Sheep, Goats, and the Bosom of Abraham

When I was a teenager, a guest minister preached on Sheol and hell pointing out that Sheol was transferred from where it was originally to somewhere else, and it was connected with the bosom of Abraham. He did not present it as speculation but as an arcane bit of knowledge that actually happened.

I have never heard such a thing before or since, but he is not the only person to try to explain how the rich man in burning hell was able to see the beggar Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham.

But I think I have an answer! It is not an arcane answer at all but a simple one—the story of the rich man and Lazarus is a parable. That’s all—it’s a parable.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

The story is found in Luke 16:

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

What do we learn from this passage? Righteous people join Abraham at death? Hades (Sheol), which elsewhere in the Bible only means death, has an element of punishment—in fire? And people in each place can see and talk with each other?

None of these things are suggested anyplace else in the Bible, and yet so many people are certain that this passage gives us insight into the state of those who die. It does NOT. It is only a parable. The details of a parable mean nothing on their own but simply set the stage for the main point.

The rich man then appeals to Abraham:

‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

And then comes the main point—the only point of the parable:

He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’

That’s it! This is the entire reason Jesus told this parable. Now what do we learn? If we do not respond to the message, then someone rising from the dead will not convince us either. It has nothing to do with punishment in hell.

The Sheep and the Goats

The sheep and the goats

Another parable creates a lot of confusion about the end-times. It is found in Matthew 25:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory…he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Those on the right ask when had they done these things, and the King replies:

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

They also ask when had they not done these things, and the answer is:

‘Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Some insist that this passage reveals details about the final judgment and that the ‘goats’ will be punished in eternal fire. Not so! These are only details leading to the main point, which is the great importance of helping the needy.

Why Should We Think These are Parables?

In the past, a number of people have asked why I think these are parables and not insights into hidden realities? Neither Jesus nor the writers say they are parables.

I don’t know that Jesus ever says, ‘Let me tell you a parable’; he just begins the story. And the writers often don’t introduce ‘parables’ either. Jesus was fond of telling parables, and both these stories read like parables, feel like parables, and are structured like parables with an interesting story followed by an important lesson at the end. There is no reason to think they are NOT parables.

So there is no insight into the end-times here.

In this series: Zorastrianism, the Book of Enoch, and Eternal Fire:

Sheep, Goats, and the Bosom of Abraham
What Did Jesus Mean by the ‘Eternal Fire Prepared for the Devil and His Angels’?
The Influence of Zoroastrianism on Jewish Thought in Jesus’ Time
The Origin of Satan and His Demons in the Book of Enoch
Judgment and Punishment in the Book of Enoch

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121 Responses to Sheep, Goats, and the Bosom of Abraham

  1. Ben Masters says:

    Can it also be seen by some as being that those on the right wing in Washington (the conservatives, Republicans, etc.) were the ones who truly served God and worshiped him in all the “correct” ways (end times, last days, Tribulation, Rapture, KJV), and therefore will be the ones going to heaven, whereas those on the left (liberals, Democrats) did not so do (different Bibles, compromising, different beliefs than end-timers, etc.), and are going to hell? Unless I’m mistaken, that’s just how I’ve heard it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kayla says:

      Of course that’s how you’ve heard it…probably from those same right-wing conservatives. They like to spout off about how they’re the only “true” Christians. Saw one the other day that said liberals are basically the same as atheists because they are so far off from God’s law. Hmm, okay then.

      I’m a liberal Democrat. And a Christian. I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, “You can’t be that and follow God!”

      What was the 11th commandment again? Oh, yes…”Thou Shalt Be Republican.” I always forget about that one.

      I practice love, acceptance, and empathy. Most of the right-wingers I know practice judgment, cruelty, and condemnation. So I have to ask…who really is farther off from what they should be?

      Liked by 5 people

      • Anthony Paul says:

        Be at peace, Kayla… here’s what I think about when I hear a story such as yours:
        Some conservative Republican type Christians said to Kayla… “You can’t be that and follow God.”

        Some conservative Pharisee type Jews said to Jesus… “You can’t be that and follow God.”

        Now you figure out who might be closer to the Truth that God wants each of us to live by each and every day. 😉

        Liked by 3 people

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Kayla, I think it is so sad that people evaluate a person’s Christianity by their political leanings. I agree that to practice love, acceptance, and empathy is far more like Jesus than judgment, cruelty, and condemnation.

        Like

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Ben, of course I don’t think there is any correspondence in the use of right/left in this parable and in American politics. You mention the conservatives and Republicans who worship in all the correct ways; that sounds to me like Jesus’ description of the Pharisees in his day.

      Religion and politics are not the same thing, and no party can be the genuine Christian party. In fact, I think those who identify with Caesar have lost touch with the kingdom of God. JESUS is Lord, and Caesar is Not.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Anthony Paul says:

    As a general observation without comment as to whether Jesus is actually affirming the existence of a place of eternal physical torment, I would like to say that this “parable” seems different from the others where Jesus so often references earthly metaphors to which a person can relate more easily…. in His other parables He spoke of fields and sowers, kingdoms and kings and servants, buried treasure, people being found beaten by the side of the road, etc. I think many tend to see this story as a prognostication of possibilities to come because it speaks of something totally strange and “other-worldly” and beyond the scope of personal experience.

    I’m not saying that I disagree with your assessment, Tim; but I feel that the tone and content of what Jesus is saying leaves a great deal of room for interpretation based on how we view our relationship with God.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paz says:

      It seems to me that there are important elements in the parables which certainly encourage us to pay attention to how we live in the here and now and how we interact with others…

      Liked by 3 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Anthony, I see your point. However, I think the imagery in the sheep and goats story was familiar to the audience from literature circulating in the culture at that time. We will take this up later.

      Like

  3. Barbara says:

    In my early 20s I spent time with a rabbi talking about the old Testament. It was a fascinating discussion on how it was comprised of bit of history, woven with parables and instructions on how to live. Some was “myths” that were there to explain who we came about. With Jesus being a rabbi I am sure telling parables was nothing new to him.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. newtonfinn says:

    While I agree with Tim that neither the story about the rich man and Lazarus, nor the story about the sheep and the goats, are to be taken literally, I also agree with those whose comments indicate that more is going on in these stories than in the usual and customary parable. In fact, I see in these two stories, especially in the one about the sheep and the goats, the very heart of the message of Jesus and its implication not only for how we are to live our lives, but also about how that living of our lives affects our ultimate destiny. Let me quote a comment I recently put on a philosophical blog, in response to an interesting article that put forward a rather etherial understanding of Christianity. The sheep and goats story was central to the point I was trying to make.

    “Thank you for the thoughtful exploration of a kind of Christianity more in sync with eastern religious traditions and Bernardo’s elegantly-parsimonious metaphysical position that all is consciousness. From its inception, Christianity has included such modes of thought in the wide spectrum of its theology. I would suggest, however, that a significant contribution of Christianity to “big picture” thinking is its emphasis on will as being even more important than knowledge. Both Kierkegaard and Schweitzer, for example, picked up on this point and in different ways drove it home to different audiences–the former to more traditional believers, the latter to more liberal ones. Probably the key scriptural passage in this regard is Jesus’ parable about the final judgment, where those who acted to meet human need and alleviate suffering, simply out of human compassion, were “saved,” while those who did not do so, but did other things “in Jesus’ name,” were not. One of the most chilling verses in the NT comes next, when Jesus tells this second group, “I never knew you,” implying that he did indeed know the first group though they might not have known him. I have the highest regard for the richness and depth of eastern religious traditions and the illuminating insights of metaphysical idealism, but there is something in this stubbornly pedestrian Christian emphasis on the will to put love into action that not only opens my mind but touches my heart. And it’s the particular life of Jesus here, not so much the Cosmic Christ, which provides the model, the pattern of how those who purport to follow him are to live, whatever divergence there may be in their doctrines, or what William James would call their ‘over-beliefs.'”

