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2009 December 31 Thursday
Prosperity Gospel: Jesus Was Wealthy

Hanna Rosin argues that the prosperity gospel contributed to the real estate bubble and ensuing financial crisis. As the prosperity gospel grows in popularity its believers find more things about Christianity to reinterpret. The latest? Mary and Joseph must have been wealthy to ride on a donkey to Bethlehem and Jesus wore expensive garments.

But the Rev. C. Thomas Anderson, senior pastor of the Living Word Bible Church in Mesa, Arizona, preaches a version of the Christmas story that says baby Jesus wasn't so poor after all.

Anderson says Jesus couldn't have been poor because he received lucrative gifts -- gold, frankincense and myrrh -- at birth. Jesus had to be wealthy because the Roman soldiers who crucified him gambled for his expensive undergarments. Even Jesus' parents, Mary and Joseph, lived and traveled in style, he says.

I can see where this will go next: Mary and Joseph bought the manger in order invest in upgrades to turn it into a rustic home. They probably flipped it for a big profit on the Jerusalem real estate market.

By Randall Parker    2009 December 31 01:00 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2006 August 27 Sunday
Sympathy For The Devil

"Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm a man of wealth and taste". UCLA emeritus professor of English Henry Ansgar Kelly has a new book out, Satan: A Biography says Satan's bad name is a result of a mistake of early church fathers who mistook him for the totally different guy named Lucifer.

He's not the enemy of God, his name really isn't Lucifer and he isn't even evil. And as far as leading Adam and Eve astray, that was a bad rap stemming from a case of mistaken identity.

"There's little or no evidence in the Bible for most of the characteristics and deeds commonly attributed to Satan," insists a UCLA professor with four decades in what he describes as "the devil business."

In "Satan: A Biography" (Cambridge Press), Henry Ansgar Kelly puts forth the most comprehensive case ever made for sympathy for the devil, arguing that the Bible actually provides a kinder, gentler version of the infamous antagonist than typically thought.

"A strict reading of the Bible shows Satan to be less like Darth Vader and more and more like an overzealous prosecutor," said Kelly, a UCLA professor emeritus of English and the former director of the university's Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. "He's not so much the proud and angry figure who turns away from God as [he is] a Joseph McCarthy or J. Edgar Hoover. Satan's basic intention is to uncover wrongdoing and treachery, however overzealous and unscrupulous the means. But he's still part of God's administration."

You mean he didn't ride a tank in the General's rank when the Blitzkrieg raged? He had nothing to do with killing the Kennedy's?

Satan works for the "Big Guy" upstairs.

When it comes to the Old Testament, Kelly insists that Satan's profile is considerably lower than commonly thought and significantly less menacing. By Kelly's count, Satan only appears three times in the 45 books that make up the pre-Christian scriptures, the best known being in the Book of Job. On each occasion, Satan is still firmly part of what Kelly calls "God's administration," and his activities are done at the behest of "the Big Guy." But his actions aren't evil so much as consistent with the translation of "devil" and "satan," which literally mean "adversary" in Greek and Hebrew, respectively.

"His job is to test people's virtue and to report their failures," Kelly said.

I wonder if he also reports the failures of kids to Santa Claus.

Origen of Alexandria got it all wrong.

Perhaps most surprising is not the figure Satan cuts, but his notable absences in the Old Testament. In the Bible's first reference to Lucifer, for instance, Satan doesn't appear even by implication, Kelly points out. "'Lucifer' is Latin for light-bearer," he said, and was the name given to the morning star, or the planet Venus. Originally written in ancient Hebrew, the passage, on face value, refers to the tyrannical Babylonian king who boasts of his conquests but who is "about to be cast to the ground." Kelly insists there's nothing more to the reference than an apt use of metaphor, but the third-century Christian philosopher Origen of Alexandria argued in his best known work, "On First Things," that the reference applied to Satan.

"Origen says, 'Lucifer is said to have fallen from Heaven,'" Kelly explained. "'This can't refer to a human being, so it must refer to Satan.' Subsequent church fathers found this reasoning persuasive, and so did everyone who followed them."

Ironically, the only mentions of Lucifer in the New Testament and there are three of them refer to Jesus, Kelly said. "Jesus is called 'Lucifer' or 'the morning star' because he represents a new beginning."

I have no idea whether Ansgar is right. If you can read ancient Hebrew and Aramaic you could check the original texts and see what words are used in each place.

Anyone know of a web site which has the Bible in the original languages it was written in and with a search engine to boot? Also, does anyone know what the words are in those languages for the Devil and Satan and Lucifer? Are there 3 different words?

By Randall Parker    2006 August 27 09:39 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (15)
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