Wednesday, April 22, 2009


by John D Ramsey

This morning I snapped a photograph that captivated my imagination for a moment. It's best viewed full-size so click on the image to see it larger.

I like this photo because it challenges perception while retaining a sense of balance.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, saying, “Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

Sometimes what we know and understand is merely a shadow of the real thing. That’s okay; my eyes cannot peer directly at the sunrise.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Top ten

by John D Ramsey

I started this about a year ago, not knowing what to expect. I signed up with, paid ten bucks for a domain name registration, and started writing. Almost immediately traffic came — not a huge amount of traffic but enough to intrigue me. I decided that if the average daily traffic persisted, then the aggregate in a year would make my efforts worthwhile.

If that defines an expectation, then I have exceeded expectations several times over. Today, I am writing less frequently than I did. Traffic keeps coming, anyway. Blogging, for me, has been worthwhile.

Looking back at the year, some posts seem to have found an audience. The Top 10 by total readers is:
  1. Faith and faithfulness
  2. God's gift of meaning
  3. Ora et labora
  4. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh
  5. Be strong and courageous
  6. Word of testimony
  7. Super lucky elephant
  8. Granny's song
  9. More magi
  10. Sacrilege
This, of course, is hardly a fair comparison. Some posts have had much more opportunity to rise to the top, having been published longer. Here then, is the weighted Top 10:
  1. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh
  2. Sacrilege
  3. God's gift of meaning
  4. Faith and faithfulness
  5. More magi
  6. Ora et labora
  7. Wrath and mercy
  8. Word of testimony
  9. Be strong and courageous
  10. Super lucky elephant
Surprisingly, not a lot changes except the order of things. “Granny’s song” was edged by “Wrath and mercy.” “Sacrilege” jumps from the bottom of the list to second place behind, “Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Some posts are more important to me than they are to others. The best advice I have ever written to myself is found in “Be strong and courageous.” “Word of testimony,” on both lists, was one of the last things Mom collaborated with Dad to finish before she died. Considering that Dad contributed only 6 posts to my 96 posts, a top-ten finish, suggests that Dad’s writing is more relevant even if his posting is less prolific. Speaking of Mom, my last conversation with her was regarding “Servile fearfulness.” It does not appear on either list, but its title references Shakespeare so that makes it worth something.

If there is a post that doesn’t belong on the top 10, it would be “Super lucky elephant.” You might consider reading, “Jesus, Son of David” instead. That, of course, is my opinion, and since I’ve opened the door to personal opinion to what belongs, here is a list of less-read posts (in alphabetical order) that I would consider most necessary for me to have written.
How much I shall write in the next year is unknown even to me. I do not have any plans to stop, nor do I have ambitions to write frequently. Several weeks ago, I deleted posts that I deemed as having exceeded their usefulness. None of them attracted much of an audience, and I am probably thankful for that.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter tweets

by John D Ramsey

Below are my eight Easter Tweets along with some brief and some not so brief explanations.

Easter Tweet: Tuesday of Passion Week is well documented: Mt 21:20–26:16, Mk 11:20–14:11, Lk 20:1–22:6. What happened that night in Bethany?

Jesus had dinner at the home of “Simon the leper.” While he was there, an unnamed woman entered the house carrying an alabaster jar of pure nard. She anointed Jesus head with the perfume. Many disciples echoed Judas’ disgruntlement with Mary’s (sister of Lazarus) anointing of Jesus’ feet which is recorded in John 12. Jesus rebuked the group of disciples just as he had rebuked Judas in John 12. Judas then went to the high priest and agreed to betray Jesus.

Easter Tweet: Women anointed Jesus 3 times in the Gospels. What are the differences among Lk 7:37–50, Jn 12:2–8, Mt 26:1–16, and Mk 14:1–11?

Many scholars attempt to coerce the four accounts of Jesus’ anointings into one event. However, a carful reading of the Gospels reveals that there were three separate anointings. Luke’s account in Luke 7:37-50 occurs in the city of Nain early in Jesus ministry.

As Jesus was approaching Nain, a funeral procession was carrying a widow’s only son to his grave. Jesus raised the boy to life and returned him to his mother. A careful reader will draw an association to Elisha and the resurrection of the Shunammite woman’s son because Shunam and Nain are sister cities on the same mountain in Galilee. According to Nain, everyone in the city except for the Pharisees had received John the Baptists baptism for repentance. John’s message, of course, “the kingdom of heaven is near.” Those receiving John’s baptism were eagerly awaiting the Christ (anointed one).

