Shanon knows of other instances where psychedelic  experience have led to the construction of a highly sophisticated moral and legal system. Or why Shanon thinks Moses was angry at the idolatrous revelers in the camp in Exodus 32.  For Shanon the whole Pentateuch and the subsequent history of Israel rests on a bad trip.

That this work should merit serious discussion or be given publicity is shameful and yet again demonstrates not the purity of science but how easily it is corrupted.

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Grace in the life of Jacob

July 16, 2007

I have been reading again Geerhardus Vos’ Biblical Theology and thoroughly enjoying it. I have just finished the section on the life of Jacob. What struck me most about Jacob was the abundance of god’s grace in his life. How God called him rather than Jacob showing his grace and establishing Jacob, as Paul shows us in Romans, as the paradigm for predestination. How Jacob’s vision of the angels ascending and descending the ladder- Vos says the order is important!- reminded Jacob of God’s providence in his life. And of course that wonderful mysterious wrestling match where God deals with Jacob so graciously.

The other great thing that struck me form the point of view of preaching the life of Jacob was how important it is to keep God at the centre of our message. If you like the story of Jacob is not about Jacob but about God’s great plan of redemption. The danger is that if we keep Jacob at the centre then we preach the passage and apply it by substituting ourselves for Jacob. When, to borrow from one of Dick Lucas’ preaching instructions, ‘Its not about you silly!’

I’m reminded also of DR Davis advice that if we keep God at the centre of preaching narrative we’ll not go far wrong in our interpretation.

10 Theological Reflections on Genesis 1:1

May 19, 2007

There can be few more controversial chapters in the Bible than Genesis 1. As we look at it we must remember that it is above all a theological explanation the origins of the world. So I want to offer 10 theological reflections on the chapter.

  1. God is eternal- existing outside time
  2. In the beginning there is nothing except God- there is other rival or competing force. Therefore everything else that is has been created.
  3. God created all things- He is eternal, matter is not.
  4. God exists in Trinity- it offers a pre-trintitarian vision of God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit
  5. God is separate from the world that He has created.
  6. God created by simple fiat- His word is powerful
  7. Creation is orderly- it is not random and chaotic
  8. There is nothing that exists outside of God that He has not created
  9. God is all that is real since He alone exists outside creation
  10. There is only one true God- the God revealed in Genesis 1

Esther and the Unseen God

May 4, 2007

I have really enjoyed reading Dale Ralph Davis’s book ‘The Word became Fresh.’ It is a book about reading and preaching from OT narrative and in a very warm-hearted way Dr Davis gives us a number of worked examples. It has encouraged me to read familiar passages in a new light and to savour some of the detail.
I particularly enjoyed reading the story of Esther again. It is a Bible book which famously does not mention God. He remains unseen throughout the book. Yet His imprint is everywhere in the book most notably in the many ‘coincidences’ that occur in the book. These include that farcical moment where Haman falls upon the reclining Esther to beg for mercy and the already enraged King assumes he is making a pass at her! Every detail in the story is governed by the unseen God.
It is therefore that great word of encouragement to us that when we cannot see God, which is sometimes our complaint especially in times of difficulty, He is everywhere present governing each and every detail that will bring our salvation and the glory of His name.