The blowing of the Shofar announced the
Year of the Lord’s Favor

Here is a mental exercise for us. What do you think might happen on the CofCs of all 12,000+ congregations adopted a lectionary that we all followed for 52 wks. This lectionary would focus on the expository preaching the following texts from the Torah, the former Prophets, Psalms, Prophets, Gospel and select episolary texts. All would be addressed within a single calendar year.  These texts call attention to a major, neon bright, theme in Scripture that is so frequently near the very bottom of priorities with American disciples, that of Justice, Mercy and Faithfulness.  So lets call this A Year of Jubilee.

Jubilee is a world based upon GRACE, pure GRACE, real grace.

The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to
the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of JUBILEE,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort those who mourn ...”
(Isaiah 61.1-2)

Exodus 1, The Paranoia of the Oppressor
Exodus 2.11-23, God Sides with the Oppressed
Exodus 20.8-11 & Deuteronomy 5.12-15, Sabbath, Remembering the World that Was, Living for the World that Will Be
Exodus 23.1-13, People of God’s Reign
Leviticus 19.17-18, 33; Galatians 5.14, Love, even Aliens What the Whole Law Hangs On
Leviticus 25, Restarting the World by Erasing the Values of the Fall
Deuteronomy 10.12-21, It’s So Simple a Caveman Can Do it! The Bottom Line of What God Requires
Deuteronomy 15, Redeemed Slaves Make Good Neighbors
Deuteronomy 16.9-12; 26.1-10, Worship! Welcome the Women, the Slaves, the Poor and … the Aliens!
Ruth 1-4; Deuteronomy 23.3, God Loves, Blesses, and Uses the Legally Excluded
1 Kings 17, What the Anti-Kingdom Looks Like
Psalm 10.1-18, Praying with the Poor
Psalm 68.5-6, God of the Poor and Needy
Psalm 72.1-14, God’s Political Platform
Psalm 146.1-10, Creator and Rescuer of the Lowly
Isaiah 1.10-20, What False Worship Looks Like or Why God Does Not Hear our Songs of Praise
Isaiah 5.8-22, Its all about the Porfolio!?
Isaiah 11.1-9; Micah 4.1-3; Zechariah 9.9-10, Make John Deere’s Not Bombs or the Kingdom of the Prince of Peace
Isaiah 58.1-14, What it Looks Like when Yahweh is Our King
Jeremiah 22.13-18, Is this not to Know ME?
Jeremiah 34.8-22, JUBILEE Subverted
Ezekiel 16.49, Why God Really Nuked Sodom!
Hosea 2.16-23; 4.1-3; God’s Covenant with the Animals … Human Sin Rapes God’s Covenanted World
Amos 1.1-2.3, God’s Geneva Convention
Amos 4.1-4, Avarice, Self-Indulgence, Fat Cows
Amos 5.18-27, Churches are Full but God is not There
Micah 2.1-11, When Greed is Kosher
Micah 6.6-8, God’s Heart Values
Habakkuk 1.6-11; 3.16-17, The Enemy is God’s Servant! In Times of Fear the God’s People Live By Faith
Matthew 5.1-11, Profiles of Kingdom Citizens
Matthew 5.38-48, Love from another Kingdom
Matthew 6.7-15, On Earth as in Heaven
Matthew 25.31-40, Jesus’s Doctrine of Judgement
Luke 1.46-56, The Mother of the Son of God’s Song of Reversal
Luke 2.22-24, Jesus, the Ghetto Baby
Luke 4.16-19, JUBILEE, God’s Mission in Jesus
Luke 6.20-26, Jubilee to the Rich, Jubilee for the Lowly
Luke 10.25-37, Parable of the Good “Muslim” … Or when our Enemy is More Righteous than Ourselves
Luke 12.13-21, Rich Fool Misses Jubilee
Luke 18.18-30, What Must I do to be Saved? Embrace Jubilee!
Luke 19.1-10, Embracing Salvation the Jesus Way
Romans 12.9-21, The Poor, as a group, Constitute God’s Elect (David Lipscomb), Compete to See Who Can Honor them Most!
1 Corinthians 11.17-34, God’s Table Honors the Poor
Gal 2.7-10, Remembering the Poor, Exactly What I want to do
Ephesians 2.11-22, The Cross Destroys Nationalism and Racism by Making us One
1 Timothy 6.17-19, Command the Rich
James 2.1-13, Has Not God Chosen the Poor?
James 5.1-6, God Cares about Payday
1 Peter 1.1; 2.11-25, Aliens Stick Out like a Sore Thumb and Just Might be Treated Like Jesus
1 Peter 4.12-19, The Real Mark of a “Christian”
1 Peter 5.5-11, Suffering, the Global Fellowship of Believers
Revelation 18, Its the Economy Stupid, Or God Strikes Back by Bringing Down the Empire Because of Money

I think the kingdom of God just might break thru the dark landscape. A landscape where God’s people often have a difficult time identifying themselves primarily as the advanced guard of God’s new creation rather than as German, Russian, White, Black, Indian or “American.” These texts all function in and shape the ministry of Jesus himself. They need to shape and mold us.

Jesus is Lord of all.  He Lord of all of you and me or none of you and me. Caesar, by any name, is a pompous parody of the genuine King.

Suggested Resources

Marva Dawn, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting

Michael Goheen, A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church in the Story of God

Maria Harris, Proclaim Jubilee: A Spirituality for the 21st Century

John Mark Hicks & Bobby Valentine, Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James A. Harding

John Mark Hicks, Bobby Valentine, Mark Wilson, Embracing Creation: God’s Forgotten Mission

Christopher J. H. Wright, Walking in the Ways of the Lord: The Ethical Authority of the Old Testament

Ron Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger

It is not ‘about’ me, but it does ‘include’ me.

American Christianity is highly individualistic. Some analysts have even argued that the typical western Christian thinks almost totally in terms of his or her personal relationship with God. Sin is thus also conceived in highly individualistic terms. Since sin is so conceived, salvation is also imaged in individualistic terms.

American Christianity has also drunk deeply from the well of Neo-Platonism. Neo-Platonism down grades the “physical” or “material” world as irrelevant, and likely even dangerous, to any understanding of “spirituality” and “salvation.”

When these two, individualism and Neo-Platonism, are brought together there is a profound shift in the meaning of Christianity.

What we mean by the individual today was a foreign concept to the ancients. Indeed it is in most non-Western settings even now. Sin in the Bible is much bigger than little ole me. I certainly do sin but sin is not reduced to my infractions. Likewise, salvation in the Bible is much, much, bigger than me. It includes Me but It is not about me. It is not simply “me and God,” rather it is “you, creation, me and God.”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is literally cosmic in its scope because Sin is cosmic in its scope. The Gospel is good news to every thing – seen and unseen – in heaven and earth – that God through Christ Jesus created.

It is interesting that the first time the “doctrine of Justification by faith” is mentioned in the New Testament, the controversy was not about how an individual gets to live with God in eternity (rather than going to hell). The controversy was over Jews and Gentiles – racial divisions – could sit at the same table and eat. It is what some might call social, the groups of Jews and Gentiles.

Today what preachers would dismiss as a “social problem,” or even a “political problem,” the apostle Paul said was the heart of the Gospel itself. The Gospel did not simply change my personal relationship with God but changed our relationship to one another.

The table in Galatians 2 is almost certainly not a booth at McDonald’s but communion itself – the shared meal of the family of God – which was an actual full blown meal in the first century. Peter is condemned because his social interaction with a Gentile was not according to the “truth of the Gospel.”

Paul’s whole interpretation of the Gospel can be found conveniently in Ephesians 1-3 and Romans 8. I encourage you to read these texts repeatedly. English is often our enemy because we typically understand the word “you” that occurs in the texts through our individualism. That is Paul is talking about me. But the terms are not singular rather they are plurals. So when we come to that “you” we need to read “all yall” (as they say in Alabama). That is the text is about us, the group. The texts are communal and corporate.

In Ephesians 2 we have the cosmic, corporate nature of the Gospel message on full display. It includes me but is not “about” me. So Paul says,

For he [King Jesus] is OUR peace; in his flesh he has made BOTH GROUPS [Jews/Gentiles like in Galatians 2] into ONE and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between US … that he might create ONE NEW HUMAN RACE out of the two, thus making PEACE, and reconcile both GROUPS to God in the ONE BODY … (2.14-18)”

See all of chapter 2 … every “you” is plural.”

Here we see clearly as the noonday Sun why Paul calls the Gospel the “message of reconciliation.” God is healing the whole of creation. I am part of creation!

Salvation heals the divisions that have vandalized God’s creation and ripped human to human relationships to shreds. God’s salvation has not and does not erase the diversity of creation. Through Christ, God has taken Sin away that uses diversity as grounds for division. Or as Paul says, Christ has killed the “hostility” between us, he did not kill Jewness and Gentileness. In the church, the beachhead of God’s new creation, “the wisdom of God in its RICH VARIETY might be made known” (Eph 3.10).

Diversity is “holified” by the blood of Jesus, just as it was when it was created by Jesus.