While in Nain, Jesus was a guest in the home of Simon the Pharisee. While he was there a “sinful woman” entered and washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and her tears, kissed his feet, and anointed his feet perfume from an alabaster jar.

Simon silently demurred, but Jesus eloquently responded, saying,

“Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:44-47 (NASB)

This happened early in Jesus’ ministry in Galilee.

The next anointing is recorded in John 12. Jesus came to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus most likely arriving Friday afternoon before the Sabbath. John says that they held a dinner that evening for Jesus. At this dinner, Mary anointed Jesus feet and wiped them with her hair. She is no doubt emulating the actions of the woman in Nain, why?

The woman in Nain witnessed the resurrection of the widow’s son. Since her baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, she had been awaiting the “Anointed One” When she recognized him, she anointed his feet. Meditating on the actions of the woman at Nain, one might recall the prophecy of Isaiah,

“On account of this, my people shall know my name. On account of this in that day, for I am he, the one speaking; I am at hand. As an hour upon the mountains, as feet announcing good news, the hearing of peace, as of announcing good news – good things; for audibly I will produce your deliverance, saying, ‘Zion, your God shall reign’” Isaiah 52:6-7 (ABP)

Likewise, Mary, the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, anoints her Savior’s feet with perfume. Her actions are in concurrence with the woman of Nain.

The woman at Nain anointed Jesus' feet early in his ministry as he carried good news throughout Israel. Mary anointed Jesus' feet as he prepared to enter Jerusalem for the Triumphal Entry.

The third anointing occurs after the Triumphal entry according to Matthew and Mark. During the first two events, Jesus’ feet are anointed. Tuesday evening of the Passion Week, Jesus’ head is anointed. This anointing recalls Psalm 133,

“Behold, indeed what is good or what is delightful,
none other than the dwelling of the brethren together.
As perfumed liquid upon the head going down upon the beard
– the beard of Aaron;
the going down upon the edge of his garment;
as dew of Hermon going down upon the mountains of Zion;
for there the LORD gave charge to the blessing
– life into the eon.”
Psalm 133 (ABP)

Psalm 133 recalls Aaron’s anointing as high priest. Likewise, the anointing of Jesus’ head designates him as the High Priest such as the writer of Hebrews discusses. A woman anointed Jesus’ head on Jesus’ last night in Bethany. The following evening Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane.

When compared, the three anointings correlate to the three ministries of Jesus, the Christ: prophet, king, and priest. The woman in Nain anointed his feet early in his ministry as a prophet. Mary anointed Jesus’ feet before he entered Jerusalem as the rightful heir to the throne of David. The unnamed woman anointed Jesus' before he, as a high priest after the order of Melchizedek, offered himself as a sacrifice of sin for the whole world.

Easter Tweet: Some scholars suggest that Jesus took a Wednesday vacation. How do Mt 26:66, Mk 14:49, Lk 19:47, and Lk 21:53 prove otherwise?

The concept that Jesus took a day off on Wednesday derives from the insistence that the Crucifixion occurred on Friday. While Tuesday is well documented in the Gospels, the next day in the record is the day of Jesus’ arrest. If Jesus was arrested on Thursday evening instead of Wednesday evening, then indeed there is no record of Wednesday in the Gospels.

Scholars rather than adjusting their calendars to align with the record speculate on a scenario that says nothing happened on Wednesday. However Matthew, Mark, and Luke use Jesus’ words to preempt such speculation because Jesus asserted Wednesday night at his arrest that he had taught every day in the temple.

Easter Tweet: Assuming a Jewish calendar (not Roman), how many partial days from Friday afternoon to Sunday before sunrise? How many nights?

Much of the misconception of a Friday Crucifixion comes from a Roman, midnight to midnight, calendar forcibly imposed upon the Gospel accounts. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday comprise the three days. However, when the Crucifixion is viewed from a Jewish calendar perspective you cannot reach the same conclusion. Assuming a Friday morning Crucifixion and a Friday night burial along with an early morning (before-sunrise resurrection) there are only two days and two nights. A Thursday Crucifixion, however, aligns perfectly with Matthew 12:40,
“For as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” Matthew 12:40 (NASB)

Easter Tweet: Some scholars suggest that “three days and three nights,” in Mt 12:40, is a Hebraism. What did the scholars in Mt 27:64 think?