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thanks for sharing this, Newton.

      Like

    • ancadudar says:

      “Thank you for the thoughtful exploration of a kind of Christianity more in sync with eastern religious traditions and Bernardo’s elegantly-parsimonious metaphysical position that all is consciousness.”

      newtonfin,

      I was studying some materials from the eastern school of thought during the 2nd and 3rd centuries, but I have only had very minimal exposure to it so far. What I was shocked to find, is the fact that in my development lately on religious and Biblical matters, I have already started to take a view of things being more in allegory and symbolisim rather than literalism. Things being more about the big picture rather than narrowed in “doctrines.” It scares me a little now because I cannot find a community to connect with who thinks the same, and I was always thought by my parents to stay away from the Eastern Orthodox religion. I don’t agree with how the hierarchy works with the Eastern Orthodox or with the Icons and prayers to Saints, but I agree with their broader thought and deeper understanding of the meaning behind the scriptures. Anyways, you have mentioned Bernardo and I have looked him up on you tube. Do you have any resources you can recommend for me to study things that have to do with the eastern school of thought since the only exposure I have had so far has been to Origin and other early eastern Church Fathers from 2 & 3 century? Do you know of anything modern? Also, do you have resources to recommend on contemplative prayer? It was in one of your posts from a few months ago that I first even heard that phrase. Any recommendations would be much appreciated, thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Anthony Paul says:

        If I may suggest: EVERYTHING BELONGS — The Gift of Contemplative Prayer —
        by (Father) Richard Rohr (The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York).

        In his book THINGS HIDDEN, Father Rohr suggests quite skillfully that in order to properly connect all the dots in Scripture so that we may understand the trajectory of biblical revelation, one must go beyond literal interpretation. In fact, literal interpretation of any holy book must inevitably lead one to the basest form of understanding which in turn must also lead to that narrow dualistic mind-set which is the product of fundamentalism in any religion.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Tim Poole says:

    I suppose you think this passage is a parable also. Rev. 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Tim Poole, I don’t think Revelation 20 is a parable. However, I do think it is apocalyptic literature, which also does NOT give us insight into the end-times. I think the book of Revelation was written as a comfort to believers who were being persecuted by the Romans in the first century AD.

      Like

      • Tim Poole says:

        Heb. 6:1 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,a and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites,b the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and ETERNAL JUDGEMENT. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.
        If you cant get the elementary teachings correct then why should anyone believe you on anything else? You are moving up on my list of favorite heretics.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Tim Poole, that is an interesting term–favorite heretics. You are not the first to call me a heretic, but what do you mean by ‘favorite’?

          Like

          • Tim Poole says:

            Your amount of arrogance and elite-ism is very high on my cult-o-meter. You say the scriptures are unreliable but you are? What have you done for humanity? Did you die and be resurrected? There is more historical evidence that Christ rose from the dead then that Napoleon ever lived. The Apostles were willing to die for this fact and wrote accordingly. You break my meter as a self appointed authoritarian on scripture. Its ok to be deceived and lead others to destruction because there is no consequence to being dead wrong in your world. The people who believe you deserve the same reward you will receive, Eternal Judgement. Its not too late to confess you know nothing about God to save yourself and your hearers also.

            Like

          • Anthony Paul says:

            “Your amount of arrogance and elite-ism is very high on my cult-o-meter. You say the scriptures are unreliable but you are? What have you done for humanity? Did you die and be resurrected? …..You break my meter as a self appointed authoritarian on scripture. Its ok to be deceived and lead others to destruction because there is no consequence to being dead wrong in your world. The people who believe you deserve the same reward you will receive, Eternal Judgement…..”

            In psychological terms I believe this is called “projection.” In the ordinary every-day vernacular we would say that this is a case of “the pot calling the kettle black.” But unfortunately, it is because of this type of vacuous blather which spews forth from so many “bible-believing Christians” that good people with a real need have walked away from Christ and His church and the message of love and hope which we all need so badly.

            Unless I missed something in my Bible, and Jesus was in fact a pompous, self-righteous wind bag, I just don’t see this kind of statement coming from HIs lips.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Tim Poole, thanks for sharing your opinion. However, you are incorrect on two important points. You said, “Your amount of arrogance and elite-ism is very high on my cult-o-meter. You say the scriptures are unreliable but you are?” I have never claimed that my opinions are authoritative. In fact, I often point out that I could be mistaken and that I have no interest in becoming an authoritative source for people who are escaping the authoritarian teaching of inerrantists.

            You also said, “There is more historical evidence that Christ rose from the dead then that Napoleon ever lived. The Apostles were willing to die for this fact and wrote accordingly.” I am not sure why you brought this up, as I am a firm believer in Jesus’ resurrection.

            Like

          • Chas says:

            I have to disagree with this idea that there is more evidence for the resurrection of Jesus than for Napoleon having lived. Since we have much material that Napoleon wrote, many first hand witnesses that he existed and led the French armies into many battles, etc, etc. Yet where is the evidence, independent of the bible, that Jesus was resurrected?

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Good point, Chas, Though I do believe both in Napoleon and in the resurrection.

            Like

        • Tim, what does eternal mean? It doesn’t mean, like you seem to think, “everlasting”. It means “without beginning and without end”. What does Heb 6:1 mean in light of that fact? Additionally, you might want to look at what “cult” means: One piece of a cult requires that it considers itself to be the only conduit for salvation. Universalism is the exact opposite of a cult.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Tim Poole says:

            Some believe we were marked off in Christ before the foundations of the earth. The eternal doesn’t necessarily mean no beginning because everything was created except for God. He produces after himself as eternal beings. We choose to love him as God or reject his love. I don’t find your definition of eternal valid unless it refers to God. Cult in my mind refers to those that don’t adhere to the essential teachings of Christ which are explained as elementary teachings. Augustine said “In the essentials unity. In the non-essentials liberty. In all things charity or Love.” I think the most non-loving thing would be to tell someone a lie about the essentials. Eternal judgment being one of those.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Tim Poole, I don’t think belief in eternal judgment in hell (if that is what you are suggesting) is an essential. In fact, I think it is one of the most misguided beliefs embraced by some believers.

            Like

          • Tim, that is the entire point, man. Nothing is eternal except for God, and so I’m asking you what Heb 6:1 means in light of that fact. The word “eternal” in the passage is “aionois”, which has different meanings based on context. Basically, it can mean eternal if referring to God, but it obviously cannot mean that if referring to anything else. What does mean? It means that the judgment in that verse cannot mean “eternal”, i.e, without beginning and without end. The other meaning is “day-age”, meaning an unknown amount of time, but not everlasting. In that case, Paul is literally saying that “limited judgment” is the “milk of the Gospel”, i.e., something that is the very basis of Christianity. As compared to what, though, you might ask? Judaism had been highly influenced by Zoroastrianism in Jesus’ time, as well as from other religions. Jews had begun adopting the idea of “everlasting torment in Hell”. which were ideas that never showed up in Judaism before the captivity. In other words, they were adopting Greco-Roman ideas. Paul’s comment, then, could be interpreted as a shot at that common belief, meaning that the meaning of the passage is to clarify limited judgment, not everlasting. A simple translation error is all that is required to screw the pooch in that verse, especially when “eternal” makes no sense (as you admitted) and when there are dozens of other verses in the Bible that say the exact opposite.