That it is not about me but includes me, explains why the Greatest Command is to Love God and Love Neighbors. John further reduces the Great Command to Love Neighbor and declares that we lie when we claim to love God while not loving his image in the diverse people around us.

This is why worship throughout the Bible is communal. And in that worship “I” am told to “consider the poor” (Ps 41). This is why Paul castigates the Corinthians. He even states baldly that, regardless of what they think, they are not taking the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11.20). Paul is not up in arms because the Corinthians are not having private visions on the suffering of Jesus playing in their minds. Paul is upset because of how they are eating. As in Antioch, the table has become a place that emphasizes division rather than oneness. They are shaming the poor.

It is not about me and God; it is about us and God. Salvation healed us, not just me. As Israel could not offer a sacrifice “alone” so Christians eat celebrating our fellowship in diversity. The table is the vision of what salvation looks like.

So if we understand the breathtaking scope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it changes how we relate to everything. But especially matters where division drives humans from humans. This is why dealing with racism as a matter that is bigger than me is most certainly a matter of the Gospel itself. Explicitly so.

Salvation changes the world, indeed the whole cosmos. It isn’t just about me, but it includes me. Are we inline with the Gospel?

Shalom

My Father was a Homeless Aramean

A Confession of Saving Grace

Ancient Israelites did not possess personal Bible’s nor, for that matter, did ancient Christians. They remembered (they were instructed) the “story” that mattered through worship. Israel’s worship calendar took the average Israelite through the Gospel of God’s Saving Grace every year. In the festivals, the story is told (=remembered).

For example, during “first fruits” (=Pentecost) the worshiper would come to the Lord with a basket of the fruit of the land. The basket of food was given to the priest. Then God’s people offered a “confession.” And then they gathered for a feast with all priests, the slaves and the aliens, in the Presence of the Lord. Worship suddenly redefined the social world, a new world was created.

Then you, together, with the Levites and the aliens among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house” (Deuteronomy 26.11. Notice that v.12 continues to list the powerless).

The confession God’s people offered is found in Deuteronomy 26.5-10 (vv 1-10). This is one of the most important statements of biblical faith. It is even incorporated into the Passover as well.

So the Israelite would say, “confess,” the narrative of God’s Mighty Acts. It may be sort of like the Old Testament version of what Paul quotes in 1 Corinthians 15.1-4. The creed of God’s acts.

A wandering Aramean was my ancestor;
he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien,
few in number,
and there he became a great nation,
mighty and populous.
When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us,
we cried to the LORD,
the God of our ancestors;
the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction,
our toil, and our oppression.
The LORD brought us out of Egypt
with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm,
with a terrifying display of power,
and with signs and wonders;
and he brought us into this place and gave us this land,
a land flowing with milk and honey.
(Deuteronomy 26.5-9, NRSV. The text from v.1 to v.15 ought to be meditated upon).

My father was a wandering Aramean …” (NIV)

What a stunning confession of the grace of God we encounter here. Yahweh’s graciousness is stressed and Jacob’s (=Israel) vulnerability are the core of the Israelite confession of faith. The confession binds the ancient past to the present worshipper. Israel went into Egypt long ago but it is “we” who are afflicted, enslaved, oppressed and delivered.

Worship conflates the distance of time and space and brings God’s mighty act of grace for the aliens in Egypt to the very moment “we” stand before God with thankful hearts to share God’s grace with slaves and aliens.

Israel’s worship magnifies God’s grace by testifying to Yahweh’s decision to side with the “least of these.” Israel’s obedience is never mentioned. What is mentioned is Israel’s desperate situation. Yahweh quite literally delivered Israel from the “kingdom of death” and brought us into the “kingdom of life.”

Who Are “We”?

The first line says quite a bit. In a terse statement our sense of privilege is annihilated. We are what our ancestor was. What kind of Aramean was he/we?

I have studied this text many times and its significance has only grown. Today, I was startled, yet again, by what I did not know. So what kind of an Aramean is Jacob/Israel?

Migrant/Nomad

At the very least, Jacob was a nomadic migrant. Israel followed in his footsteps by wandering around in the Wilderness learning that life does not come from the stability that we humans manufacture for ourselves. Rather Israel was thrust into a nomadic life for forty years in the Sinai desert to learn that they are dependent upon the hesed of Yahweh to care for our daily needs.

Remember the long way the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8.2-3)

We, of course, recognize these words from Jesus’s testing the Wilderness (Mt 4.4 citing Dt 8.3). Jesus, like his ancestor became a wandering Aramean having no place to lay his head (Mt 8.20). But long before Jesus, Israel’s worship calendar took Israelites back to the wilderness during the Festival of Booths/Tabernacles. Yet again the stress is on remembering Yahweh’s care and reminding us of who we really are. We are a wandering people, a migrant people … a “wandering Aramean was our ancestor.

Biblical worship reminds us of our identity by stressing the vulnerability we remember about ourselves.

‘abad

But the confession of our ancestors says more than we are mere wanderers. I was reading in a different translation today and was stopped dead in my tracks. I pulled down my Hebrew Bible and low and behold.

The term ‘abad‘ translated as “wandering” in most Protestant Bibles occurs 185 times in the Hebrew Bible. It is translated “wandering” a whopping total of one single time (1x) in the NIV, KJV, etc, right here in Deuteronomy 26.5.

This sent me to examine a myriad of other occurrences of the term. What other ideas lie hidden away in this term that are lost to us because of the power of tradition in translation?

The root has two basic meanings:

  1. perishing/dying/destroyed
  2. become lost

The word stresses the fragility of life or circumstances.

Sometimes the term refers to something that has been destroyed, or to possessions or even hope that has been lost. So a donkey or a cloak can become ‘abad.

“you shall do the same with a neighbor’s donkey or garment; and you shall do the same for anything your neighbor loses” (Deut 22.3; 1 Sam 9.3,20).

The Psalmist says, “I have gone astray like a sheep” (119.176).

The idea of perishing/destroyed is in many texts. “you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you, destroy all their figured stones, destroy all their cast images, and demolish all their high places” (Num 33.52).

My ancestor was an ‘abad!

Fugitive

The term “wandering” in English hardly captures what the ancient Israelite is commanded to confess and remember. It will be recalled the only place, out of 185x, where our term is so translated.

Israelites are told to remember the lack of status of their heritage, the lack of power to take care of themselves. This magnifies the grace of Yahweh. So here are some translations that tell us what kind of ancestor we have.

1) “An AILING Aramean was my father” (Peter Craigie’s Commentary)
2) “My father was an Aramite REFUGEE” (First Testament: A New Translation)
3) “An Aramean Astray my Ancestor” (Schocken Bible)
4) “My father was a HOMELESS Aramean” (NEB/REB)
5) “My father was a FUGITIVE Aramean” (Tanakh)
6) “My father was a STARVING Aramean” (Common English Bible)
7) “a NOMAD Aramean was my father” (The Bible: An American Translation)

The force of Deuteronomy 26.5 is compelling. Israelites were a family of nobodies living off the “handouts” of Yahweh. The force of this confession is to curb arrogant self-reliance, foster humility, and constantly keep in our face that we exist by the generosity of Another (read the whole of 26.1-11). This confession is so important that it is also incorporated into the Passover liturgy.

My Father was a starving Aramean

A Nation of Aliens

The very identity of God’s people is enmeshed with the precarious existence of aliens. We are refugees. We are ailing. We are homeless. We are starving. We are nomads. We are fugitives. We survive because Yahweh gives us grace.

Using slightly different terminology, but same idea, the Bible repeatedly stresses that God’s people are aliens. We are not aliens to God’s good creation. We are aliens to the power structures of this fallen age, the Egypt’s, the Assyria’s, the Babylon’s, the Roman’s, the German’s, and even the American.

And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers …” (Hebrews 11.13-16)

Beloved, I urge you, as aliens and exiles …” (1 Peter 2.11-12)

As John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine write in Kingdom Come about the radical nature of baptism.

“This new life entails seeing the world from the perspective of the new creation. Baptism entails the inauguration of a new humanity, one that is no longer defined by race, gender, nationality, or political orientation (Gal 3:27-28). This means we are no longer defined by the ideologies of the present age. To put it another way, baptism explains why disciples do not make the best Americans, Germans or Ethiopians.” (Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James A. Harding, p. 40)

God’s people know who they are. Our status as graced fugitive/homeless/starving/refugees facilitates empathy in God’s people for others. This is why Yahweh told Israel they were to “know the heart of an alien.”

Do not oppress an alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23.9)

Our Father was a refugee. We are a nation of refugees. We become Pharaoh’s when we forget what all of God’s people confess:

“My father was an Aramite REFUGEE

Surely this text certainly speaks to God’s people today.

The text, once more, blows me away!

Technical Support

‘abad,” New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, ed. William A. VanGemeren, vol 1, pp. 223-225.

