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Appendix 2: Terms

Main index Appendix 1: People
Appendix 2: Terms
Appendix 3: Places Appendix 4: Anecdotes


Acrostic AD Adoption Advocate see Paraclete Almighty Angel Animal Anoint Apocalypse Apostle Argument Arm Atonement AV Authorized Version Baptism Believe Bless Blood Body of Christ Bread Cannibal Canon CE see AD Celtic Christianity Choose Christian Christmas Comforter see Paraclete Communion Companion Counsellor see Paraclete Count Covenant Cover Cup Day Death Diabolos see Paraclete Disciple Door Ego Essene Evangelism Evening Evil Exile Faith Faithful Fasting Father Fellowship Fire First Forgive Free Gate Genealogy Gift Glory God Half-tribe Hate Hell Herodian see Essene History Holy Spirit Horns House Hyssop in Christ Immediately Jehovah Joy Judge Judgement Justice Justification Kenosis King James Version Kingdom Lamb Lamp Last see First Law Leader Leprosy Liberal Lights Little Living Word Lord: see God Loss Love Manna see Bread Martyr Measure Meditation Meek Miracle Money Name Nations Nazirite Neck Net Old Pain Parable Paraclete Passover Peace Pharisee Pleasure Poor Post-Modern Praise Prayer Predestination Priest Prophecy Prostitute Publican Purgatory Reconcile Recount Redeem Religion Repent Resurrect Rich Righteous: see Justice Rights Sacrament Sacrifice Sadducees Safety Saint Samaritan Sanctification Satan see Paraclete Save Scribe Scripture Seal Seed Servant Sheep and Shepherd Sin Soil (n) Son of Man Spirit Sword Suffering Tell Temple Theology Time Tribes Trinity Trumpet Truth Type Urim & Thummim Utopia Vineyard Vulgate Was Watches Water Wealth Wine Words Worship YHWH


Some psalms have an acrostic structure, that is, the verses begin with successive letters of the whole alphabet. Psalm 119 has eight verses for each letter, and the KJV identifies each letter. Psalms 9, 10, 34, 37 and 112 use the same idea, but with only one verse for each letter, as does Proverbs 31:10–31. This structure imposes a particular discipline on the composer, implies completeness, and in the original language makes the psalm easier to recite from memory.

AD is an abbreviation for the Latin Anno Domini meaning year of the Lord. Christian theologians nowadays substitute CE which is an abbreviation for Christian Era, to avoid obstacles in sharing insights with Jewish theologians. "The practice of counting the years from the date of Jesus's birth took time to be established. It was devised in 525 by the Scythian monk Dionysius Exiguus, who wished to move away from the secular system then in use, but it did not become widespread until the eighth century." [111]


Galatians 4:4–5 and Ephesians 1:5 speak about our adoption, using a legal term that meant total transfer to a new identity, with a complete change of status. Romans 8:15, Romans 8:23, and Romans 9:4 indicate the procedure—​going to a Magistrate on three occasions to petition, the request being granted on the third visit. This is said to have been a common procedure in the case of childless couples in New Testament times, who preserved their family name and inheritance by adopting one of their slaves as a son. The slave could not contribute to this; it was a simple gift. All debts involving the slave, and the bond of slavery itself, were thereby cancelled. The original status, name and background of the person became irrelevant.

Likewise we can be adopted as God's children, regardless of our status (slave or free) gender (male or female) or background (Jew or gentile)—​Galatians 3:28. We can make no contribution, but have to accept it as God's gift. As a result we should not behave as slaves or servants, who approach only on business, do what has to be done, and retire (cf. an audience with the King, or one who waits on him). We have been given the status of Sons and Daughters who should not retire with the servants but linger with the Royal family, to which we now belong. It seems our Heavenly King is planning a party—​we should be there!

See comments about adoption in Luke 3:23–38.