            Like

    • Kayla says:

      If you’ll be pardon the pun, my revelations about Revelation have been astounding and lightening.

      Though I have moved on quite a bit, I was raised as a fundamentalist and, as such, an inerrantist. That meant (to me at the time) that every single word between those covers was true and either did happen, was happening, or will happen.

      During that time, I hated Revelation the most because I couldn’t understand it. It was so bizarre that it felt more like a Tolkien-esque novel of some sort. But this wasn’t literature, it was the Word of God!

      Long story short, I now agree with Tim that Revelation is no more than highly metaphorical literature. And given that the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that “The Beast” was Emperor Nero, I would also agree that it is about Roman persecution.

      Liked by 2 people

      • hoju1959 says:

        Kayla, I agree with you. But the church was obviously comfortable with the Jesus of Revelation sending sinners to terrible punishment –it didn’t seem to rub against their view of Jesus — or at least the part of the church that wrote Revelation. The church wasn’t homogeneous back then.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Having read through the comments, there is one other thing that I think is missing from the points made, and I’m not saying that I agree with all of them; but, there was actually someone who did come back from the dead, and who did speak to the people with instruction. Yet, many still do not believe in the things of which he spoke.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Jerry, I assume you mean Jesus. I do believe he came back from the dead, and I do believe the things he said, but I do not believe he taught punishment in hell fire.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tim, that may be taking a critical risk. I do realize that at least one of these verses quoting Jesus is hyperbole, but it appears that He believed in a place known as hell. I don’t believe for a minute that he intended for us to cut off a hand etcetera, his point was we need a new heart, because it’s the inner man from which flows evil. But hell was very much a part of his vocabulary. And though he did not come to judge but to bring life, still he will return as judge. I’m not a believer in every unbeliever spending eternity there, but I do believe that some will. It would appear that destruction is in line for most. Sin must be paid for if one does not accept Jesus payment, then he must pay himself.
        22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
        Matthew 5:22 NASB
        28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
        Matthew 10:28 NASB
        15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
        Matthew 23:15 NASB
        5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!
        Luke 12:5 NASB
        29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
        Matthew 5:29 NASB
        18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
        John 3:18 NASB
        These are all Jesus’ quotes as I’m sure you are aware, plus there are other Jesus quotes in the Revelation stated to the church which I personally as a believer do not think that I should ignore.
        Evil is a definite part of this world, we all are involved in some sin in our lives. The only reason Jesus came and died was to satisfy His Fathers wrath against all evil as the just judge. And that brings me to the final Jesus quote.
        He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
        John 3:36 NASB

        Liked by 2 people

    • hoju1959 says:

      How do you know Jesus rose from the grave? Because the Bible tells you? The Bible’s unreliable. Because you feel the affirmation of the Holy Spirit in your heart? You can’t trust emotions. Start reading books by people other than Christian apologists and you might come to see that it’s most likely Jesus did not rise physically from the grave. At least, that’s what happened to me.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks for your reply. But it seems to me that ten or maybe all twelve disciples including Mathias might have lied about the resurrection if they would have had a monetary or power motive, but for all twelve to die for a lie would I would think not many among us would believe. Remember these were not just a bullet to the head or a quick lopping off of the head, but in most cases very cruel merciless deaths. Only one John was thought to be a natural death. I would sooner believe eye witnesses than speculators. For what it’s worth that’s my reason.

        Liked by 2 people

        • hoju1959 says:

          I’ve heard that argument and it doesn’t work.

          We don’t know what happened to ANY of the apostles. We don’t even know if they stayed with church. And we definitely don’t know if they were martyred for the faith.

          If the apostles were so involved in the church and defending the faith, why is there no record of it? Why is 3/4 of the New Testament written by Paul, who never met Jesus?

          Liked by 2 people

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Jerry, I think you make a good point. Why would the stunned and defeated group of followers of a dead leader of a failed movement go out with enthusiasm and energy to promote the good news?

          Liked by 1 person

      • Ps there are many more reasons, I wrote two books on Biblical prophecy that when viewing the literal threads that run through scripture one has to at the very least find interesting.

        Liked by 1 person

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Hoju, I am quite familiar with books that do not believe in Jesus’ resurrection. But I don’t find them convincing. I could be mistaken, of course, but I do believe Jesus rose from the dead.

        Like

  7. hoju1959 says:

    As usual, I differ with you on Jesus. To me, you seem to have an idealized concept of Jesus. You seem to have cherry picked all the progressive stuff that Jesus is alleged to have done/said and built your Christology around it. My reading of unorthodox books tells me that Jesus wasn’t always “progressive.” For example, I don’t think the real Jesus preached universal love. When Jesus said to love your neighbor, he was referring to one’s Jewish neighbor. At least that’s what I’ve come to believe is most likely based on the books I’ve read. (Paul’s the one that started preaching universal love after he saw it would make selling the gospel easier. If you’re interested in where I got this idea, see the book The Evolution of God.)

    However . . . I could be wrong.

    Really, I don’t care, either way. I’ve decided Jesus is irrelevant to my daily life. I want to become like the idealized Jesus you’ve created but, ironically, I’ve concluded I don’t need Jesus’ help to make that happen! All I have is all you have –or anybody else:

    Yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kath says:

      Interesting – but are you saying you are not a Christian? To me being a Christian is being a follower of Jesus Christ and having in my life. ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’

      Liked by 1 person

      • hoju1959 says:

        Hi, Kath. I was a zealous Christian for 35 years. However, I finally ended up admitting that I didn’t have anything special that unbelievers didn’t have.

        We all have the same thing.

        It’s called life.

        Some times it goes your way. Some times it doesn’t.

        When belivers get what they pray for, which happens once in a blue moon, it’s because God is good. When they don’t get what they pray for, which is what almost always happens, it’s because God is wise. He knew what the believer wanted wouldn’t be the best for him. “His ways aren’t our ways!”

        Believers feel God empowers them to be better people while unbelievers just chalk up their victories to good luck and gumption.

        The true believers say God tells them what to do with their lives while the nonreligious just call that intuition and synchronicity.

        True believers are inspired by the Bible—mainly because they were told it’s special, not because of any merit inherent in the text—while the nonreligious can gain insights from just about any book.

        Bottom line, I had to admit I was deluded.

        The supposed “personal relationship” I had with Jesus Christ wasn’t much of a relationship, which shouldn’t have surprised me: How does one have a relationship with an invisible, silent being who never really does anything?

        Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Hoju, I agree with you that we do not agree on Jesus. However, I don’t think I ‘cherry pick’; I try to read Jesus consistently. And he WAS a bit rough on some people–especially those Pharisees who burdened the common people–and the merchants who abused the temple courts.

      Liked by 1 person

      • hoju1959 says:

        My reading has shown me that it’s most likely that the real Jesus didn’t do most of the things attributed to him in the Bible. The real Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet who thought God was going to work through him to set up a literal kingdom of God in Jerusalem. He didn’t know anything about paying for men’s sin or rising again or salvation by grace through faith.

        Jesus was concerned with good works. That’s how you made it into the kingdom of God — not by having your sins washed away by the blood of the Lamb.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Hoju, I guess I have a bit more confidence in the gospel records than you do. But I really like your statement, “Jesus was concerned with good works. That’s how you made it into the kingdom of God — not by having your sins washed away by the blood of the Lamb.”

          I think you’re right on target.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Kayla says:

            Wait, I’m confused by this. You make into the kingdom of God by how much good you do? When did Jesus teach that?