Mark W. Hamilton, Jesus, King of Strangers

John Mark Hicks & Bobby Valentine, Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding

Of all the forms of negro hate in this world, save me from the one which clothes itself with the name of loving Jesus.” (Frederick Douglass)

Edward J. Robinson

I met Edward J. Robinson through Don Meredith, the inimitable librarian at Harding School of Theology back in the late 1990s. I was working on a thesis and kept running across a figure, S. R. Cassius, in obscure journals in the Cave of Mirofilm. I started to collect his writings. That was when Meredith told me of Robinson who was working on a dissertation on Cassius at Mississippi State University. We would meet several times after. Robinson would go on to publish To Save My Race from Abuse: The Life of Samuel Robert Cassius (University of Alabama Press 2007). Since finishing his work on Cassius, Robinson has single handedly defined the historiography of African American Churches of Christ through a series of books and articles. His books include Show Us How You Do It: Marshall Keeble and the Rise of the Black Churches of Christ, 1914-1968; The Fight is On in Texas: A History of African American Churches of Christ in the Lone Star State, 1865-2000; To Lift Up My Race: The Essential Writings of Samuel Robert Cassius (editor); and I Was Under a Heavy Burden: The Life of Annie C. Tuggle.

Hard Fighting Soldiers

Hard Fighting Soldiers is a labor of love and a gift of grace to Churches of Christ.

The works of previous historians like Robert Hooper and Richard Hughes have included chapters, almost as an addendum, on black Churches of Christ. But Edward Robinson’s latest work is the first full length scholarly history of the African American Churches of Christ. Hard Fighting Soldiers: A History of African American Churches of Christ (University of Tennessee Press, 2019) is brisk, concise, and contextual.

Hard Fighting Soldiers has twelve chapters along with a short prologue and epilogue. The chapters take us from roots in slavery in 1816 to the presidency of Barack Obama. There are chapters on significant women, hymnody, and the quest for the “magic of education” that open whole windows to worlds that are often unknown among predominantly white Churches of Christ. Most white disciples in Churches of Christ will recognize the name of Marshall Keeble. But Robinson shows our family tree is both richer and far more complex than Keeble. We interact with the conflicted and convoluted views on slavery by Alexander Campbell (there is no discussion of people like Pardee Butler, Ovid Butler, Jonas Hartzel, etc). We are introduced to Levi Kennedy Sr, S. W. Womack, G. P. Bowser, J. S. Winston, R. N. Hogan, Fred D. Gray, Annie C. Tuggle, Thelma Holt, and a host of other hard fighting soldiers.

I used the word contextual above to describe Hard Fighting Soldiers. Contextual is the strength of this work. Robinson’s concise history is placed squarely within its north American context. Actually, the context can probably be narrowed even more, north American southern context. The African American Churches of Christ, like the white ones, are a creation of the land that was once the old Confederacy.

That context gave it (and us) birth, that context, shaped its growth and development, and that context ultimately shaped it as an independent religious body. Yes, the context is, within space and time, north America but the content of that context is the issue of race: slavery, Jim Crow, racism. It is impossible to tell the story of the emergence of African American Churches of Christ apart from racism.

Robinson takes us through the “racial thought of white churches of Christ” (ch. 4). It was this thought that framed all interaction with black disciples from the beginning (and many would say still does). Robinson shows how men like S. R. Cassius and G. P. Bowser fought hard against that context and were thus either ignored or marginalized and tried to be controlled by white power. But there were men like Marshall Keeble who took a different approach and tried to work within the system and was “rewarded” so to speak. In my opinion, this is why most white disciples know Keeble but frequently have no idea who Bowser is and never ever heard of Cassius.
But we should know who Ethel Carr is. Carr, six years old, desegregated the all white Buena Vista Elementary School in Nashville three years before Ruby Bridges in New Orleans. We should know Patricia Jenkins, who braved the “Freedom Rides” through Alabama.

Puzzles

There are a few puzzles to me about Hard Fighting Soldiers. While discussing Cassius’s response to the vile film The Birth of a Nation. Cassius is the only leader in the Churches of Christ, white or black, to publicly say anything about this grotesque apology for the KKK and racism. But Robinson does not inform the reader that SRC wrote an entire book in reply called The Third Birth of a Nation. He does not cite it either. Yet he has a section on “S. R. Cassius’s Fight against The Birth of a Nation.

Robinson refers to the Nashville Christian Institute several times through the narrative though no section is dedicated to it. The “Magic of Education” focuses upon Bowser’s work and legacy. The closing of the Nashville Christian Institute in 1967 is mentioned as the “grab of the century,” but if a person does not already know what that is they will not learn of that tragic miscarriage of justice in Nashville.

Not everything can be put into a book. And these are not necessarily criticisms but just puzzles to me.

Conclusion

Hard Fighting Soldiers is required reading for anyone wanting to understand our black sisters and brothers. It is also essential reading for understanding our own white fellowship.

There is great irony in the fact that while decrying worldliness, the dangers of the cultural church, and the like both white and black Churches of Christ have been extremely located, extremely worldly, extremely cultural all the while denying such vociferously. We, both white and black Churches of Christ, have a genuine, actual, faith shaping history that come from its American context that is greatly removed from Scripture.

Black Churches of Christ provide a brilliant critique for white Churches of Christ when it comes to our enmeshment in our racist Confederate heartland. But at the same time the two fellowships shared a common cultural hermeneutic that fostered neo-gnostic dichotomies between “physical” and “spiritual” enabling us to outright ignore (or justify) injustice and racism. Or when it was addressed such was thought of as political rather than biblical theology. Marshall Keeble was a product of both his southern American culture and his Stone-Campbell culture that taught him how to read the Bible or which parts were the real Bible.

Ed Robinson is to be thanked for his passion for telling us the story of black Churches of Christ. He has produced a compelling volume that sheds considerable light on not only where we are but how we got here.

You can purchase Hard Fighting Soldiers by following the link. I make no money for this btw.

P.S.

We still have a long way to go.

Harding University’s 5,541 member student body is 5.34% African American (how many of these are athletes).

Abilene Christian University’s 5,145 member student body is 12% African American.

Lipscomb University’s 4,620 member student includes 467 African American students.

Pepperdine University’s student body is 6.82%.


Before you read another word, the point of this post is, choose compassion. Be compassionate. Reflect compassion. Compassion, Love, first. Compassion is the beginning and the end.

Time for some honesty. I ask that you read prayerfully. An Exercise in having Eyes to See and Ears to Hear.

We conservative North American believers are an interesting lot. We love praise songs. We claim to be devoted to Jesus. We claim we are devoted to “traditional family values.” We act, typically, as if God is a capitalist. We might even think Jesus salutes the American flag and that above all God thinks that homosexual sexuality is the greatest of all sins.

Hypocrisy?

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbors eye” (Jesus, Mt 7.5).

But are we (conservative North American believers) free from the charge of hypocrisy?

I would wager that a good deal of the culture of North American Evangelical type faith simply is not rooted in the biblical narrative at all. Our faith is often simply not based on a deep understanding of Scripture. Do we escape the charge of hypocrisy?

Divorce rates among conservative north American believers are the same and in some places exceed those of nonbelievers (I say this by way of lament! I am a divorcee!). See the study published by Baylor University, Evangelicals Have Higher than average Divorce Rates.

Conservative Christians often vocally condemn homosexual activity as perverted and loathed by God. Yet, adultery and fornication is as likely among Evangelicals as it is among nonbelievers. See Are Most Single Christians in America Having Sex. I was once told that a Christian Single dating site was also known as ChristianSex [dot] com.

Evangelicals are certainly open to the charge of hypocrisy when we claim that homosexual activity is somehow more detestable to God than heterosexual activity outside the covenant of marriage.

Justify Ourselves ?

We conservative believers, often, harshly condemn those who struggle with sexual identity. It is an “abomination” before God. And we quote the old KJV of Leviticus 18.22; 20.13.

Perhaps this shows, however, that we have selectively read the Scriptures. It may also reveal we religious people use the biblical text, as that religious scholar of old did, to justify ourselves.

Abomination

A person does not need to know Hebrew to grasp my point. Simply having a concordance can show that our common religious failings are in the exact same category as homosexual activity … but in an effort to feel superior we sometimes turn a blind eye to the truth.

The Hebrew for “abomination” (KJV) or “detestable” (NIV) is to’ebah. When we consult the concordance (such as Goodrick & Kohlenberger III, NIV Exhaustive Concordance), we learn that this exact same term is used many times in the Hebrew Bible.

Interestingly, it is used 21x in the book of Proverbs. Lady Wisdom tells us in Proverbs 6 that there are “six … seven things the LORD hates.” These things are an “abomination” to him (6.16, NRSV). This is the exact same term in Leviticus 19 and 20. What so interesting here is that homosexual activity is not mentioned but look what is.

There are six thing that the LORD hates,
seven that are an ABOMINATION
[to’ebah] to him:
haughty eyes,

a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that are quick to rush to evil,
a lying witness who lies,
and one who sows dissension among the family.

(Proverbs 6.16-19)

Each of these is characterized as to’ebah. Note that lying is mentioned twice. Note that arrogance is mentioned. Note the various attitudinal attacks upon relationships are mentioned. Note that causing disunity is mentioned. Note also that these seven things are routinely found in most conservative assemblies of North American believers. Yet we do not witness Facebook campaigns against these. We do not see boycotts. We do not even hear sermons on them.