The word Almighty indicates that God can do anything he wants. Those may seem to be crude words but they carefully avoid saying that he can do anything; it seems likely that God cannot do anything that is clearly contrary to his nature; something inherently illogical, for example. Hierarchical societies of long ago naturally emphasised the idea of God's almighty power over his other qualities[14 p.60].


Angels are created beings; like everything else, they were created by God. Revelation 5:11–12 indicates that there are at least more 100 million (= 10,000 x 10,000) of them. Their prime task is to praise God (Psalm 103:20, Isaiah 6:1–8) but they also minister to those who are being saved (Hebrews 1:14) as shown for example in 1 Kings 19:1–6 and Matthew 4:11. This ministry can be rough (Genesis 19:15–16) when necessary. They can look frightening (Daniel 8) but are not to be worshipped. They have independent wills and though they were created to do God's will (Psalm 103:20) they can rebel and sin, but if they do they are punished (2 Peter 2:4). They are God's servants but do not enjoy our privileges as princess/princesses and friends as described in John 15:15 (1 Peter 1:12).

"The world of Judaism in this period was one in which there was plenty of speculation about angelic powers who were granted some share in the glory of God, and who might be expected to appear on earth in the last days in some way or other. And you can see that Jesus attracted some of the language and imagery that belonged to this world of speculation." [15]

Human beings are lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5) and Jesus became so during his incarnation but he is now far above all created beings (Hebrews 2:7).

Scripture occasionally gives the names of angels:


It is often said that animals cannot go to heaven because they lack souls. That argument seems to be based on Greek ideas rather than Jewish or Christian thinking. Many verses could give hope to those who long for their pets to join them in heaven: Isaiah 11:6–7, Romans 8:19, Romans 14:18–21f, 1 Corinthians 15:44b–49, Colossians 1:15, and 2 Peter 3:13. Also, as F Vere Hodge points out in his book A handbook for the newly ordained, if animals are treasured by God (Psalm 50:10–11), share in the blame for sin (Genesis 6:7, Ezekiel 38:18–19, Jonah 3:7–8) and are to be ministered to (Mark 16:15) then they will also share in the forgiveness awaited in Romans 8:19. In other words, the use of animal sacrifices in the Old Covenant, to which human sin was transferred, cannopt work if the animal has no place in God's scheme for salvation. Or is that animals cannot sin, so are holy, and the animal's holiness is transmitted to worshippers through the sacrifice (see comment on Leviticus 6:25–30)?

AD is an abbreviation for the Latin Anno Domini meaning year of the Lord. Christian theologians nowadays substitute CE which is an abbreviation for Christian Era, to avoid obstacles in sharing insights with Jewish theologians. "The practice of counting the years from the date of Jesus's birth took time to be established. It was devised in 525 by the Scythian monk Dionysius Exiguus, who wished to move away from the secular system then in use, but it did not become widespread until the eighth century." [111]


The principle is illustrated by 1 Samuel 16:13. It is a sacrament where an outward sign is made of what God is doing, or is being invited to do.


"Apocalypse is about vision: it is about offering a different perspective on things, throwing into sharp relief the shortcomings of present arrangements, and beckoning those who can catch a glimpse of this to work for something different." [10]


An apostle is a person who has been sent, cf. a disciple. An apostle's task and their authority for doing it come from the person who sent them. Jesus's twelve famous apostles are identified in Acts 1:13 but there are many others including St Paul (Acts 9:1). Acts 6:1 shows that they found they had to leave certain worthy tasks in order to focus on their calling.


A second point of view is valuable: it gives us binocular vision, so that we can see in three dimensions rather than two. [99]


When used in a poetic way, Arm apparently indicates strength—​see Isaiah 53:1, John 12:38.


The English word Atonement, with its connections with restoration, makes it clear that atonement is a vital part of salvation. Barker[8] suggests that the biblical concept of atonement should be understood in relation to the Jewish "Day of Atonement". However, the biblical references to it (Leviticus 23:27–32 and 25:9) describe the rituals to be observed but not their spiritual operation.