            I’ve always heard (generally, anyway) that you cannot “buy” your way into God’s kingdom with good works and you can only get there with faith and belief.

            I understand that Jesus wanted/wants us to do good because it is right, but I’ve never heard that he wanted us to do it because that’s how we work our way in.

            Liked by 1 person

          • hoju1959 says:

            Kayla, I believe all the stuff about accepting Christ as your Lord and savior and such wasn’t spoken by Jesus. All that was added by the churches who wrote the gospels, I believe. If you look at the earliest sources, Q in particular, Jesus is all about earning your way into the kingdom of God.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Kayla, I think you are on the right track. We don’t make it into the kingdom by how much good we do, but once we are in the kingdom we begin to do good to others. Or at least that is the way we should develop–increasingly demonstrating God’s empathy, compassion, and care.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Kayla says:

            Hoju, what is Q?

            Liked by 1 person

          • hoju1959 says:

            Kayla, Q is a document the existence of which scholars deduced when they saw that the synoptic gospels clearly used a common source. Q is that common source. Because it’s so early it gets as close to the actual sayings of Jesus as we can get. It’s a “hypothetical” document in that it’s never been found. But it’s pretty clear that it existed, as it’s the best explanations for the repeated material in the synoptics.

            The thing that’s notable about the material in Q is that is paints a picture of a very un-supernatural Jesus. For example, Jesus never says he’s God in Q. This leads mainline and liberal scholars to deduce that a proclomation of divinity was not amount Jesus’ original teachings.

            Conservative scholars, not surprisingly, don’t buy it.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Kayla, I agree with what Hoju says about Q, but let me add that Q was used as a source only by Matthew and Luke–not by Mark and John.

            Here is some more information on those documentary relationships if you are interested:
            https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2018/06/11/how-dependable-are-the-books-of-matthew-and-luke/

            Like

          • Kayla says:

            With respect to not knowing much about this, if there is no original manuscript for Q, how do we know what it did or did not say and that it differed so much from what is written in the Gospels?

            Liked by 2 people

          • hoju1959 says:

            We know because Matthew and Luke obviously worked from the same sources. One of those sources was Mark, the first gospel to be written. The other source was Q. It’s the simplest explanation for the similarities. The stuff that’s not in Q is the stuff like “I and the Father are one”–pretty much anything that’s in John

            Liked by 1 person

    • Paz says:

      “… I don’t think the real Jesus preached universal love.”
      hoju, the way I understand it, Jesus might not have “preached” universal love but I think he demonstrated it in many ways. For examples, the way he spoke about forgiveness (to forgive even our enemies), he showed kindness and compassion for others (humanity and/or all creation) – and not just towards his followers. Love, kindness, compassion, empathy, are all universal (spiritual) principles taught and practiced by Jesus and found at the core of all universal spiritual wisdom and practices.

      Liked by 1 person

      • hoju1959 says:

        Hi, Paz

        I know my opinion goes against the accepted wisdom. But my reading has led me believe that Jesus didn’t preach universal love, across ethnic boundaries. I think Jesus’ goal was to get as many Jews as possible into the Kingdom of God. Jesus thought that the best way to do that was through radical obedience to the Torah. There was no time for dawdling or prevaricating: Pluck out your eyeball if it keeps you from obeying the Torah. He was about setting up the Kingdom of God—headquartered in Jerusalem. Now.

        At least that’s what I’ve come to believe based on the books I’ve read

        Liked by 1 person

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Well said, Paz.

        Like

  8. Anthony Paul says:

    I offer an observation, not a value judgement here….

    Everyone is free to travel his or her own journey toward the Light…. there is ample knowledge out there that works toward that which destroys faith as well as soul food which nourishes even small faith in Jesus, the God-man who walked in shoe leather as well as the Cosmic Christ — the universal Spirit who still speaks today to anyone willing to undergo a very personal and necessary transformation. Each person must decide for himself and herself through personal experience which of these paths best defines them in the depths of their inner being and True Self.

    “Remember, how you get there determines where you will finally arrive. The process itself is important and gives authority to the outcome. The medium does become the message, as Marshall McLuhan famously said in the 1960s.” (Richard Rohr, “Things Hidden”)

    Liked by 2 people

    • hoju1959 says:

      Anthony, I don’t think personal experience is valid way to determine truth. A devout Mormon is as sure he’s right as you are!

      Like

      • Anthony Paul says:

        “…. A devout Mormon is as sure he’s right as you are!

        With all due respect, I disagree that personal experience is not valid. Our disagreement stems from the fact that you define truth your way and I define it my way. One Truth may come in many forms… My idea of Truth is rather broad when defined in human terms. I believe that Mormon is right… in his way. Christians believe that Christ is the Source of all Truth… and I believe He is; Buddhists believe the Buddha is the Source of Truth… and I believe He is; the Hindus believe Brahma is the ultimate God… and I believe He is. All of these religions, and the many others which exist serve each culture well in that they point to a Truth greater than themselves and they work for each culture in their own unique way…. fact is all people, you and me included, are guided by feelings and experiences — knowledge does not begin in a vacuum… it is not the result of intellectual spontaneous combustion. We are all guided by personal inner experience — this is the voice of our souls crying out in search for its own meaning. No one starts out as a blank slate — we either start from faith in God and work toward feeding that need to know more about Him or we begin our journey from a more anthropocentric mind set from which we then work very hard to convince ourselves and others that what we cannot see and touch is invalid. Even Einstein never made such a claim — in fact it was his belief that all knowledge is eclipsed by imagination. And what is imagination after all, but the child of experiences personally felt and explored?

        Liked by 2 people

        • hoju1959 says:

          Anthony, if I’m hearing your right, though, you seem to be saying that you have to feel an “inner assurance.” That’s how you know what’s true. Am I hearing you right? I don’t feel that an “inner assurance” is a valid determinant of ultimate truth.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Anthony Paul says:

            Yes, hoju! Thank you! I believe you do understand me. You can call it “inner assurance” or the voice of “The Spirit” or whatever you like… but I do believe that we are on the same wave length even though we may disagree on what Truth itself may be. Don’t you yourself feel some kind of inner assurance or satisfaction from the things you have come to believe? If yes… then great! If no, then maybe you’re just not looking in the right places. Look within… your soul will guid you to where you need to be…

            I have said this often in this blog: each of us must define our own journey and walk our own path. Truth is not, IMHO, something you find “out there” but rather the search must start within ourselves. Everywhere you look in the world and in the millions of books which have been written, everyone claims to have grabbed truth by the tail… and so we must ask ourselves, as Pilot asked Jesus: “What is Truth?” We all find our truth somewhere out there but that is only an affirmation of where our soul (Spirit) is already leading us… you are finding yours and I mine (notice the ongoing tense). None of it is bad; that’s just life… it’s just that some truth is helpful to us while other truth is not. So what makes one person’s beliefs better than someone else’s? I happen to believe that something worth pursuing needs to be transformative and not just informative. For me it’s just not enough to know that the stars are made up mostly of hydrogen… I need to know how they got there and who controls the buttons that make things go. My particular myth works well in that regard; I look around and humbly search for answers and I get answers… I knock and the door has indeed been opened… and my life changes accordingly… it quiets my Spirit. I guess that in the end each of us must decide for himself and herself whether the path we are on is worth following or not. No one else can answer that for you or me. You’re not doing something wrong and neither am I… we are only trying to answer the call (or cry) of our soul. In that respect, I admire you very much even though we may disagree on some things because you are at least conscious of something beyond yourself…. it’s sad that so many in our world are not.