But Paul …

Someone will say, “But Paul says God’s wrath is being revealed against homosexual activity in Romans 1.”

Perhaps, this is yet another example of Paul knowing his Bible and we do not. Indeed, clearly Paul does mention homosexual activity (not orientation), as does Leviticus.

However, a third of the passage is ignored and is about the stuff found in Proverbs 6 that has nothing to do with homosexuality. Paul does not single it out as more depraved than anything else. In fact, Paul lists it along with,

greed,”
“envy,”
“deceit/lying,”
“gossips”
“slanderers,”
“arrogant,”
“boastful,

(Romans 1.28-32)

all of these “deserve death” the apostle wrote in Romans 1.28-32. The apostle would go on to say (quoting the Hebrew Bible) that there is “no one righteous, not even one” (Rom 3.10ff; quoting Psalm 14).

Ezekiel, Sodom and Proverbs

The Bible reveals that God really does loath those seven things. We conservatives often point to Sodom and Gomorrah to show that God especially dislikes homosexuality. God destroyed those gay people. Sometimes, we conveniently forget that the Holy Spirit point blank tells us the exact sin of Sodom and it is forgotten by us. Ezekiel tells us what it was.

NOW THIS WAS THE SIN of your sister Sodom:
She was arrogant,
overfed and unconcerned;
they did not help the poor and needy.
They were haughty and did detestable things before me
…”
(Ezekiel 16.49-50)

It is hard to get a clearer statement than “now this was the sin of your sister Sodom.

Notice how this text never explicitly mentions homosexual activity (it may be implied but some scholars debate that in the context of Ezekiel). Some might claim it is in the word “detestable.” Interestingly, this is the same exact term that is used in both Leviticus 18.22/20.13 and Proverbs 6.16-19 quoted above.

The abominations are:

arrogance,
self indulgence,
lack of care for the poor
.

These are just as much an abomination as the homosexual activity. And this is why God destroyed Sodom.

If we read Ezekiel, the Lord makes it clear that Israel’s sin is even worse than that of Sodom (16.51ff) yet there is no suggestion that Judah’s sin in this passage is homosexual activity.

Now I do not deny there was homosexual activity at Sodom, other biblical texts make this clear. I am simply pointing out what is stated in black and white in the biblical text, it is not singled out in Ezekiel nor Paul.

But we conservatives do not like that. It makes “us” like “them.”

It is part of the fallen human condition to want to feel morally superior to “those” people (whoever “those” people may be). But Scripture puts the arrogant, self-righteous, north American believer in the same place as “those” we bitterly condemn. Often our bitter rantings (and that is what they often are) are projections of our own prejudices not that that person is any worse than the arrogant, gossips, greedy, overfed, people welcomed with open arms in our churches.

Following Jesus’s Example

Jesus’s interaction with Levi (Mt 9.9-13); the “woman at the well” (Jn 4); and the “woman caught in the act” (Jn .7.53-8.11) ought to weigh heavily on our interaction with any human being, regardless of the circumstances. Likewise our Lord’s upbraiding of the religious people of his day should echo in our ears (cf. Matthew 23).

We Evangelical and Restoration Christians need a massive dose of humility. We need to revisit the notion of grace once again. We, all of us, are sinners before the holy God. Jesus loves the homosexual sinner as much as he loves those who, in the words of Ezekiel, are “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned for the poor.

When we are convinced, that we ourselves have nothing in our hands to bring but simply “to thy cross” we cling, we will be far more welcoming of other sinners no matter from which direction they come.

a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench
…” (Isaiah 42.3)

May the gentle compassion of Jesus flow through us to all who are “bruised” in their lives and hearts.

Having Eyes to See and Ears to Hear. Always side with mercy, always practice love.

(On the term to’ebah see, New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, edited Willem A. VanGemeren, vol 4, pp.314-318)

“The Bible” of the
Harlem Renaissance

I first became aware of the Harlem Renaissance in the late 1990s. It has fascinated me since.

The Harlem Renaissance was an extraordinary explosion, an awakening, of artistic output in music, dance, literature, and drama. It is generally dated from return of the Harlem Hellfighters from World War I to the early 1930s when it died the death of the Great Depression.

A confluence of many factors led to this bold assertion of creativity and pride. The Great Migrations that began during World War I (half a million blacks moved from the South to New York, Chicago and other northern urban areas to escape the Klan and find jobs). The taking, and the return, of two hundred thousand black soldiers into the military and off to France “to make the world safe for democracy” cultivated an air of self-confidence. This self-confidence led to a rejection of acceptance of white defined black identity as “aunties,” “uncles,” and “mammies.” They rejected “Sambo” and “Uncle Tom,” as Alain Locke wrote in the volume he edited, The New Negro. When Locke penned those words the Renaissance was already in full swing.

In a sense the Renaissance, the “Coming of Age,” was a collective announcement to white America that blacks are one hundred percent human, with the same aspirations and hunger for meaning as any Anglo-Saxon. Or to quote Locke, it was to demand “the revaluation by white and black alike of the Negro in terms of his artistic endowments and cultural contributions, past and prospective.”

James Weldon Johnson put it, “nothing will do more to change the mental attitude and raise his status than a demonstration of intellectual parity … than by his production of literature and art.”

The Harlem Renaissance says as clearly as can be stated, “We are not slaves. We are not brutes. We are not ignorant. We are not inferior.”

This explosion is all the more remarkable because of the massive surge of racism following World War I. The Red Summer of 1919, massive race riots, Hollywood’s caricature of African Americans (as in Birth of a Nation in 1915), the surge in lynching. The Renaissance attacked stereotypes in myriads of ways while affirming, “we” are equal to “you.”

There is no way to do justice to the Harlem Renaissance in this post. So I am going to divide up categories with names we ought to know (names are representative and hardly exhaustive). Many of my readers will already know them.

Lewis’s is a great introduction
to the writings of the
Renaissance

Publications: The Crises began in 1910 as the publication of the NAACP. The Messenger (1917-1938) was widely read. Opportunity began in 1923 and was a leading organ of the Renaissance. And Survey Graphic which in many ways initially brought the greatness of the Renaissance before the public.

Intellectual leaders. W.E.B. DuBois and Alaine Locke both men hugely influential.

Music: The Jazz age. Harlem Stride. Duke Ellington. Lucky Roberts. Fats Waller. Louis Armstrong.

Dancers: Billy (Bojangles) Robinson. Josephine Baker – one of the most famous dancers in history, she would live in Paris for a long time and during World War II functioned as a spy for the US.

Artists: Aaron Douglas. Lois Mailou Jones

Writers: Langston Hughes. Zora Neale Huston. Claude McKay. James Weldon Johnson. Jean Toomer. Countee Cullen.

Claude McKay wrote one of the first poems of the Renaissance in response to the Red Summer of 1919. It captures well the defiant spirit of what Locke identified as the “New Negro.”

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, let it not be like hogs
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monster we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us, though dead!

Oh kinsman! We must meet the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us still be brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but – fighting back!

In the face of incredible cultural resistance the Harlem Renaissance proclaimed we are not mere victims rather we are creators and victors in spite of the racist culture.

Wonderful history of the energy,
diversity, and even jealousies
of the Renaissance

The New Negro

The Harlem Renaissance had been in full swing for several years when Alain Locke gathered together the diverse strands of the movement and published what has been called “the Bible” of the movement. That Bible is called, The New Negro which Locke published in 1925.

The volume is divided into two large sections: The Negro Renaissance and The Negro in the New World. In the Renaissance section, Locke highlights the the “Youth” of the day through their fiction, poetry, drama, music and a section on how black America was rediscovering its own past as opposed to the past white America said they had. In Part Two, Locke collected essays by black scholars on Negro Pioneers, their life in America, centers of cultural life at Harlem, Howard University, Tuskegee, and Durham, NC. Then the volume explores how African Americans fit into Americanism and a unique look at “the task of Negro Womanhood.”

Locke’s New Negro is both selective in its representation of the Renaissance and something of a definition of the time. For an “exegesis” of the book see George Hutchinson’s The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White, pp. 389-433.

Major scholarly work on
the Harlem Renaissance. Includes
a splendid exegesis of
“The New Negro.”

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was a young poet at the time of the Renaissance. Hughes typifies the race consciousness that embraced many at this time. After generations and generations of being told they were animals, ugly, not human, there was a counter thrust in the Harlem Renaissance. Black and black culture is worth celebrating.

Hughes expressed his point of view in a powerful essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain.” At some point every American ought to read this essay. Hughes about black artists who have either consciously or subconsciously bought into the prevailing views of white America that black is bad. These artists subconsciously want to be white. On one level this is a searing indictment of racism. On another it is the sad testimony of the psychological abuse of racism upon the victims. Hughes castigates black intellectuals for perpetuating this same view. Thus it is “a very high mountain indeed for the would be racial artist to climb in order to discover himself and his people.” He continues,

So I am ashamed for the black poet who says, ‘I want to be a poet, not a Negro poet,’ as though his own racial world were not as interesting as any other world … An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose …

“We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too.