A Hebraism is a figure of speech coming from the Hebrew language. They are colloquialisms. Many scholars believe that “three days and three nights” was a Hebraism meaning an indeterminate period of time consisting of more than a day and less than a week.

If Jesus’ assertion were a Hebraism, then certainly the scholars of the day would have interpreted it to be so. However, in Matthew 27 we find that the Jews were fixated on the number three asking Pilate to secure the grave until after the third day. If Jesus’ words were Hebraism, then three days and three nights might have extended to four or five days and nights, perhaps even six days and nights. In fact, the Hebrew scholars of the day took Jesus’ words quite literally, yet Christians commemorating a Friday Crucifixion do not.

Easter Tweet: Assuming a Sunday before-sunrise morning resurrection (Jn 20:1), from Mt 12:40 on what day must the Crucifixion have occurred?

John makes it clear that Mary arrives in the early morning while it is still dark. Calculating from an early Sunday morning resurrection three days and three nights will place Jesus’ burial on Thursday. This is not for scholars to debate. This is arithmetic.

Easter Tweet: Some scholars claim that Mt 27:45, Mk 15:33, and Lk 23:44 describe a solar eclipse. From astronomy and Ex 12, prove otherwise.

Too many people have spent too much time trying to fix the year of the Crucifixion according to the calculations of solar eclipses that may have occurred in the early first century. No doubt, their mathematical calculations are over my head. However, their hypothesis is entirely flawed.

Passover, the day on which Jesus was crucified, occurs at the full moon. A solar eclipse may only occur during a new moon.

The darkness that covered the earth from the sixth hour until the ninth hour could not have been a naturally occurring solar eclipse.

Easter Tweet: According to Mk 14:12-21, when did the Last Supper occur? According to Jn 19:14, when did the Crucifixion occur? Explain this.

In the Gospel accounts, three calendars are in use:

  1. The traditional Jewish lunar calendar which begins and ends each day with the evening twilight (first three stars).
  2. The Diaspora calendar which is similar to the traditional Jewish calendar, but rather begins each day with the morning sunrise.
  3. The Roman Julian calendar which begins each day at midnight.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke write according to the Diaspora calendar, while John writes from the perspective of the traditional Jewish calendar and the Julian calendar. This is indicated by the timing of events during the Crucifixion. According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, darkness occurred from the sixth to the ninth hour. John records that Pilate condemned Jesus to die about the sixth hour. This is not a discrepancy. The synoptic writers are counting their hours from sunrise, while John is counting his hours from midnight.

The synoptic writers’ accounts when compared with John’s accounts confirm that the three were using the Diaspora calendar, which was also in use by the Sadducees in charge of the temple. John calls the day of the Crucifixion, the day of preparation for the Passover (John 19:14); however, Mark indicates that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper on the day that the Passover lambs were sacrificed, e.g., the day of preparation for the Passover. This apparent discrepancy is easily explained when comparing the two calendars. For the Jews abiding by the Diaspora calendar, the day of preparation and the day of the Passover meal were the same—beginning at sunrise. However, for those observing the traditional Jewish calendar, the day of preparation would not have begun until twilight that evening.

According to a literal translation of Exodus 12:6, the Passover Lamb was to be sacrificed between the twilights. Consequently, the Diaspora and the traditional calendars held back-to-back Passovers.

Jesus was able to celebrate Passover with his disciples according to the temple schedule, but he became the Passover Lamb according to the Old Testament schedule of the week.

This also explains why John could call the day of the Crucifixion both the day of the preparation for the Passover and the day of preparation for the Sabbath (John 19:31, 42). Numbers 28:16 indicates that the day beginning with the Passover meal was to be a “holy convocation,” and no unnecessary work was allowed. Regardless of what day the Passover occurred, the following day would have been holy. Consequently, the Friday after the Crucifixion was a holy day, and Thursday was the day of preparation for the Friday night to Saturday night Sabbath.

Thursday was both the day of preparation for the Sabbath and day of preparation for the Passover according to the traditional calendar. Wednesday was both the day of preparation and the night of the Passover meal according to the Diaspora calendar.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What’s important?

by John D Ramsey

Today was a long grueling day full of risks with lasting implications. It was not business as usual. Business as usual is hard enough most days. This was harder. Taking action fully knowing the outcome is inglorious frightened me, but it apparently did not deter me. “Time will tell,” the saying goes. C’est la guerre, such is business.