The Hebrew word that is usually translated "atonement" means "covering", which "is needed because of humanity's persistent and incorrigible desire to go their own way (Isa. 53:6). What is needed specifically is for sin to be covered from God's righteous and holy eyes (Hab. 1:13), and the provider of such covering is none other than God ... These summary statements may be said to epitomize the essential teachings of the OT writers, with the exception that in the postexilic period Israel's consciousness of national guilt and failure increased, and there was a tendency to spell out that failure in terms of cultic infraction rather than personal relationship with Israel's God." The concept of covering is consistent with God's truth; our sinfulness is not denied, but it need no longer be a barrier to reconciliation.

Wherever we find a mention of covering in the Old Testament, such as in Psalm 91:4, we should consider whether atonement is implied. On the other hand, John's baptism, which seems to have represented cleansing, relates to a different strand of thought from atonement, such as the provision in the Law of Moses for ritual bathing of a priest before ordination (Exodus 41:12).

By the time Jesus was born "Jewish scholars promised that Atonement could be achieved by four methods: repentance, sacrifice, suffering and death." The first (exemplified by John the Baptist) shows that we are serious about our sin; Jesus supplies the other three.[9]

"The Greek word translated as "ransom" is lutron. It designates the payment made to liberate a prisoner or slave. So, in declaring that he would make his life a ransom for others, Jesus meant that he was placing himself totally at their disposal – in other words, saying "I wil be a slave in your place." [117]

The "Authorised Version"

is more correctly called the King James Version (q.v.) because he commissioned it but, as far as is known, never authorised it.


Peter gives a definition of Christian baptism in 1 Peter 3:21–22, but it has meant different things in other contexts.

From the earliest times water has been associated with both purification and danger of death. Noah and his protégées "passed through the waters" while the others perished to rid the earth of impurity. In 2 Kings 5:12 Naaman does not seem surprised at being told to bathe seven times to be purified of leprosy; he is simply offended at the place chosen by Elisha. John the Baptist called people to repentance which was symbolised by a baptism as a sign of that repentance (Matthew 3:11). These were all one-off events, but the Essene community at Qumran who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls practised ritual washings as part of their regular worship. So when Jesus commissioned his followers to "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19) the idea of symbolic cleaning was well understood. Also the sequence of events in this command ("make disciples...baptising") is used as a basis for arguing that baptism should follow conversion, though I consider the argument weak because the words do not read like a sequence of events, rather the baptism reads like part of the discipling process.

However, there are strong hints of further symbolism in Jesus's actions and words. His statement "I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2–3) implies that he sees a parallel with the Jewish marriage customs. When a girl accepted a man's proposal he would leave her with gifts as a sign of his commitment while he went away to add a room to his father's house to accommodate her with him. She meanwhile would take a ritual bath of purification. So when Jesus says "I go to prepare a place for you" he indicates that he is the bridegroom of those who have accepted his proposal. The gift of the Holy Spirit then becomes the seal of his commitment to us (Ephesians 1:13) and baptism becomes the rite symbolising purification. The metaphor of Jesus as bridegroom was first used by John the Baptist (John 3:29) and dominates the later chapters of Revelation (Revelation 19:7 onwards). John Stott prefers baptism to be done standing waist-deep in water with water poured over the person's head, so that the twin symbols of submersion (which can symbolise both washing and identifying with Christ's death) and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit are both there[16 p.38].

Jesus described his crucifixion as another baptism in Luke 12:50 which may shed further light on his understanding of it. Perhaps his own experience was like that of Cyril of Jerusalem (313–386):

When you went down into the water it was as dark as the night, and you could see nothing; but when you came up out of the water, it was like coming up into the day. That moment was both your death and your birth; that saving water was both your grave and your mother.