You can read many of Hughes’s poems and essays in The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader. The full text of the Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain can be read in the linked title.

Conclusion

This brief introduction to the Harlem Renaissance has not even begun to do it justice. My goal is very limited, introduce people who look like me to a very important part of our mutual heritage. Our lives in America are deeper and richer because of the Renaissance even though many of us have been unaware.

The Harlem Renaissance is an absolutely fascinating period of American history. The “roaring twenties” is a period wracked with contradictions that have forever run through America. It is one of the lowest times in race relations. But it was also a time of thriving creativity on the part of many African Americans

Read Alain Locke’s anthology called The New Negro. Or David Levering Lewis’ The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader. There are also a number of good YouTube videos that introduce the Renaissance. I especially recommend the documentary Against the Odds: The Artists of the Harlem Renaissance.

How Much Do You Know about the Harlem Renaissance? Now is a golden opportunity to learn.

Shalom.

Textual note in my NIV

I am frequently asked about the ending of Mark and the pros and cons of the various endings.  This is a delicate issue and one should approach the evidence with an open mind without a predetermined outcome.  Some have mistakenly argued that the whole issue revolves around two uncial mss: Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. MSS stands for “manuscripts.” 

It is true that these two important mss omit the passage. However the problem was known and debated long before the discovery of Sinaiticus or the release of Vaticanus.  In fact the problem is as old as the church itself!  The Church Fathers are our first witness to the controversy over the ending of Mark’s Gospel. It is a gross error to say, as some claim, that Westcott and Hort brought this “problem” to us. 

An Apology for this Post

Before I make this note I need to defend it.  I can already hear some one say “you do not have to have a PhD, or be a scholar, to go to heaven!”  But I think this actually misses the real issue because that is not the issue.

When an individual stands before a congregation, or a group of people, assuming the role of a teacher, it is reasonable to assume that person is grounded deeply in the subject at hand (surely James 3.1 is relevant).  Such an assumption is not unwarranted.  When our children go to school, we parents firmly expect the teacher to know more about math than the elementary students who are learning basic “math facts.” If a teacher is instructing children, in any subject, we expect that he/she have first done his/her own homework. 

The same is true in any congregation.  No, one does not need a PhD, or to be a scholar, to go to heaven any more than one needs a PhD in math to be a teacher in elementary school.  But to teach the subject we expect the point of view of the teacher to be grounded in more than mere prejudice or wishful thinking.  We expect that the teacher has a certain level of mastery of the material at hand.

Yet somehow we change our expectations when it comes to the most important subject in our life – the Bible.  But every (there is no exception to this in my view) person who wishes to assume the role of “teacher” in the family of God, should understand how the Bible came together as much as a physics teacher should understand the laws of physics. So a preacher needs to understand the basics of textual criticism and some general knowledge of the history of the Bible.  Preachers do not have to be scholars in textual criticism but they need to know the basics of how it works and why it matters.  We should not build doctrine on something that is no more than the a “thus sayeth the scribe” (to use a Jack Lewis ism).  The needs of polemical debate should not determine our attachment to a textual variant.

The Bible did not fall out of heaven in 1611 to a group of men employed by the Church of England. Those men were not inspired or guided by the Holy Spirit in some special capacity not open to every other translator down through the years. What textual criticism attempts to do is establish what a given writer (Plato, Aristotle, Matthew, Isaiah, Paul) actually wrote.  It does this by principles that have been honed through the years much like the principles of medicine. 

We can tell a preacher is misinformed if he baldly claims “five thousand manuscripts have Mark 16:9-20” to prove the authenticity of these verses.  Why? Because all five thousand of those manuscripts anywhere between 800 to 1300 YEARS later (i.e. younger) than the manuscripts that do not have 16.2-20.  Such a claim betrays that the person does not understand how textual criticism works. 

Think of it like this a thousand people with Ebola can be traced back to a single carrier and the further you get from the carrier the more folks can be infected.  The same with manuscripts.  A single mistake can be copied dozens and hundreds of times down the line.  Thus when those preachers say there are x number of mss with the Long Ending (= 16.9-20 as in the KJV) the vast majority of those manuscripts date to the high medieval period, that is after 1100 AD to AD 1400. Most of these mss belong to the same “family” of mss as well (this family is known as the Byzantine family).

Further these teachers misrepresent the facts of the case because a large number of those mss have more than the Long Ending as we shall see below.  This is why manuscripts are weighed not merely counted.  My point here is that a person standing before a congregation should have a basic understanding of how the Bible came to be in our church pews. 

When every modern translation of the English Bible tells the average ordinary reader “ancient manuscripts do not have the following …” the teacher/preacher should understand why.  The Long Ending of Mark is no exception. 

Textual criticism examines evidence from the Greek and other manuscripts. It also includes “the versions” which are ancient translations of the Greek New Testament into various ancient tongues, some are as old as the most ancient Greek text.   Textual criticism also takes into account quotations of the Bible from various Fathers & Mothers of the church and what they have to say about textual question. A basic introduction to the subject like Bruce Metzger’s The Text of the New Testament or Kurt Aland’s The Text of the New Testament should simply be required reading for preachers and teachers.  Now I did not say everyone had to read these but the person that presents him or herself as that teacher then yes indeed they should have a basic knowledge.  So with all that said I present some thoughts I have put together on the Long Ending of Mark. 

The leaders of the Stone-Campbell Movement were all committed to the critical text of the Bible translated into the most current English idiom. See my Words Easy to Understand: The Restoration Movement and the King James Version.

Commentators on Mark 16.9-20

I know of no standard commentaries on the Gospel of Mark that accept the authenticity of Mark 16.9-20 in the Textus Receptus (basically the KJV).  I may be wrong but I do not know the commentary.

Even commentaries among Churches of Christ like Earle McMillian’s The Gospel of Mark (1973) in the Living Word Commentary series and Allan Black, The Gospel According to Mark, in the NIV College Press Commentary series reject the authenticity of the Long Ending.  This is not a “liberal” vs “conservative” matter at all.  It is a matter of the evidence. 

J. W. McGarvey’s evolving perspective on the ending of Mark is an instructive one to remember.

McGarvey was a sophisticated scholar and understood the significance of textual criticism far more than those who seem to read only his original conclusion to the matter in his 1875 Commentary on Matthew and Mark (or more likely a snippet of a quotation of his Commentary in the Spiritual Sword or other secondary source).  Unlike the debaters, McGarvey never stopped studying and thinking about the issue in light of fresh evidence.  What many do not realize is that much of the evidence known today was unavailable and therefore unknown to McGarvey, especially among the ancient Versions.  But a textual critic, and the informed preacher, will know this and not simply judge the eternal salvation of another on the basis of something that is almost certainly not the word of God.  McGarvey addressed the issue several times in the decades following 1875 and his position moved considerably. See J. W. McGarvey’s Evolving Relationship with Mark 16.9-20.

We will soon learn there are four different endings to the Gospel of Mark and English reader of the NRSV will be able to see these.  One more minor point many of the mss that have the Long Ending have scholia (scribal notes) much like a modern translation.  To the evidence.

Ending of Mark in Codex Sinaiticus

Part One: Patristic Testimony Regarding the “Long Ending” of Mark

One of the surprises we learn when we approach the ending of Mark is that the church has always known there was a “problem” with the text. What that means is the problem was not created nor discovered by modern scholars but has been known and discussed from the beginning of church history.

Eusebius

Eusebius is probably best known to Christians today as the author of a foundational, indeed indispensable, history of the early church. Eusebius also wrote a book entitled “On Problems and Solutions in the Gospels” addressed to Marinus (a bishop of Caesarea).  Marinus was troubled over the apparent contradiction between Matthew 28.1 and Mk 16.9 regarding the eve of the sabbath or the morning of the first day of the week.  Eusebius responds,

The solution is two fold.  For one man, rejecting the passage (to kephalaionauto), the section which makes the statement, will say that it is not current in all the copies of the Gospel according to Mark. That is, the accurate copies determine the end of the narrative according to Mark at the words of the young man . . .  For at this point the end of the Gospel according to Mark is determined in nearly all the copies of the Gospel according to Mark; whereas what follows, being scantily current, in some but not in all, will be superfluous; and especially if it contradicts the testimony of the other evangelists . . . (PG, XXII, 938f).

The above statement by Eusebius is remarkable indeed. The Orthodoxy of the famous historian is not questioned.  But his testimony speaks volumes for it shows: 1) in his day most copies of Mark did not have vv.9-20 and; 2) he states that the “accurate” (in his opinion) copies did not contain the long ending and  3) both he, and bishop Marinus, recognize the ending is “superfluous.” 

In a scholium (a marginal note in an ancient manuscript) bearing the name of Eusebius has been preserved in Manuscript 255.  The scholium means either a rejection of the Long ending or an ignorance of the long ending. Enumerating the appearances of Christ after the Resurrection it states: “according to Mark he is is not said to have appeared to the disciples after the Resurrection” (quoted in Westcott and Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek, Appendix p. 33).  There is other material relating to Eusebius but I need not relate it all.