I drove to work while the nearly full moon was up. An hour later, I stood in an early empty office building watching a red sunrise portending a stormy day. It was Black Ops Thursday; but this day the office camaraderie would defer to crisis management. There was no playbook, just the Black Ops team and me sticking our necks out and asking, “Is there a better way?” I made mistakes: public mistakes. I hope no one else remembers them, but I know I will. As a programmer, I expected to make mistakes, as a manager I loathe them.

There were encouragements. Black Ops Thursday is catching on. I tried to thank each person who wore black today. I noticed on my way out this afternoon that I had overlooked someone. Well, thank you, belatedly. I appreciate the show of support. I expect an announcement soon that Black Ops is no longer a command hierarchy, but rather a grassroots quality initiative emphasizing teamwork and intensity.
  • Lead from the front
  • Lead by example
  • Follow the one who is leading
  • Defer to authority
  • Be accountable to all
That summarizes Black Ops. It happens when enough people want it to happen.

If I had a choice, I would have focused this week on the Passion of Christ. Instead, too much urgency held me too long in the office. Today, Thursday, marks the day of the Crucifixion. Yes, I know churches celebrate Good Friday, but the Gospels do not support the same conclusion as the Church. That should not be surprising; the Bible seldom aligns with theological or ecclesiological systems. Or rather, theological and ecclesiological systems seldom align with the Bible. If they did, we wouldn’t meet in churches, or pass collection bucket-bag-plates, and pastors wouldn’t deliver oratory. All that is convenient church tradition, but it isn’t Scriptural. That’s my assertion, but don’t take my word for it, read the Book without picking up a commentary.

Likewise, we shouldn’t be surprised to find that there are too many conflicts in the Gospel records to support a Friday crucifixion. Nevertheless, a Thursday crucifixion aligns all the Gospel accounts perfectly. I had wanted to explore all the evidence. Instead, I settled for some “tweets” on the topic. Last year, I wrote out dozens of questions and corresponding Scripture passages. Dad reminded me on Twitter that I had done that. I have 19 pages of questions and answers that I wrote for the men’s Bible Study I taught and may teach again. If you’re interested in studying it, just email me and I’ll clean it up a bit and send it to you.

Tonight, I need to wrap this up. Tomorrow’s challenges await. As I reflect on my week, I regret not focusing on what I think is important. Such introspections are selfish by nature, however. Doing what is put in front of me is important even if it is not what I want it to be.

As a consolation, I remind myself that this morning before I even spotted the moon or the red sunrise, as I was leaving to head to the office, Gabby rushed downstairs to say goodbye. She stood in the garage bleary-eyed and struggling to wake up. It was 04:30 hours, but she awakened to say goodbye. I told her, “There’s my early girl.” She smiled, and I gave her a hug and kiss before starting the car and heading to work.

Had I not needed to sacrifice my schedule for the needs of the office, Gabby would never have needed to awaken so early just to kiss me goodbye. Nevertheless, waking to the sound of the garage door and rushing down to see me in the morning was important to her.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Jesus, Son of David

by John D Ramsey

Jesus began his public ministry in his home town of Nazareth. In the synagogue he read from Isaiah 61, saying,

1)Spirit of the LORD is upon me,
2)because of which he anointed me to announce good news to the poor;
3)he has sent me to heal the ones being broken in heart;
4)to proclaim to captives a release,
5)and to blind recovery of sight;
6)to send a release to the ones being devastated;
7)to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.
Luke 4:18-19 (Apostolic Bible Polyglot)

When we read from Isaiah ourselves, there are slight differences in the Septuagint, but major differences in modern English translations from the Masoretic Text.

1)Spirit of the LORD is upon me,
2)because he anointed me to announce good news to the poor.
3)He has sent me to heal the ones being broken in the heart;
4)to proclaim a release to captives,
5)and recovery of sight to the blind;
7)to call the acceptable year of the LORD,
8)and day of recompense,
9)to comfort all the ones mourning.
Isaiah 61:1-2 (Apostolic Bible Polyglot)

1)The Spirit of the LORD GOD is upon me,
2)Because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted;
3)He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted;
4)To proclaim liberty to captives
6)And freedom to prisoners;
7)To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
8)And the day of vengeance of Our God;
9)To comfort all who mourn.
Isaiah 61:1-2 (NASB)

In both Luke 4, and Isaiah 61 from the Septuagint, Jesus declares a recovery of sight to the blind. Not so surprisingly, this is absent from the more modern Masoretic Hebrew text, and consequently, yet sadly, missing from English Translations of the Bible. Apparently, the text from which Jesus read, and Luke recorded in Luke 4, was more complete than the Septuagint in the Apostolic Bible Polyglot and the Masoretic Hebrew from which the New American Standard derives. Jesus’ quotation of Isaiah contains both the phrase “to blind recovery of sight,” which the Septuagint includes and “freedom for prisoners” or “release to the ones being devastated,” which are found their respective forms in the Hebrew and Greek.