Romans chapters 5–6 expand the idea of inheritance hinted at in 1 Peter 1:4. Our natural inheritance is weakness, slavery to sin, and destruction, but in baptism we identify with the death and resurrection of Jesus (Colossians 2:12) through whom we are raised to a new life, whose inheritance is freedom, access to God's power, and eternal life. Death is the solution to our problem of slavery to sin; death ends slavery, and charges arising from wrongdoing are dropped (or at least they become of purely academic interest) when the culprit dies. When we identify with Christ's death we escape sin's clutches and the charges against us are dropped. When we identify with Christ's risen life we inherit, as he did, eternal life and access to the Father's unlimited resources. Death is not the problem (the problem is corruption and decay) but the basis of the solution to the problem; see Psalm 116:15–17 and comments on Genesis 3:22.

Therefore modern Christian baptism is a thing done by humans as a sign to God and his people, and is a suitable ritual of entry into the church which is the community of those have accepted Christ's invitation; he confirms his commitment by giving the Holy Spirit as the seal of our salvation (2 Corinthians 1:22). The Christian's new life should resemble Colossians 3.

Following his baptism Jesus was given affirmation and the Holy Spirit and instructions (see Matthew 3:16–17) and having made a stand for God he became a target for Satan (Matthew 4:1–11). His knowledge of scripture kept him from being taken in by Satan, who used scriptures taken out of context to tempt him away from God's will. So he identified the ministry he had to fulfil and found God's strength to do it. We, being Jesus's followers, should expect to have similar experiences (John 15:20).

In a few places the Bible uses the concept of Baptism to mean something unlike the ritual that it brings to our minds. In 1 Corinthians 10:2 Paul says that the Hebrews were "baptised into Moses" by following the cloud of smoke and passing through the Dead Sea. The concept seems to involve exercising faith and endurance while following a leader and thereby becoming part of the people of God. This may clarify what he means by "baptised into Christ" in Romans 6:3 and Galatians 3:27.

Mark 16:16 implies that baptism is more than symbolism, in fact salvation is incomplete without it—​see Judgement.

See also Matthew 3:14–15, 28:19, John 3:5, Acts 2:38, 8:16, 8:36, Colossians 2:12, Titus 3:5 and 1 Peter 3:21 (based partly on The Study of Liturgy page 62).

See also Judgement about the effect of C S Lewis's ideas on infant baptism.

It is interesting that we associate baptism with giving of a name in the word "Christening". Jesus was commissioned with his unique ministry after his baptism, and we too each have a unique ministry. God seems to respect and value individuality (Genesis 1:11–12, Genesis 3:21, Numbers 1:2, Isaiah 43:1, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 3:5). Space and time may be no more than ways of providing room for there to be many individuals who are equal before God[18]. This idea seems to me to be a theological version of the Pauli Exclusion Principle in Physics.

There is a tradition of wearing white clothes, symbolizing purity, at baptism. This can be compared with Zechariah 3:3–7 and Revelation 7:14 and 19:14.


Faith is different from belief. James 2:19 says "the demons also believe—​and tremble". Belief means assent; but faith adds commitment (Hebrews 11:1,James 2). However, the Epistles use the word belief in innumerable places where the context implies that it includes faith.

The Sermon on the Mount is notable in speaking entirely about actions rather than beliefs; however, Jesus often commented on the role of faith in miraculous healing.


A blessing seems to mean something which makes things better in the short term or the long run. The Bible gives exsamples of both. James 5:12 indicates that trials and tribulations can lead to long-term blessing.


See comments on Matthew 26:28, Waste below, and Appendix 4: Stories: Blood.

Body of Christ

Paul uses this term to mean two concepts: in Romans and 1 Corinthians it "stresses the mutual relationship between the members of the church and their reliance on one another" while in Ephesians and Colossians it "refers to the headship of Christ over the body—​the church" ..."It is a strange collection of people; but it is also a strange product of divine grace, with a supernatural reference and tasks, the strangest and most important of which is worship". [14 p.175]

When believers eat and digest the bread in the communion service it becomes part of the metaphorical body of Christ which is the church, so the communion services unites the two metaphors.