Jerome

Two generations after Eusebius, Jerome — a man with a love for manuscripts, translator of the Vulgate and possibly the greatest scholar in the ancient church — replied to the same kind of question raised by Marinus but this time by a fair lady named Hedibia from Gaul. He writes,

For either we do not receive Mark’s testimony because it is found in few [copies of the] gospels, nearly all the Greek codices being without this section, especially as it appears to contradict the other evangelists . . .” (Epistle 120 ad Hedibiam)

Here again a statement from one of the greatest scholars in the history of the church regarding the text of Mark.  His testimony is that the passage is found in “few” mss — indeed “nearly all” are without it.  This statement is made 800 to 1000 years before the actual physical date of “the vast majority of manuscripts” that some claim in support of the long ending. 

Hesychius of Jerusalem(died around 450)

Hesychius published a work that in previous centuries was thought to be the work of Gregory of Nyssa but now that has been corrected.  The work is titled “An Oration on the Resurrection.”  He has occasion to comment on the textual issue regarding Mark 16, these are his words,

In the more accurate copies the Gospel according to Mark has its end at “for they were afraid” [i.e v.8]; but in some copies there is added, ‘Now when he was risen early the first day of the week. . .‘ But this appears to contradict to some extent  what had been adduced by us [from Matthew]”

(quoted in Bruce M. Metzger, “The Practice of Textual Criticism Among the Church Fathers” in Studia Patristica, vol 12, p. 345).   A little over 100 years later another commentator, Severus of Antioch (died about 540) made the exact same comment — perhaps quoting Hesychius. 

Victor of Antioch (fifth century)

Not much is known about Victor other than he was a presbyter and a careful commentator on biblical texts.  Victor states that vv. 9-20 are not found in most mss but only in “some.”   (Westcott and Hort have an extended discussion of Victor’s Commentary, pp. 34f). 

Several church fathers who quote virtually the whole Bible, but show no genuine knowledge of Mark 16.9-20 are Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Cyprian and Cyril of Jerusalem.  All of these Fathers had occasion to quote or comment on these verses but they are deafeningly silent on them. 

What conclusions can we draw from the above information? 1) The early church was acutely conscious of a problem with the ending of the Gospel of Mark; 2) The “majority” copies in their (the Father’s) day did not contain the long ending of Mark; 3) not only did these Father’s testify to the lack of attestation in the mss they said it was lacking in “the accurate” or the “better” mss; 4) The Father’s show some reservations about the text because of the perceived contradiction between vv. 9-20 and the other evangelists.

That many later Fathers quoted from the text (especially later) is not questioned.  But they also quoted freely from the Apocrypha — even by those who when asked would say they don’t consider these works to be “canonical.”   There is a problem with the ending of Mark.  The absolute chaos in the mss tradition in Greek and the versions attest to this.  There are no fewer than four separate endings which clearly indicates there was a problem.  The Father’s voice is a significant one — the Long Ending is most likely not original to the Gospel.

Part Two: Greek and Versional Manuscript Evidence

We examined, briefly, the patristic discussion of Mark 16.9-20 which revealed the Fathers were quite aware of a “problem” with these verses.  When we look at the extant Greek manuscript tradition itself we see more of which they spoke.  The English reader of the NIV encounters this statement at the end of Mark 16.8:

[The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.]

Every modern translation, ESV, RSV, NRSV, NIV, TNIV, NIV2011, JB, NLB, etc, will have this text in brackets, in a footnote, or somehow set off from the rest of the text indicating that it is inauthentic.  The ESV, for example, says “[Some of the Earliest Manuscripts Do Not Include 16:9-20]” this is followed by a note that includes textual data on the other endings of Mark. 

But the statement in the NIV is true as far as it goes but it is also misleading to some extent.  The evidence is far more than Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.  What a serious misreading and misinformed reading of the scholia.  However, both the uncials just mentioned do in fact omit the text – and they are early and reliable.    There are actually four different endings preserved in the Greek mss tradition, I will briefly list each one. The endings are

1) Ending at v. 8
2) The Shorter Ending
3) The Freer Logion
4) The Long Ending

Ending at Verse 8

The Gospel of Mark ends at v.8 in a variety of early witnesses.  This is where the text ends in Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, numerous Old Latin mss (notably Bobiensis), and in the Old Syriac Gospels, over 100 Armenian, and the Adysh and Opiza Georgian mss (the oldest surviving Georgian mss), a number of Ethiopic end at v.8. All of these manuscripts lack the traditionally known “Long Ending” as represented in the King James Version. 

Special mention must be made of the Armenian version.  In 1891, F. C. Conybeare did pioneering work on the Armenian version.  The Etchmiadzin mss of the Gospels introduces vv. 9-20 with the words, “Of the presbyter Ariston,” that it attributing authorship of these verses to some one other than Mark.  Of the 220 known Armenian mss only 88 include the text at all. Ninety-nine end the Gospel at v. 8.  The remainder present both the Long and Shorter ending of Mark (cf. Bruce M. Metzger, The Early Versions of the New Testament, pp. 163-164).  This was evidence that J. W. McGarvey never knew about btw. 

Other witnesses that contain the long ending have scribal scholia (that is notes similar to the ones in the NIV and ESV today) that indicate the scribes did not think the verses were authentic.  Scholia have been preserved in the following Greek mss 1, 20,  22, 137, 138, 1110, 1215, 1216,1217, 1221, 1582, etc, etc). 

Codex Regius (L) was discovered and edited in 1846 by Tischendorf.  This manuscript contains both the Long and the “Shorter” ending of Mark separated by ornamental lines after v.8 and the shorter ending.  The scholia says: “There is also current . . .” Then it gives the shorter reading (which I will cover below) and then again: “These are current . . .” A photograph of the ending of Mark in Codex Regius is given in the Aland’s The Text of the New Testament, p. 112.  In many other Greek, and versional mss, this passage is marked with astericks or obeli, the ususal marks by scribes on passages that were questioned.

Codex Bobiensis (k) is an example of
a fourth/fifth century Latin mss with the
Shorter Ending of Mark

The Shorter Ending

The “Shorter” Ending of Mark reads after v.8,

But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.”    

This reading ends Codex k, a fourth century Old Latin mss.  Usually in the mss tradition this ending comes after v.8 and then proceeds (after scholia) on with what we know as vv. 9-20.  It is preserved in this combination in uncial msss L, Psi, 099, 0112, many Armenian mss (see above), most of the Ethiopic mss, the Harclean Syriac, Sahidic and Bohairic mss.  A picture of Minuscule 274 where the ending is written in the margin is in Metzger’s Text of the New Testament, plate XI and a picture of the Old Latin k is in Aland’s Text of the NT, p. 188.

As a side note on the “Shorter Reading” and the so called blank space in Vaticanus (=B).  Some have made much of the blank at the end of Mark in B but they should not get their hopes up to high if they think the blank space would contain the long traditional ending.  It is unusual in B for this space but scholars have calculated the letter sizes used by the scribe and there only enough space for the so called “Shorter Ending” not nearly enough for the Long Ending – this was demonstrated as far back as 1909 by Theodore Zahn (cf. William L. Lane, New International Commentary: The Gospel According to Mark, p. 602). 

The Freer Logion v. 14.

Until 1906 the only knowledge we had of what has become known as the “Freer Logion” came from Jerome. Codex W was published in 1910 and is now in the Freer Art Gallery in Washington D.C.  Jerome testifies that this particular reading was in a large number of Greek mss in his day but it was not known independently until Codex W was published.  At verse 14 in what is the Long Ending we read:

And they excused themselves, saying, This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits.  Therefore reveal thy righteousness now’ – thus they spoke to Christ. And Christ replied to them, ‘The term of years for Satan’s power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near.  And for those who have sinned I was delivered over to death, that they may return to the truth and sin no more; that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness which is in heaven.” 

We have here a variant that was once prevalent but has only been preserved in one mss.  For those who want an in-depth discussion of the Freer Logion see Lane’s The Gospel According to Mark, pp. 606-611.

The Long orTraditional Ending in the Textus Receptus

The Long Ending is attested in most of the medieval manuscripts that make up the Byzantine family. Interestingly enough a large number of these also contain the “Shorter Ending” discussed above. 

The Long Ending (v.19) is quoted by Irenaeus around 180. Some have suggested that Justin Martyr also did but this is disputed.  Irenaeus is the only confirmed quote in the Ante-Nicene period of any of the material in these texts.  Two early Fathers are especially enlightening: Tertullian and Cyril of Jerusalem.  Both did extensive lectures on baptism, they refer to every NT text on baptism except Mark 16.16.

Reflections

It is evident to any thoughtful reader that the ending of Mark is indeed a “problem.”  Had Mark always included the “Long Ending” it would be very difficult to explain how the other endings came about.  But if Mark did end at verse 8 then it is easy to see why, and how, the other readings came about.  I believe the evidence lends itself to the placement of a very large question mark by these verses as unoriginal.