The scroll from which Jesus read, validates both the Hebrew and Greek renditions of Isaiah 61:1-2 inclusively! This example illustrates why the Christian Bible student must incorporate the Septuagint in any serious study of the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament, blind recovering sight was a promise associated with Messiah. Elisha saw the Shunammite woman’s son raised from the dead, but he never witnessed a blind man receiving his sight. Among the miracles of the Old Testament, recovery of sight is absent. Nevertheless, Isaiah the prophet promised sight for the blind as did the psalmist in Psalm 146:8. From the psalmist’s perspective, sight for the blind may have been metaphorical. Indeed, in Mark 8, Jesus rebuked the Jews saying, “Having eyes, do you not see?” Mark follows this with an account of Jesus healing a blind man in Bethsaida. Jesus used physical blindness as a metaphor for spiritual darkness.

Each of the four Gospels record accounts of Jesus healing the blind:
• Matthew 9:27-31
• Matthew 12:22-23
• Mathew 15:30
• Matthew 20:29-34*
• Matthew 21:14*
• Mark 8:22-26
• Mark 10:46-52*
• Luke 7:21
• Luke 18:35-43*
• John 9:1-41

Many Bible scholars believe that Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46-52, and Luke 18:35-43 all record the same event. In fact, Mark and Luke’s account may be the same event. Mark says the Jesus healed Bartimaeus as he was leaving Jericho. Luke says that Jesus healed an unnamed blind man was he was approaching Jericho. The accounts are very similar. The blind call out to Jesus, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd rebukes the blind, because the title “Son of David” indicated that Jesus was the Messiah. Most of the crowd that followed Jesus were fanatics, but they were not disciples.

In both Mark and Luke’s accounts Jesus asked the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind answer, “Restore my sight.” Jesus speaks and the blind see.

There is an easy resolution for the apparent discrepancy between Jesus approaching and leaving Jericho. Israel under Joshua destroyed the city of Jericho. Nevertheless, the ruins of the city remained even in David’s kingdom (2 Samuel 10:5). “In Ahab's time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho.” 1 Kings 16:34. According to Josephus, Herod the Great also built a palace at Jericho. We can easily imagine that two writers might call the transition from an older section of Jericho to a newer section of Jericho either “leaving Jericho” or “approaching Jericho.”

Because only Mark identifies the blind man as Bartimaeus, it may be just as reasonable to believe that Jesus healed one blind man as he approached Jericho and another as he departed. When we read Matthew’s account in chapter 20, we realize that Bartimaeus was not the only blind man Jesus healed near Jericho. According to Matthew Jesus healed two blind men neither of which could have been Bartimaeus.

According to Mark, Jesus healed Bartimaeus by speaking to him. According to Matthew, Jesus healed the two blind men by touching their eyes. Rather than trying to correlate the healing of the blind in Jericho as if they were the same event, perhaps we should be asking why these three or four blind men all called Jesus, “Son of David.”

In the New Testament, the phrase “Son of David” appears 16 times. Three references occur in the genealogy of Jesus. Once in the Mark 10 (and Matthew 22), Jesus asks the Pharisees,
“How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’

David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”

Other references to “Son of David” are closely associated with Jesus healing people, and especially healing the blind.

As Jesus began his ascent from Jericho to Jerusalem, the voices of the blind men begin to echo and crescendo. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” At the Triumphal entry, Jesus sat in the outer courts of the temple healing the blind and the lame while the children all sang, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

As the blind gained their sight, the seeing plunged into spiritual blindness. The message to the metaphor is clear: those who see will recognize Jesus as the “Son of David,” the Christ, those who having eyes do not see will reject Jesus as the Christ.

Easter sermon

Dad preached his Easter message a week early so that it would be ready for radio broadcast on Easter Sunday.

Download as MP3