            Liked by 1 person

          • hoju1959 says:

            Anthony, if someone believes in something with all their heart—Christianity, Republicanism or Amway—they will receive an “inner assurance” that it’s true. It’s just something human brains do. If you start with the assumption that there is a silent, invisible being who watches our for you, you will come to FEEL that it’s a fact. It will “quiet your spirit,” as you say.

            However, I would take exception with you that religious truths that you feel deeply about can be transformative. In my experience, spiritual people aren’t any more happy, moral or successful than nonbelievers.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Anthony Paul says:

            “However, I would take exception with you that religious truths that you feel deeply about can be transformative. In my experience, spiritual people aren’t any more happy, moral or successful than nonbelievers.”

            Happiness, morality, and success aside, I can personally attest to you that there is a power of the Spirit that is indeed transformative. I am experiencing it in my own life and I have seen it in the lives of others around me. I know I’ve cut out three biggies for you here… but I must tell you that Spiritual transformation is not about making us happy or successful or even moral according to how religion defines morality. It is much bigger than that and hardly something one could explain to those who themselves have not had the experience. This is not to say that you are unable to have the experience yourself… the paradox here is that even though you may not believe it to be real, you must humbly seek it out for yourself if you are to find it. Great Truths can be learned even with very little faith… you have the power within yourself to find the truth of what I am saying…. just please don’t expect it to happen in a week or two. These things can’t be rushed nor do they follow an agenda… and they often take a lifetime. But judging from your persistence in this blog, I would say you are probably up to the task. 😀

            Liked by 1 person

          • newtonfinn says:

            If I may interject a thought into this dialogue you’re engaged in here (which is useful and much appreciated) it would be to re-emphasize a point I tried to make earlier; namely, that what ultimately matters is not our philosophical or theological conceptions about “the big picture” (ALL of which are undoubtedly wrong or inadequate in many respects). Rather, what matters is whether we, to use Kierkegaard’s words, “will the good in purity of heart.” Although our conceptions of the good itself may differ, our willing of it–or our failure to will it, or to be hostile or indifferent to it–is the most elemental aspect of who we are. It is in this sense that Kierkegaard made his famous statement that “truth is subjectivity; subjectivity is truth.” It is also in this sense that Schweitzer urged believers in Jesus to join their wills with his (and thereby with his Father’s), rather than become mired in the futile effort to ferret out the specific concepts that were in Jesus’ mind two thousand years ago.

            Liked by 2 people

  9. Sojourner says:

    I’m not sure what happened to my reply that I posted yesterday afternoon after reading Newtonfinns comment. i’ll try again. I don’t know much about eastern religions and I am by Nolan means and intellectual. What I got from my first reading of Newtonfinns comment was a strong flavor of works righteousness salvation. This is what many people glean from the two parables, that’s what Tim called them, we are having a discussion about. My question is, how loving does one have to be in order to be loving enough to be known by Jesus? According to the Scriptures, Jesus is wrapped up all the law and the prophets into two short command minutes. Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength and love your neighbor as your self. Some say it this way, “love God, love people, period,” I called them short Commandments because of the number of words. I did not say they were easy. In fact, my personal opinion is that they are impossible for us to keep perfectly. My question bears repeating. If our eternal destination, if you want to call it that, depends on how loving we are then how loving is enough?

    I just want to say here that I am of the school of thought that there is something wrong with the Scriptures rather than just something wrong with the way we interpret them as far as the idea of an angry, vengeful God throwing most of humanity from all the ages into a place of fiery torment that will last for eternity. Maybe I am wrong and I will realize my error as I continue in this conversation. After all, I’ve come from being a legalistic fundamentalist to where I’m at now. Reason I say something wrong with the Scriptures is because I just can’t go along with this idea of hell fire that they seem to clearly indicate exists and will be the destination of most of humanity.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Not sure you are correct that “there is something wrong with the scriptures”, but I do think as I stated in an above reply that there is a misunderstanding of scriptures teaching on Hell. If God is just as we believe, and as scripture teaches then evil men will receive a greater punishment in terms of time and degrees — no pun intended. There is a fairly certain theme in scripture of men who don’t know God being destroyed in Hell. But I’m repeating myself.

      Like

      • hoju1959 says:

        Jerry, you are correct. Scripture is clear. God punishes evildoers and rewards the righteous. That’s what the real Jesus believed. At least, that’s what my reading tells me. Who in heck actually knows WHAT he believed?

        Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Soujorner, I do not believe in an angry God or punishment in hell-fire for anyone. And it is NOT because I ‘cherry-pick’ the Bible but because the Bible was written by many people who were limited by their eras, cultures, and limited understanding of God’s character. Our clearest perspective of God’s character comes from what Jesus says about him, and that doesn’t support an angry, vindictive, and wrathful God.

      I have articles on these issues if you are interested.

      Like

    • newtonfinn says:

      Jesus said that he who receives a righteous man, because he is a righteous man, will receive a righteous man’s reward; that he who receives a prophet, because he is a prophet, will receive a prophet’s reward; and that he who gives even a cup of cold water to one of Jesus’ “little ones” will never lose his reward. And then there was that thief or robber being crucified with Jesus, who was immediately guaranteed a place in paradise. There are many other sayings and stories along these lines, but these are enough to indicate to me that we really don’t have any idea of the extravagance of Abba’s mercy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sojourner says:

        “The extravagance of Abba’s mercy.” I like that a lot. It reminds me of Paul Young’s phrase, “God’s relentless affection.”

        Liked by 2 people

      • Paz says:

        newton, your comment reminded me of this passage in John 10:16:
        “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

        Liked by 2 people

        • nobodyatall says:

          Good point about John 10:16 . That is a scripture, since Jesus mentions *other* sheep that are ‘not of this fold’, which he says he has (in the present tense, notice he does not say other sheep that he will have) , shows that inclusiveness (the position in that Jesus can save people who may not be officially Christians ) is a position which is compatible , in principle, with teachings in the Bible .

          Inclusiveness is NOT the same as religious pluralism .

          Inclusiveness (and it is not a new doctrine –some of the early Protestant reformers such as Zwingli advocated inclusiveness ) agrees with the verse found in the book of Acts, that Jesus is ‘the only name under heaven where men can be saved’ , but it does not maintain that only official Christians can be saved through that name .

          Some have tried to claim that the verse about the other sheep that Jesus says he has refers only to Gentiles that would later in the history of the church convert to Christianity , but that proposal is unlikely in light of how Jesus speaks of the other sheep in the present tense . ‘other sheep I have , not other sheep I will have ‘ .

          Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Nobody, “Inclusiveness is NOT the same as religious pluralism.” could describe my perspective. I believe in inclusiveness but not in what many would call religious pluralism.

            Like

  10. Sojourner says:

    Sorry for all the grammatical errors in my comment. Pretty obvious that I was using voice recognition rather than typing everything out on my own which would take forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sojourner says:

    And yet hoju1959, you just explained or described your personal experience and the truth that you have gained from that. So I don’t really understand your statement to Anthony.