To the Jews, bread and wine symbolise God's provision and blessings. Many Synagogue services today conclude with bread and wine shared among the congregation much like a Christian Agape. So when Jesus provided ample wine at Cana, and when there was bread left over after the feeding of the 5,000, he showed that he is God who provides abundantly. Jesus's miraculous feedings of the crowds reminded the Jews of the way the Hebrews in the desert received food under Moses. See also comment on Body of Christ above, John 6, John 6:12 and John 6:14.

The ritual eating of bread of the communion service is a regular reminder that we are not self-sufficient, but need external sustenance, in our spiritual lives as well as physically.


See Deuteronomy 28:53–57, 2 Kings 6:28–29, Lamentations 4:10, Ezekiel 5:10.


This is a word not used in the bible but of the books included in it. The word comes from a Greek word meaning a measuring stick (cf. 2 Kings 21:13, Revelation 21:15), and indicates a standard for reference (see comment on Matthew 4:3–4). The word is also used to honour clergy who are considered exemplary.

Celtic Christianity

"At the core of Celtic theology was an acute sense that human sin had caused a deterioration in our relationship with nature, and that the witness of a good Christian was to put that right. 'Cursed is the ground because of you,' God declares in Genesis 3, which I. for on, now read as a call to action." [96]


See Post-Modernism below.


"it is always a temptation for Christians to see their faith as an escape from a world that often seems confusing or intolerable. This, though, is not Christianity, which is about living out the life of heaven, as much as possible, in the present world. The incarnation itself is a statement that the world is the place to serve God..." [19]

See also Disciple below.

Christmas (see also Appendix 4: Stories: Christmas)

What images does Christmas convey to you? Mine are mostly based in the past: pushing icy islands around the inside of my bedroom window; the smell of my grandfather's cigars; family warmth; putting up decorations; going with my father to cut off a branch from a fir tree; lots of food and drink; hoping that the presents I had bought would be well received; perhaps, hoping someone had guessed the thing I hardly dared hope for. Perhaps for some the associations are less pleasant: family rows; missing people you love; disappointment.

The holy family experienced a mixture of pleasant and unpleasant things. I pity Joseph; imagine marrying a girl who is obviously pregnant, knowing you are not the father! Then receiving a decree ordering them to Bethlehem, being unable to provide comfortable transport, being overtaken by everybody else on the road, being unable to find a room for his wife, feeling like a spare part when the stable becomes full of helpful women delivering your wife's (but not your) child.

Mary seems to have found it all rather confusing—​having to travel by donkey in late pregnancy, having to stay in a stable, shepherds arriving with fantastic stories, foreign men in fancy clothes, receiving weird gifts (who would give embalming lotion to a baby?)

We interpret the bible stories in the light of our own experiences. We can only imagine properly the bits we can relate to in our memory. We therefore each have bits we can relate to better than others. We should all look for parallels as our Christmas unfolds, full of positive and perhaps negative emotions, each shedding light on what we read in the bible.


When Christ blesses the tangible, edible bread and wine he reminds us of his practical involvement in our world. He uses the broken bread and poured wine to remind us that he shared our pain and brokenness.

At communion we participate in Christ's sacrifice painlessly, by receiving what he is giving us. The broken bits of bread can be taken to represent us, the separate parts of Christ's body. By eating we agree to participate in his ministry, with its suffering, glory, healing, etc. (Paul hints at the dynamics of this in 2 Corinthians 1:5, and Augustine said that when we look closely at Christ's sacrifice we notice that we, being "in Christ", are being sacrificed there too.[20]) The question is, do the bread and wine represent the temporary body that died or the eternal one that lives now yet shows the "glorious scars" (1 Corinthians 15:42–50)? If it is Christ's eternal body that is represented, then certainly the bread and wine are "food unto eternal life"; there is no other way we on earth can eat or drink anything eternal.