One who originally was quite confident in the authenticity of the Long Ending was, noted above, J.W. McGarvey in his Commentary on Matthew and Mark published in 1875.  McGarvey interacts with British scholar, Henry Alford, a critic of the authenticity of the passage.  McGarvey in the years following learned of more info regarding the question.  Interestingly enough by 1896 McGarvey seems to be agreeing with the very commentary by Alford that he had struggled to disprove.  He wrote in the Christian Standard,

I think the trend of opinion in recent years is in favor of the suggestion first made by Alford – that the fragment was not originally a part of Mark’s Gospel but that it is an authentic piece of history appended by a contemporary writer.  This would account for its absence from some MSS and its presence in others.” (“An Oft Repeated Question,” Christian Standard 32 [1896], 1239).

That is a long way from what his Commentary states in 1875.   Much of the information shared in this note was not known to McGarvey’s in 1896 – and the story is not over yet.

Appendix: Reading on the Matter of the Ending of the Gospel of Mark

Here are some resources on the issue of Mark 16.9-20.  Some of the sources that follow are necessarily more complex due to the nature of the case but Metzger and Aland are not that difficult to get into. 

Basic Introductions

Kurt & Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament (Revised and Enlarged Edition).  This work has the feel of a introductory “handbook” to what textual criticism is and how it works.  It is peppered with charts for the distribution and dates of various manuscripts, photographs of passages that are of interest, and the contents of all the known papyri.  Several points of contact with Mk 16.9-20.

Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration.  This classic is now in its Third Edition with Bart Erhman’s name attached.  This work is laid out differently than the Aland’s.  It has informative chapters on how books were made in the ancient world, a history of the text of the New Testament and how textual criticism works. Like the Aland’s work it has many (but not as many) pictures.   It has specific discussion of Mark 16.9-20.  

D. C. Parker, Codex Sinaiticus: The Story of the World’s Oldest Bible.  Parker gives a wonderful introduction to Aleph.  How it was made.  The scribes that produced it.  The correctors who in centuries following that wrote all over it.  The story of its rediscovery in the West.  Lavishly illustrated.  A valuable book just to get into the world of ancient Bible making.

More Specific Resources

Ernst Cadman Colwell, “Mark 16, 9-20 In the Armenian Version,” Journal of Biblical Literature 56 (1937): 369-386

Fred C. Conybeare, “On the Last Twelve Verses of St. Mark’s Gospel,” Expositor 2 (1895): 401-421

Stanley Helton, “Churches of Christ and Mark 16:9-20,”  Restoration Quarterly 36 (1994): 33-52

P. E. Kahle, “The End of St. Mark’s Gospel. The Witness of the Coptic Versions,” Journal of Theological Studies 2 (1951): 49-57

T. C. Skeat, “The Codex Siaiticus, the Codex Vaticanus, and Constantine,” Journal of Theological Studies 50 (1999): 583-625

John Christopher Thomas, “And the Signs are Following: Mark 16:9-20 – A Journey into Pentecostal Hermeneutics,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 11 (2003): 147-170.  (This is a fascinating article.  Many Pentecostals have held dearly to the Long Ending of Mark as have debaters in Churches of Christ.  Both do so from largely doctrinal reasons rather than textual evidence.  The Pentecostals for verses 17 and following and CofCs for verses 15 and 16.  Sometimes we can see ourselves by seeing our fault in others.

John Christopher Thomas, “A Reconsideration of the Ending of Mark,” Journal of the Evangelical Society 26 (1983): 407-409

Charles Russell Williams, The Appendices to the Gospel of Mark: A Study in Textual Transmission, University of Yale Press, 1915.  This is a comprehensive study of the Endings of Mark as they were known in 1915.  It is very informative. It has considerable information on the state of the question.  This book is available FREE on Google Books. 

Travis Williams, “Bringing Method to Madness: Examining the Style of the Longer Ending of Mark,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 20 (2010): 397-418.

There are, of course, many more resources but I am not attempting to be exhaustive.  These works can give us a healthy respect for the status of the Mark 16.9-20.  It is almost certainly not authentic.  The evidence against it is pretty clear and at the very least so questionable.

You will do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (James 2.8; cf. Galatians 6.2)

Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950)
Father of Black History Month

The Valentine Discovery of Black History

This month is Black History Month. I did not always know what Black History Month was nor have I always appreciated why we need it. While living in New Orleans, in the early 1990s, I first learned about this month. At the cajoling of some African American friends, I read Lerone Bennett’s Before the Mayflower: A History of the Negro in America, 1619-1962 which was truly a perspective on American history that was completely alien to me.

The closest thing I ever recall to an exposure to black history was in my senior English class with Mrs. Dowdy, she made us read Richard Wright’s Native Son, a book I detested at the time because I had absolutely no way to meaningfully receive what was in it. I do not recall us ever discussing the book in class. It would be the late 1990s early 2000’s that I was able to read Wright with any perspective at all.

Grenada, Mississippi was my “baptism of fire” from which I have never been the same. New Orleans had, as I look back opened my eyes to the depth of my naivete but it was Grenada that forever changed me. Some will say for the better and some of my friends and family think I have lost my way. But I think I have come closer to the kingdom of God and its values

When my family moved to Grenada, MS in 1997, I had several books under my belt. We moved from New Orleans to Grenada because it was significantly closer to Harding School of Theology in Memphis (and I had been driving one day a week, every week). It was in Grenada, where I discovered that Black History Month might as well have been communist history month with the local powers that be. The Daughters of the American Revolution presented the Mayor with a declaration, that he signed every year I was there, that declared February to be American History Month. It was an intentional slap in the face. It was in Mississippi that I became quite familiar with the Daughters of the American Revolution and their partners the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Ignorance is not bliss!

I began to incorporate themes from Black History Month into my preaching in during the month of February. Then I was invited to teach at a couple historically black churches and did so for several years. I became President of the Ministerial Alliance and continued to be involved and was recognized by the Belle Flower Missionary Baptist Church for “unselfish dedication and service in observance of Black History Month” in 1999. It was not long after that I was told to pack my bags.

Carter G. Woodson, Father of Black History Month

Black History Month was the creation of black scholar Carter Goodwin Woodson in 1926.

Woodson’s is, itself, an inspiring story of a man overcoming nearly insurmountable odds to accomplish so much for so many. Woodson was born in New Canton, Virginia, December 19, 1875, the son of former slaves, Anne Eliza (Riddle) and James Henry Woodson. His parents were both illiterate and his father, who had helped the Union soldiers during the Civil War, supported the family as a carpenter and farmer. Woodson’s chance for education was slim growing up having to work with the family simply to avoid starvation. Nonetheless, through self-instruction, he was able to master most school subjects.

At the age of seventeen, Woodson followed his brother to Huntington where he hoped to attend the brand new secondary school for blacks, Douglass High School.

However, Woodson, forced to work as a coal miner, was able to devote only minimal time each year to his schooling. In 1895, the twenty-year-old Woodson finally entered Douglass High School full-time, and received his diploma in 1897. From 1897 to 1900, Woodson taught at Winona.

In 1900 he was selected as the principal of Douglass High School. He earned his Bachelor of Literature degree from Berea College in Kentucky in 1903 by taking classes part-time between 1901 and 1903. From 1903 to 1907, Woodson was a school supervisor in the Philippines.

Woodson later attended the University of Chicago where he was awarded an A.B. and A.M. in 1908.  He completed his PhD in history at Harvard in 1912, where he was the second African American, after W. E. B. DuBois, to earn a doctorate. His doctoral dissertation, The Disruption of Virginia, was based on research he did at the Library of Congress while teaching high school in Washington, D.C. After earning the doctoral degree, he continued teaching in public schools, later joining the faculty at Howard University as a professor, and served there as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Why Black History

Carter Woodson was an industrious scholar with a passion for the dignity of his people. He had already started the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 and began and edited a professional journal titled The Journal of Negro History to promote the study of black history. But Woodson needed to do more to get the “message” out, not only to blacks who needed their personhood affirmed but whites who happily denied it.

So Woodson began “Negro History Week” in 1926 and it has become “Black History Month.” February was chosen, by Woodson, because Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. DuBois were born in February and the 15th Amendment was passed in February. In February 1976, Republican President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month. It is surprising how many Republicans these days bemoan Black History Month when it was a Republican who officially recognized. Many times the party of Lincoln is only the party of Lincoln in name only.

White Americans tend to romanticize the 1920s as the “Roaring Twenties.” The age of the Flapper. The age of free spirits. The Golden Age of the Silent Movies. The Great Gatsby.

But that is just the politically correct version of American history of the Twenties. Nineteen-twenty six when Woodson began Black History Month was a violent era.

This was an era of intense racism, not only in the old South but across the United States. The Red Summer of 1919 when riots broke out across three dozen American cities killing hundreds of African Americans, frequently black soldiers who had come home from the War in Europe. It was the age of the Tulsa Riot of 1921 when hundreds of blacks were murdered and Black Wall Street was burned to the ground. It was the day of Rosewood in which an entire town was wiped off the map in Florida. The Ku Klux Klan proudly marched down the streets of Washington DC. Perhaps the “spirit of the age” was captured best by the raging success of the movie “Birth of a Nation” released in 1915 and was screened to the delight of Woodrow Wilson at the White House.