    Liked by 1 person

    • hoju1959 says:

      Here’s the difference, Sojourner. I didn’t come to the conclusion that Christianity is bogus through praying about it or getting a “testimony” from the Holy Spirit. That’s what I talk about when I denigrate “personal experience.” I studied books by people I disagreed with. When I dispassionately considered the evidence, I had to admit it was more likely than not that Jesus Christ wasn’t God incarnate. I wasn’t “led by the Spirit” to conclude Christianity was false. I used my brain, such as it is! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hoju , to you I would say, understand I would not approach others in the same way, but to you — there are Christians who try to tell me that God chose certain ones of us before the foundation of the earth who have no will in the matter. They are to love and serve Him and He in turn just for no reason reveals Himself to them. Yet, Jesus is recorded to have said that He came forth from the Father as The only way to the Father. Therefore He said that a man must believe in and abide in Him in order to produce fruit and not be cut off. He also said that if a man denies Him before other men that He would deny them before the Father. I have very recently asked the Lord to in some way reveal to me which one of these versions of either free will and responsibility; or predestination and no responsibility is true for man. I did this, because you probably know that either can be cherry picked to yield “truth”. And then today you came on the scene. It has possibly been several weeks since I responded to one of Tim’s posts with anything but maybe a like, yet today I visit, and you appear and I have my answer. I won’t tell you at this point what that answer is, but I will tell you that I firmly believe that God speaks to us through His word if we believe it.
        This leads me to a passage in James 5 near its end, where James says:
        My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
        James 5:19-20 NASB
        You Hoju, have admitted to being at one time a fervent believer, I cannot turn you back, but the Holy Spirit can If you will listen to Him. The only unforgivable Sin listed in the scripture is refusing the Holy Spirits call on your life. In this case He is calling you back and the ball is in your court. You my brother know when the Holy Spirit is speaking to your inner man, because you have experienced Him before. And that is all that I will say, because when the ball is returned if it is returned it must be to God.

        Liked by 1 person

        • hoju1959 says:

          Jerry, once again, I disagree! Surprise! 🙂 Let me tell you a story. I’ll try to be quick.

          I “lost my religion” over a period of about 8 years. Near the end of that period, when there were just a few threads of belief left, I acted like a jerk to a group of friends. I felt guilty. It went on for a week or two.

          Then one morning I thought, “I need to apologize.” And then it hit me — if I had had that thought 10 years earlier I would have attributed it to God. But now I could see it was just me.

          If you look around you, It’s pretty clear God doesn’t speak to humans. If He did, we wouldn’t have all the denominations. Everyone would agree what God’s will is.

          We just accept the fact that God has given us doctors and scientists to ferret out the mysteries of life and death, but correct doctrine, correct doctrine is so important that He’s going to circumvent all this and speak specifically to select men and women—mostly men—who will write down what they hear and hand it off to the rest of us hapless boobs. But, ironically, scripture doesn’t solve anything, as I’ve already said. People piss and fight over correct doctrine endlessly, each citing verses, often the very same verses.

          What is scripture if not an admission that God does NOT talk to humans?

          Liked by 2 people

          • Hoju, I appreciate your civil reply. And I do understand the issues you bring up. In fact if you view my site you will find much the same. There is conversation and probably some criticism concerning doctrine. And your right many of the books written claim to have things all figured out — including my last. The first just presented teachings to which I and others were subjected, and serious questions about those teachings based on scripture. So you can take pleasure in your findings, or you can as I and others have keep searching. I guess it doesn’t take much to keep me going. Maybe less than for you. When I find a video confirming Chariot wheels and frames in the Red Sea; or the discovery of the Ark of the covenant in the caves of Jerusalem. I’m into prophecy but not as its popularly portrayed, and the discoveries I make in scripture keep me going. Ours as believers is a hope, and we all need hope. I hope Hoju that you find yours. I can’t help but appreciate your honesty. Should you ever become overwhelmed with what you consider evil or sin just remember Jesus is waiting on you. He did not come to save the righteous but sinners, but you already knew that. Sorry I’m so wordy.

            Liked by 1 person

        • Sojourner says:

          Jerry, in light of second Corinthians 3:6 “…. for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life,” have you ever wondered if one can teach the letter of the Scriptures rather than the spirit? I have and my conclusion is that I did so for many years.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Yours is an interesting comment Sojourner I certainly agree that the Spirit gives life. The letter in the sense that I think Paul intends it here would be the law which he stated in Romans 7 brought him death. But Paul also states that without faith it is impossible to please God. And again he states that faith comes by hearing the word of God. Certainly it is the Spirit of God that brings all of this into being. Not sure if I’m making sense to you?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Perhaps you were not asking so much as offering further inquiry into your own experience? If so I apologize and feel free to share more.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Sojourner says:

        My question to you Hoju is, what is personal experience? Isn’t your personal experience your very life which includes a period in which you were a Bible believing follower of Jesus in which you felt or thought you had a personal relationship with Jesus and then a period of disillusionment in such a life followed by a study (“using your brain”) of writings other than those that support so called Christian belief and a changing of your beliefs based on what you have learned from your studies? I am not criticizing your journey. I just don’t understand why you do not see your journey as your own personal experience through which you are finding truth as you understand it.

        Liked by 2 people

        • hoju1959 says:

          Sojourner, the problem is is the phrase “personal experience.” I should have picked a different phrase. What I meant by that is an “inner assurance,” a feeling of being in contact with God, a “testimony of the Holy Spirit in your heart”–in other words, subjective cognitive/emotional experiences. Those are the things that I say aren’t reliable guides of whether or not your religion is true. If a believer believes with all this heart that his religion is true, he will get those subjective experiences. That’s how the human brain works. So the voodoo shaman is as confident in his inner being that he is right when he thinks his God demands human sacrifice as you are when it comes to, say, having a “relationship” with Jesus Christ.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Sojourner says:

            Hey Hoju, sorry for the delay in getting back to you and thank you very much for your response to my question. You bring up some very good points about “Inner assurance” or “testimony of the Holy Spirit in your heart“ not being reliable guides as to whether or not ones religion is true. I hear where you’re coming from. There is a lot of food for thought in what you say. I have had and I’ve seen many others have amazing experiences as we follow what we perceive to be the leading of the Holy Spirit which we may also refer to as that “still small voice.“ On the other hand I have seen a lot of damage done and have even done some myself following that same “still small voice.” I would guess that you might say that those situations that seem to turn out for good for those who are being “led by the spirit“ are simply circumstantial. To me there is more to it. Chance and circumstances just don’t cover it anymore than chance and circumstances cover the coming into existence everything that does exist in the cosmos. That’s all I can say on this subject for right now. Thanks again for your reply and my question.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Well said, Sojourner! I believe insights and leadings from the Holy Spirit are subjective–not inerrant knowledge supplied by God.

            Like

          • hoju1959 says:

            I guess my feeling is, why is it important that we get direction from the Holy Spirit? Why aren’t our own brains—our experiences—enough? Why does every believer work so hard to show that their opinion matches God’s? Why can’t we just decide on our own?

            Conservative and progressive believers hurl insults at one another. “Jesus wouldn’t condone gay marriage!” “Oh YES, he would!” Everyone’s so sure they know the answer to What Would Jesus Do?

            Why is it even relevant?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Sojourner says:

            Hoju my brother, you need to breathe. First of all, your questions that start with phrases like, “why does every believer…” There is a lot more diversity among all of us that call ourselves believers than you are acknowledging. We are all doing this or all doing that. Really? Some of us are and some of us aren’t. “Everyone’s so sure they know the answer to what would Jesus do?“ The more I search and seek the relationship with Jesus that I believe he wants me to have with him, the less sure I am about a lot of things. So maybe I’m not one of the “everyone’s.“Then you asked, “why is it even relevant?” What do you mean by “it”? This is good conversation Hoju but keep your cool. Nobody is putting you down for using your brain but there is a whole lot more to each of us than our brains.