The bread and wine represent:

  1. Christ's sacrifice, paying the price we could not pay ourselves; some see it as a door open to Calvary
  2. our souls and bodies redeemed through that sacrifice
  3. strength and joy, to enable us to serve
  4. unity, because we share one cup
  5. flesh and blood, the stuff of strife and battle—​"unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground ..."
  6. food and drink, reminding us that we are not self-sufficient but need continual replenishment (the same message as the metaphor of the vine and the branches in John 15; the branch needs sustenance from the vine)
  7. fulfilment of the Old Testament: In Genesis 14:18–20 Melchizedek gave bread and wine to Abraham when he came to give thanks and a tithe after his victories. The Dead Sea Scrolls show that the Qumran community expected the Messiah to do something similar; "The Messianic Rule looks forward to the time when God will father the Messiah, who will then preside at a meal of bread and wine (1QSa II)." [11 p.5 footnote 8] "Philo also says that Melchizedek brought out wine for Abraham, when he had expected the hospitality gift of water (Allegorical Interpretation III 82). When Jesus gave wine instead of the expected water at Cana, St John described this as the first manifestation of his glory (John 2.11). Jesus had given a Melchizedek 'sign'." [11 p.9]

Our response can vary according to which of these is uppermost in our mind. Recognising Christ's sacrifice should lead us into thanksgiving and praise, and perhaps considering how we might respond to such a gift. Being reminded of our own inadequate sacrifice might lead us to confession, repentance and renewal of commitment. And the connotation of wounds and bleeding reminds us that we are called not to a cosy existence but a spiritual battle. Seeing the bread and wine as spiritual food and drink should remind us that everything we do must be done in God's strength if it is to be effective. C S Lewis said that taking Holy Communion is essential for salvation—​see Judgement.

The key word in the communion service is "given" (Matthew 26:26–27). Jesus went voluntarily to die (Matthew 26:53). Soon afterwards the Holy Spirit was given, providing access to God, symbolised by the tearing of the temple curtain. The result should be that we are given to God, as all real saints are, having been bought with a price. They give of their time, talents and resources to the church, and to fellow-Christians, and to unbelievers. We may think we haven't the strength for such self-giving; of course not! That is why we were given the Spirit, and access to the throne, to request the help we need.

There may also be symbolism in the fact that both bread and wine arise only through the action of yeast, a living thing, working after the death of wheat and grapes. The yeast "indwells" and converts what was boring and likely to rot into something new and life-giving.

Fr Thomas Seville CR has said that in the Eucharist, our time-bound existence is challenged by God's timelessness, as the two come near. God is outside time. Jesus's sacrifice is always present to him.

"As St Augustine tells his flock, their mission flows from what Jesus Christ has given them sacramentally. 'You are to be taken; you are to be blessed, broken, and given;that you may be the means of grace and the vehicles of the eternal love. Become what you receive.' " [104]


The word "companion" originally meant someone you shared bread with. It is therefore particularly appropriate in a eucharistic context.

Count—​see Tell


The Old Testament describes a relationship between God and the people. These parties are likely to have different objectives. It is possible that one party regards the covenants as central and the other not. The Old Testament covenants are always initiated by God and recorded by the people, so the opinion of the people determines the central themes of the Old Testament.

The Bible describes the relationship as a Covenant. A covenant is not the same as a contract, though the concepts are related. A contract stipulates the maximum benefits that each party can demand of the other; a covenant records what a party undertakes to give to another.[12] Humans are unable to enter into a contract with God in the strict legal sense, because humans cannot give anything to God, because everything is his already (1 Chronicles 29:14).

