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Showing posts from June, 2012

Should “serpent handling believers” be lauded for their faith?


A West Virginia Pentecostal pastor who used poisonous snakes during religious services has died of a rattlesnake bite. Mack Wolford, who just turned 44, was killed by a snake he had owned for years.  Wolford was performing a religious ceremony when the incident happened. Wolford’s father, who was also a serpent-handling pastor, died in the same way nearly 30 years ago.[i]
In a recent article by published by the Washington Post, Ralph Hood wrote:
Thedeath of Pastor Randall Mack Wolfordfrom a serpent bite over this Memorial Day weekend has raised once again a familiar pattern: a serpent handler is bit, he or she succumbs to the bite, and media coveragefocuses upon questioningwhat is arguably America's most unique form of religious expression. 
The fact that this took place in America is understandable, since there are now an estimated 40,000 types of Christianity practiced here by people who hold a variety of beliefs about their Bible. Hood continues:
“Pentecostal g…

Where Was Adam’s Homeland?

Adam, the first man created in the Bible, and is probably one of the best known men of the Bible. His decision to eat the forbidden fruit made him famous. Have you ever thought about where his homeland was? I am going to use a few transliterations to highlight some important points in this study. They will be words with letters that are all capitalized.
Then YAHWEH the ELOHIYM formed HAADAM of the dust of the ADAMAH, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And YAHWEH the ELOHIYM  planted a garden eastward, in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. (Genesis 2:7-8)
The usual translation of YAHWEH the ELOHIYM is “LORD God.” YAHWEH (LORD), however, is the name of the ELOHIYM (God) in this account. The Hebrew word HAADAM is made of the definite article HA- and the root word ADAM. HA- is translated “the.” ADAM may be translated as “man,” “mankind,” or as the name “Adam.” Since this word has the definite article, translating it as the name “…

Was Paul a Law Keeping Jew?

This is our third study from the Book of Acts. The answer to the above question may depend on what period in his life you are asking about, which sources you use and your beliefs about the Bible. Our beliefs “ABOUT” the Bible can cloud our ability to accurately understand what we are reading “IN” the Bible.
The two primary sources of biblical information about Paul are the Book of Acts and Paul’s Epistles. The person who is traditionally thought to be the author of Acts is Luke, who was a companion and follower of Paul. This would indicate that Luke was a “pro-Paul” author, not an opponent. Paul is traditionally credited with being the author of the Epistles.
When were the books written? Traditionally Paul is said to have written his Epistles between 50 and 60 CE, which would mean that he began over a decade after the crucifixion of Jesus. Luke’s writings have been placed in a period between 60 and 100 CE, with the majority of scholars agreeing on the date of 80 CE. Therefore, Paul’s E…

What would Jesus think about public whippings and cutting off ears?

The people who were members of founding generation of America clearly understood the dangers of linking religion to the government. When the leaders of religious organizations gain access to the government’s power to use force against those who disagree or refuse to submit to their beliefs, the consequences can quickly become deadly. I am sure they were well-aware of the Inquisitions and persecutions that were taking place in Europe, but something that a lot of Americans don’t seem to be aware of today is what was taking place in America.
In Virginia, the first law in the code of laws of 1610-11, usually called Dale’s code, commanded that God be daily served and that anyone not attending prayers twice daily would be “duly punished.” The second law provided for death to anyone who maliciously spoke against the doctrine of the Trinity, any person of the Trinity, or the “Articles of the Christian faith.” The next law tersely fixed death as the penalty for blasphemy against God.[i]
A Purita…

Which sect was Paul’s?

This is our second study from the Book of Acts. Have you ever asked yourself which sect did Paul call his? A quote of Paul provides the answer when he was questioned by Governor Felix during his trial.

But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors, believing everything laid down according to the Law or written in the Prophets (Acts 24:14).[1]
What is a sect? The author of Acts provides that answer too.
Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees) . . . (Acts 5:17)
But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up . . . (Acts 15:5)
We have found, in fact, found this man a pestilent fellow, an agitator among the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5)
Based on the evidence provided by the author of Acts, the Way was a group like the Sadducees, Pharisees and the Nazarenes. The one thing they all have in common i…


Money in the ancient world was viewed very differently from what it is in the modern world. Aristotle’s simple but powerful belief that “money was barren” and therefore interest was unjust. This belief is found in various forms both in the Old and New Testaments.[i]
In the ancient world usury was not limited to charging exorbitant interest rates on loans, which is how it is usually understood today. Usury was synonymous with almost any sort of economic exploitation. Charging excessive prices for goods, simply because they had become scarcer naturally or by “engrossing” (buying commodities in such quantities as to raise the price in market[ii]), as well as any form of monopoly or foreclosure, were all deemed to be “usury.”[iii]
In the fourteenth century John Wycliffe preached, “It was their vulnerability to usury that made men curse and hate it more than any other sin.” The prohibition against usury was considered to be a matter of protecting the everyday livelihood of the ordinary vil…

Believers with a Pharisee BS

The Book of Acts is loaded with fascinating information about the first generations of followers of Jesus after the crucifixion known as the Early Church.  The amazing thing about this is that you never hear much of it in discussed in church. So, I decided to write a series of blogs about some of the events from Acts so others can enjoy and learn from them too.
I first became of this goldmine of information about 20 years ago when Dr. Ike Tennison and I were invited to hold a Bible study by Vendyl Jones at meetings held at his place in Arlington, Texas. Ike and I were doing research at that time on the Jerusalem Council held about 50 CE, which is recorded in Acts 15. So we decided to focus on it. Now I want you to keep in mind that we are talking about only one chapter in Acts. For the next six weeks we discussed that one chapter. Every now and then I run into some of the people who attended that class and one thing they usually ask is – Have you found anything new in Acts 15 lately?

Pity the Poor Billionaires

We had the perfect headline all picked out for this piece but our colleague Paul Waldman at The American Prospect magazine beat us to the punch: "It's Hard Out There for a Billionaire."
You see, according to, the so-called "mega-donors," unleashed by Citizens United and pouring boundless big bucks into this year's political campaigns, are upset that their massive contributions are being exposed to public view, ignoring the right of every one of us to know who is giving money to candidates -- and the opportunity to try to figure out why. "Quit picking on us" is part of Politico's headline. Their article says that the mega-donors' "six- and seven-figure contributions have... bought them nothing but grief."
"This is definitely not what they had in mind. In their view, cutting a million-dollar check to try to sway the presidential race should be just another way to do their part for democracy, not a fast-track to the f…

Nuns push back against Vatican

Tensions between U.S. nuns and church authorities, both in Rome and in the United States, have been simmering for decades as nuns have taken an increasingly independent and outspoken role in politics and social outreach.
The Leadership Conference has aired frank discussions of issues that deeply discomfit the Vatican, from ministry to gays and lesbians to the patriarchy of church culture. Some nuns have made public calls for the church to relax its stance against contraception; others have worked to ordain women as priests, in ceremonies the Vatican does not recognize as valid.
Read complete article at --