            Liked by 1 person

          • hoju1959 says:

            Sojourner, you’re so right. I shouldn’t generalize. I was being hyperbolic to make a point–like Jesus, actually! Thanks for keeping me honest. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

          • hoju1959 says:

            Sojourner, let me rephrase myself. It seems to me that most dedicated Christians, of all stripes, are passionate about serving God. Most want to think and act like God wants them to think and act. Most are very serious about trying to live like Jesus Christ, as they perceive him. That’s why they call themselves Christians.

            My point is I think that is wasted energy.

            I believe no one knows what God wants. That’s not knowable. Doesn’t the thousands of religions prove that?

            I certainly don’t think you can find out what God wants from the Bible. The Bible was written by men. So much of the Bible is men taking their prejudices and trying to codify them by putting them in God’s mouth–for example, the Bible’s attitudes toward gays.

            I feel you can’t reliably know what God wants that by listening to the “still, small voice.” Billions of people try really hard to do that and they get a billion different answers. (Well, maybe not a billion. That’s probably hyperbole.)

            What I’m saying is, Why do we care what God wants?

            I’m a humanist, so I believe we need to rely on ourselves and each other, not God. Let’s use our brains, our intuition. Let’s get feedback from one another. But let’s stop trying to say we know what God wants. That’s unknowable, I believe. Let’s stand by our opinions because they’re our opinions—not because we claim our opinion matches God’s.

            Let’s make our focus serving each other, not serving God.

            For 35 years, I tried really hard to live/think like I thought God wanted. I have more peace now that I’m just relying on my brain.

            Liked by 1 person

  12. But Tim, you just took all the fun out of church. How are people supposed to comdemn people and judge people if we can’t point to these parables and divine an entire theology out of them? LOL. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. newtonfinn says:

    I was listening to a Catholic radio station the other day, and the guest philosopher told a story about what he claims was an actual exchange of letters between a pope and a Mongol warlord. The pope’s letter had asked the warlord why he was slaughtering peaceful people and taking their land and other property. The warlord wrote back something along these lines: “I do not understand the question. They have things I want, and I can take them.” I have no doubt that hoju1959 would, like the pope, question and condemn the warlord’s actions, but upon what basis? As the saying goes, morality is easy to preach, hard to justify. Nature is intricately complex and beautiful, interconnected and symbiotic and in ways we are just beginning to understand, but it is also “red in tooth and claw.” Consider the delicacy of the spider’s web, and then ponder the horror that goes on inside it. We, the human species, are also part of nature, and many of us seem to find it quite natural to act like spiders…or Mongol warlords. Perhaps this why some of us cannot find the secure mooring for morality in secular humanism alone, which hoju1959 is able to find.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: What Did Jesus Mean by the ‘Eternal Fire Prepared for the Devil and His Angels’? | Jesus Without Baggage

  15. Pingback: The Influence of Zoroastrianism on Jewish Thought in Jesus’ Time | Jesus Without Baggage

  16. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    A GOOD LESSON WELL-PRESENTED!

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  17. nobodyatall says:

    Regarding the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus , which many fundamentalists claim is a proof text of endless physical torture in a hell of a literalized sort , it is interesting to note that the word “translated”‘ tormented’ in Luke 16, by many English language bibles is , apparently according to scholars of New Testament Greek the same word , in the original Greek that is translated ‘sorrowful’ in Luke 2:48 to describe the experience of Mary and Joseph , when they found Jesus was missing during the trip to Jerusalem , when he went to go talk with the rabbis in the Temple .

    So , then a question which ought to be asked is , should the statement of the rich man in Hades found in Luke 16 be better translated as :

    ‘I am sorrowing in this flame ‘

    OR

    ‘I am tormented in this flame’ . in light of how other verses apparently translate the word which is translated “tormented” as ‘sorrowing’ ?

    Also, for those who would take the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus as a literal account of physical pain in the afterlife , would a man whose entire afterlife body was on fire and in pain ask for only his tongue to be cooled off ????

    Here follows an excerpt from a blog called ‘Slacktivist’, which explains that the message of the story in Luke 16 about the rich man and Lazarus is not about a literal description of the afterlife and some realm of endless physical pain , but instead a message about how Jesus is against people seeking Mammon (Mammon being the sense of privilege that comes with wealth ) and in so doing deliberately refusing to show compassion to the poor . Because the entire article is rather long , the portion of text dealing with the story of the rich man and Lazarus is the portion which is shown in excerpt shown below . The story mentions in passing Carlton Pearson :a minister who has been , and perhaps still is, a universalist . The excerpt shown below is NOT to endorse the notion of universal salvation , which yours truly has come, in recent years, to consider a rather unlikely outcome , due to considerations about habitual murderers such as serial killers and so on , who could very well go on possibly hardening themselves to all that is good and cut themselves off from all that is Holy .

    1. Luke 16:19-31 describes a soul in agony in “Hades.” He is described as being “in fire” and “in this place of torment.”
    2. Matthew 25:31-46 says that the unrighteous “will go away to eternal punishment” sent “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
    3. Revelation 20:11-15 describes the judgment of the living and the dead. “The lake of fire is the second death,” it says. “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

    That’s three separate mentions of eternal, fiery torment. Sure sounds a lot like the Hell all those evangelical preachers love to talk about.

    And yet this doesn’t fully convey how deeply, deeply weird it is for such preachers to turn to these three passages and to come away from them with nothing other than a belief in hellfire and torment.

    That’s not what these stories are about. The preachers seemed to have latched on to the descriptions of hellfire and torment in these stories because those tangential details seemed less troublesome and dangerous than the central themes of the stories. Those central themes may be more threatening than anything Carlton Pearson has ever had to say.
    So let’s look at each of those passages again. This time, instead of looking exclusively at what they describe Hell as being like, we’ll look at what or who they describe Hell as being for.
    1. Luke 16:19-31
    There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

    The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.”

    But Abraham replied, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.”
    Evangelical preachers say a “literal interpretation” allows them to claim this story as a source for their doctrine of Hell. That gets tricky, because at the same time they want to insist that this story’s description of heaven is not to be taken literally. And that this story’s explanation for who goes where is just plain wrong.

    Lazarus, we are told, was hungry and covered with sores. We are not told that he did good deeds, or that he had faith in God, or that he accepted Jesus Christ as his own personal Lord and savior. We are simply told that his life was nasty, brutish and short, and that when it was over “the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.”

    The rich man, we are told, dressed really nice and ate well. We are not told that he refused to accept Jesus Christ as his own personal Lord and savior. We are simply told that there was a beggar at his gate with whom he never seems to have shared his food. And that, the story says, is damnably wrong.

    Which is the entire point of the story. It’s not about who goes to heaven or who goes to Hell. And it’s certainly not intended to provide cartographic detail about the afterlife. It’s about ethics — about the obligation we have to the beggars at our gates. Heaven and Hell appear in this story only to make this point more emphatic. To decide that its description of Hell must be taken “literally,” while simultaneously ignoring the reason it mentions Hell at all, cannot be described as a “literal interpretation” of the story, only as an illiterate one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Nobody, I really enjoyed your comments and the other comments you share.

      I particularly liked: “Sure sounds a lot like the Hell all those evangelical preachers love to talk about. And yet this doesn’t fully convey how deeply, deeply weird it is for such preachers to turn to these three passages and to come away from them with nothing other than a belief in hellfire and torment. That’s not what these stories are about. The preachers seemed to have latched on to the descriptions of hellfire and torment in these stories because those tangential details seemed less troublesome and dangerous than the central themes of the stories.”

      Like

      • nobodyatall says:

        Yes, sir .

        The excerpt was taken from an article at a website called Slacktivist .