But it was also the age of the Harlem Renaissance. African Americans fought the stifling racism on the street, on the screen, and in the hearts and minds of Americans.

In that mix, Woodson created “Negro History Week” (i.e. Black History Month). If you can deny or erase a person’s history (=story) then you can deny or erase the personhood of the “other.” Black history was not taught, it was not acknowledged, because the personhood of blacks was denied and erased. Black History Month is a recognition of the humanity and dignity of the personhood of blacks in the United States.

When the chips are down, this is why Black History Month matters: It brings me (and us) face to face with the humanity of African Americans. Now as a Christian, and that is how I approach this, this simply means loving my neighbor as myself. I cannot love my neighbor if I do not know my neighbor.

An Act of Love

Black History Month is more than posting a photo of Martin Luther King Jr on Facebook. I want to encourage you to step purposefully, in the name of love, outside your ordinary walk for the purpose of learning and understanding. (See my blog article that makes the case that Black History Month provides a golden opportunity for Christians to obey the Law of Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves: For the Love of Christ Compels Me: Seeking to Understand is Rooted in Love.)

The more we know another person’s story the more we appreciate who that person is. The same is with a group of people. And the whole is richer by recognizing the contribution of the parts … this is simply the application of Paul’s “body” metaphor of the church. A very biblical idea!

For More See:

You Sound Like a Racist, An Autobiographical Moment.

Learning & “Thinking” about “Race” as a Southern White Disciple of the Jewish Messiah.

You shall love your neighbor as your self

Seeking to understand your neighbor is a work of love. We will never seek to understand our neighbor if we do not love them.

Love is Hard Work.
Love is Hard Work.
Love is Hard Work.

Love is hard work, that is why it is the path least chosen. Love is required to make an effort to listen. Listening will never happen apart from the God gift poured into our hearts, the gift of love.

The New York Life Superbowl commercial was surprisingly good and right, Love takes Action.

One of the most frequent exhortations in the Bible is some variation of “having eyes to see and ears to hear.” Have you noticed this. Yahweh said them to Isaiah (6.9ff) and Jesus quoted them (Mt 13.14-16).

Go and say to this people:
‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand
…” (Isaiah 6.9ff)

Hear this, O foolish and senseless people,
who have eyes, but do not see,
who have ears, but do not hear
” (Jeremiah 5.21)

When the Bible speaks of “listen” the text does not mean simply hearing words, rather it means “understanding.” Listen till we get it. This is, of course, difficult. We like to think we have heard. We already “get it.” Thus some have taken umbrage with me (and I at them).

Listening is love. Listening requires work because love takes work. This is true with fathers with daughters; mothers with sons; husbands with wives; and most of all it is true of our enemy and our neighbor. Listening is hard because love is hard.

That brings me to Black History Month.

Black History Month is an exercise in loving my neighbor. Black History Month is an exercise is attempting to listen. It is digging the wax of my experience out of my ears, so that I can hear and putting the right lenses on so I can see. This is completely biblical. But it is hard work. This is why, as a Christian, the love of Christ must compel us.

I was listening to the rock band Disturbed’s rendition of “Sounds of Silence.” Have you ever paid attention to those words? The song was released in September 1965. What in the world was going on when Paul Simon wrote those words. Look at these words,

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said,
‘The words of the prophets are written
on the subway walls
And tenement halls’
And whispered in the sounds of silence
” [end quote]

Just wow!
People do not listen.
They do not listen to each other.
Ears that do not hear.

What a powerful song. What a surprisingly biblical song. It is a modern Psalm.

The Civil Rights movement was in full, and bloody, swing in 1965. The “words of the prophets” are written on the subway walls. Wow. But we do not hear (=listen).

We need to listen to the biblical text till we “get it” (or it gets us). We need to listen to our Black and Hispanic friends (do you have any real ones) till we “get it.”

We need to do the work of love. This is, surprisingly, simply living the greatest comman: Love your neighbor as yourself. And do not tell me how much you love your wife, your husband, your daughter or your black or brown neighbor until you tell me how much you know about them. This is easy for those we want to love (wives, daughters, husbands, sons) but it is hard with others. But sometimes we do not do the work of love, the work of listening, even with our wives, husbands, sons and daughters.

Love takes action. What action will we take to enable us to listen? I want to encourage you to read (I offered a suggested reading list on Feb 1) and watch a few films (I suggested a few on Feb 1 in Black History Month Moment for that day).

Martin Luther King Jr said, from inside a Birmingham City jail,

“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”

Do we have ears to hear?? Do I?? What action of love will we take to gain insight and understanding (ears to hear and eyes to see) for the sake of loving our African American brothers and sisters. Let me recommend, indeed urge, reading one or more of the following books or watching the following films (or do both!). You can simply click on a title and purchase the item from Amazon (I make no money off this) today.

Suggested Books:
Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption ($10 on Amazon!)
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me ($13 on Amazon)
Candacy Taylor, Overground Railroad: The Green Book & Roots of Black Travel in America
Henry Louis Gates, Jr, The Classic Slave Narratives ($7 on Amazon)

Films:
Just Mercy (based on the book above)
Harriet
Selma
Hidden Figures
Malcolm X
Eyes on the Prize (PBS documentary)
African American: Many Rivers to Cross (PBS documentary)

Black History Month is our chance to focus on doing the work of love … Listening, learning, so we have ears to hear … to understand.

M. C. Kurfees (1856-1931)

Sectarianism is a horrid, ugly, sinful, thing. It is in the religious world what partisanship is in the political world. Every act of religious and political terrorism has been carried out with a clean conscience by a religious sectarian or a political partisan (many times these are in the same person).

Sectarianism/partisanism dwarf the soul by whitewashing our own gross shortcomings (and outright sins) while at the same time attributing nothing but lies and evil motives to the other. We hold all the truth but they hold none (even while they seemingly believe and hold many of the same values and beliefs).

One of the historic strengths of the Stone-Campbell Movement has been that we resist the notion that we have the corner labeled “Truth.” This is essential, in fact, for any notion of undenominational Christianity. Restoration is a quest not a destination.

However, this noble commitment to openness, to searching, and seeking has been difficult to maintain. So sectarianism has not infrequently raised its horrid head even in our midst … even as we decry “sectarianism.”

Religious terrorism has resulted from the growth of the acrid festering boil of sectarianism. Everyone is the enemy except ourselves (or “me”).

Everyone is blind and rebellious except for my own, seemingly, “sinless heart” (the very notion is unbelievable) even though “we” embrace some radically false doctrine (i.e. the indwelling and work of the Spirit, we have deniers of the Trinity, we have Preterism that has grown out of our semi-gnostic views of resurrection, racism, etc, etc).

Back in 1922, M. C. Kurfees published an article in the Gospel Advocate in which he recognized that other people were genuine believers and lovers of the Lord and his word and were Christians even though in a “denomination.” Kurfees stated that we “should endorse all the truth taught by the denominations and condemn all the error.” This, of course, is the classic Stone-Campbell position.

Sectarianism had grown to such an extent that some could not even recognize nondenominationalism when confronted with it. Kurfees was soundly rebuked in the pages of the Advocate. The critic told Kurfees “I think we have to condemn the whole business.”

Kurfees did not back down. “What a fearful statement” (my emphasis), he declared. He goes on and writes,

When I was a little boy, a denomination taught me that Jesus died on the cross to save the world; that he was buried; that he arose from the dead; that he ascended to heaven; and that he is the Savior of all who obey him. It taught me that I must obey him to be saved and that water baptism was one of his commandments …”

To condemn the “whole business” would mean condemning such powerful truths. What a fearful thing that only blind sectarianism could do. Instead of condemning we should recognize and celebrate every truth that is held. These, in fact, are the most important of all truths.

Kurfees confesses that while he came to believe that immersion “for the remission of sins,” but he could not, and did not, “condemn the whole business.”

Why? Because what he learned, as a boy, was in fact the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Kurfees, in true Stone-Campbell Movement fashion, did not arrogate all goodness and truth to himself, nor “us.” As my shepherd, Monroe Hawley, once noted, “the focus of our faith is Christ and not ourselves, Jesus not the church.”

The fact of the matter is, the “stuff” Kurfees claimed to have learned is what the apostle Paul calls “the gospel” and of “first importance.” How can anyone but the blind sectarian “condemn the whole business?” I am with Kurfees (though Kurfess and I would likely disagree on a few minor things)

Sectarianism and partisanship, in the end, produce cults. The problem with sectarianism and partisanship is that the circle of accepted people becomes smaller and smaller till, as Alexander Campbell noted, we become a church made up of only our self.

When it comes to sectarianism … I condemn the whole business. But I celebrate all the truth held by all seeking to follow the Lord Jesus. Just as I am also seeking to follow God’s truth.

(On Kurfees see, “Where Are the People of God?, Gospel Advocate [20 January, 1922], 67-68)

Shalom.