        Weird is indeed the adjective when thinking about how many fundamentalist especially fundamentalists which are affiliated with what has been called ‘The Religious Right Wing’ :a movement favorable to the rich and one that tends to view poor people in an unsympathetic light *not* wanting to give them “handouts” ( a movement which supports Mammon the paradigm of keeping up with the Joneses in the name of “the American Way of Life “) , when they read the story of the poor beggar named Lazarus , who was favored by God in Luke 16, and the parable of the Sheep and Goats found in Matthew 25 , where it is the people who showed no compassion to the poor and stranger , who are told to depart into everlasting (or age abiding) fire , and claim that such verses are about literal accounts of the afterlife involving endless physical suffering for the people who the fundamentalists might deem unsaved , when the criteria for why the rich man was cast off and the people called ‘goats’ told to depart from Jesus, is how they did not feed , give drink to, shared clothes with , nor give refuge , nor visit when sick or in prision the people Jesus called ‘the least of his brethren ‘ .

        Nothing is said in either verses about the people that are apparently disapproved of by God being sent to whatever the punishment due to the criteria of how , say, they were Taoists , Hindus, Jews, Muslims, secular people and so on .

        Instead , the text taken at face value refers to how they did nothing to help the poor , or strangers .

        Any fundamentalists who drive fancy cars and want to tell a poor beggar to “get a job”, even if he or she is *not* a dissolute, drug abusing sort of beggar, but, instead, one who is a victim of circumstance , may want to think twice about denying charity to the poor , since they are so pre-occupied with getting to heaven and who might be in “hell” .

        A virtuous outlook would of course want to do good for the sake of the principle of kindness and not to escape painful punishment in the afterlife , or gain rewards for doing so in the afterlife , but there is a humorous irony in how the stories they cite as referring to hell the way many fundamentalists conceptualize it (not all fundamentalists, however, do so, for some are annihilationist fundamentalists and conceive of hell as destruction rather than endless pain ) . A virtuous outlook would want to show compassion so as to be sons of the Father in heaven , who is ‘kind unto the unthankful ‘ (Luke 6 )

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Nobady, you said that those who: “claim that such verses are about literal accounts of the afterlife involving endless physical suffering for the people who the fundamentalists might deem unsaved , when the criteria for why the rich man was cast off and the people called ‘goats’ told to depart from Jesus, is how they did not feed , give drink to, shared clothes with , nor give refuge , nor visit when sick or in prisin the people Jesus called ‘the least of his brethren‘.” YES!

          You said: “Any fundamentalists who drive fancy cars and want to tell a poor beggar to “get a job”, even if he or she is *not* a dissolute, drug abusing sort of beggar, but, instead, one who is a victim of circumstance , may want to think twice about denying charity to the poor, since they are so pre-occupied with getting to heaven and who might be in “hell”.” YES! YES!

          You said: “A virtuous outlook would of course want to do good for the sake of the principle of kindness and not to escape painful punishment in the afterlife, or gain rewards for doing so in the afterlife.” YES! YES! YES!

          Like

  18. nobodyatall says:

    Here below , sir, is a longer excerpt of the article which appeared in Slacktivist magazine , where the other verses are explained in detail . Note : If the lake of fire is a literal place of physical torture then the question arises how could death itself be thrown into it . Are we to conclude that there is a grim reaper, or angel of Death, and that he or she will also be tortured in a literally interpreted place of physical fire for all of endless time ?

    1. Luke 16:19-31 describes a soul in agony in “Hades.” He is described as being “in fire” and “in this place of torment.”
    2. Matthew 25:31-46 says that the unrighteous “will go away to eternal punishment” sent “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
    3. Revelation 20:11-15 describes the judgment of the living and the dead. “The lake of fire is the second death,” it says. “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

    That’s three separate mentions of eternal, fiery torment. Sure sounds a lot like the Hell all those evangelical preachers love to talk about.

    And yet this doesn’t fully convey how deeply, deeply weird it is for such preachers to turn to these three passages and to come away from them with nothing other than a belief in hellfire and torment.
    That’s not what these stories are about. The preachers seemed to have latched on to the descriptions of hellfire and torment in these stories because those tangential details seemed less troublesome and dangerous than the central themes of the stories. Those central themes may be more threatening than anything Carlton Pearson has ever had to say.

    So let’s look at each of those passages again. This time, instead of looking exclusively at what they describe Hell as being like, we’ll look at what or who they describe Hell as being for.
    1. Luke 16:19-31
    There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

    The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.”

    But Abraham replied, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.”

    Evangelical preachers say a “literal interpretation” allows them to claim this story as a source for their doctrine of Hell. That gets tricky, because at the same time they want to insist that this story’s description of heaven is not to be taken literally. And that this story’s explanation for who goes where is just plain wrong.

    Lazarus, we are told, was hungry and covered with sores. We are not told that he did good deeds, or that he had faith in God, or that he accepted Jesus Christ as his own personal Lord and savior. We are simply told that his life was nasty, brutish and short, and that when it was over “the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.”

    The rich man, we are told, dressed really nice and ate well. We are not told that he refused to accept Jesus Christ as his own personal Lord and savior. We are simply told that there was a beggar at his gate with whom he never seems to have shared his food. And that, the story says, is damnably wrong.

    Which is the entire point of the story. It’s not about who goes to heaven or who goes to Hell. And it’s certainly not intended to provide cartographic detail about the afterlife. It’s about ethics — about the obligation we have to the beggars at our gates. Heaven and Hell appear in this story only to make this point more emphatic.

    To decide that its description of Hell must be taken “literally,” while simultaneously ignoring the reason it mentions Hell at all, cannot be described as a “literal interpretation” of the story, only as an illiterate one.

    2. Matthew 25:31-46
    This is nearly the same story. This famous passage about the sheep and the goats is, again, primarily a story about ethics and the obligation to meet the needs of others.

    Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”

    They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”

    He will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

    There’s nothing subtle or ambiguous about that central theme here. Every detail in the story points to this same idea. The sitting on the throne with all the nations gathered is not the main point here. It is, again, an emphatic device to draw attention to the main point. So too are the cheers and jeers of eternal reward or punishment presented here. There’s one and only one distinction that matters, Jesus is saying, how do you respond to the needs of the least of these?

    To miss that, perceiving nothing from this story but an affirmation of one particular notion of Hell, seems perverse.
    3. Revelation 20:11-15

    This, too, is nearly the same story as that of the sheep and the goats. The context is different, though, coming at the end of John’s eschatological, once-more-with-feeling retelling of the Exodus. Here God’s people arrive at the Promised Land from which they can never be taken into exile. And Pharaoh and his soldiers? Once again the horse and rider are hurled into the sea. This time for good.

    But it’s not just the bad guys who get thrown into “the lake of fire” here. “Death and Hades” are cast in first. (Yes, the same “Hades” in which the rich man received his fiery torment in the first story.) So if you want to insist that this reference to a “lake of fire” must be interpreted “literally,” then you’re going to have to explain to me what it means for the abstract concepts of death and Hades to be literally thrown into it.

    And if you’re a Protestant, you’re going to have to explain why “lake of fire” is literal, but “each person was judged according to what he had done” is not.

    Liked by 1 person

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  20. michaeleeast says:

    Tim, I think hyperbole is the word I would use. It is used elsewhere (cut off your hand etc,) and is entirely consistent with Jesus style of teaching. These are parables. Hell is a deterrent.
    I don’t believe in hell because it is inconsistent with God’s nature.
    Perhaps people who do evil on earth are transformed after death like the larvae who become butterflies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Michael, I agree that Jesus uses hyperbole often. And I think his mention of fire qualifies here.

      Like

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