Moses and the people entered into a covenant relationship with God at Sinai, developed later as recorded in Deuteronomy 29, but the Exile was seen as indicating its final collapse, following partial collapse after the death of Joshua (Judges 2:20–21). 2 Kings 23 indicates uncertainty about whether such a covenant once broken can be renewed. (In retrospect, answering this question needed better understanding of the character of God.) The reference to a covenant in the Song of Zechariah (Luke 1:22–23) relates to one of the covenants with Abraham, which is odd in view of the references in the rest of the Song to "his people". We might view the key Old Testament covenant concerning God's people as the one made at Sinai (Exodus 19:5–6) and confirmed under Joshua (Joshua 24:15), yet Zechariah looked further into antiquity. So it seems that covenants moved into focus and out of focus again as time passed, or perhaps became amalgamated in peoples' understanding of their overall relationship with God, yet the Old Testament continued to grow regardless as one event succeeded another.

Ecclesiasticus 5:4–7 indicates that a sequence of developing thoughts (based perhaps on Ezekiel 33:12–16) has occurred:

  1. God has covenanted to bless obedience and punish sin
  2. God has seen that people still sin yet he is inclined to be merciful
  3. God has covenanted to forgive sinners
  4. but God still hates sin and will not forgive forever where there is no repentance.

This analysis arose in the context of discussion of the way the terms of some of the covenants imply a degree of forgiveness that might be used as an excuse for sin, but it was recognised that God seeks a holy people, so he cannot be expected to forgive those who have no intention of doing better next time. Repentance is the key to a close relationship with God (Ecclesiasticus 5:7). Thus the events of history have shown people God's nature through the successes and failures of the covenants.

To what extent did the covenants meet the people's objectives? The people's objectives are usefully summed up in the dialogue between God and Solomon when he became king and asked for wisdom, and God promised him the other things people desire too. Solomon prayed about his objectives, and God agreed but gave other things as well, including a covenant. However, covenants that promise blessings and protection contribute to people's primary objectives, to the extent that the people should have a vested interest in recording and keeping the covenants. This may have influenced the authors and editors of the Old Testament in such a way that covenants with God have been emphasised over other aspects of the relationship that seemed less relevant to their agenda or were harder to understand. Indeed, the sections of the Old Testament where covenants are mentioned frequently give the impression that those who were motivated to record the covenants were angry at the failure of others to keep them.

The Old Testament was recorded and edited by the people, so their objectives will colour its content. It is possible to consider the extent to which the covenants are essential to God's objectives. The burning bush incident (Exodus 3:1–6) suggests that God's prime objective is to be to relate to people, and this obliges him to reveal his presence and disturb our comfortable routines. God continued to make many more covenants with people in the years that followed, yet in Jeremiah 31:31 God promised a new covenant, implying that from his point of view the older ones had not met his objectives. If covenants can fail to meet God's objectives then he does not see them as fundamental, but a method of achieving some underlying purpose.

Comparison of the preceding paragraphs shows an interesting insight: the covenants bridge the gap between the different objectives of God and the people. On reflection this is a natural function for a covenant; for example a covenant for the private sale of a house is a device for reconciling the different objectives and needs of the parties. Without a covenant neither party has confidence in reaching their objectives. The Old Testament covenants seem to be intended to bridge the gulf arising from God's holiness and people's sinfulness. Thus for both God and his people the covenants are not a primary objective, but a device for overcoming a common obstacle to achieving their separate objectives.

The covenants performed a useful secondary role by revealing some aspects of God's nature, particularly his power, generous care and faithfulness, and confirming our sinfulness. Thus the covenants should be seen as steps along the way, but not as the journey itself nor its objective. Therefore:

  1. the central theme of the Old Testament is revelation of God's nature;
  2. God is powerful, caring, true and unchanging, making God's people secure;
  3. no created thing is as dependable as God, making revelation difficult;
  4. a way to explain such dependability is to use legal metaphors such as covenants;
  5. therefore covenants are a useful device for revealing God's nature.

See also faithful and comments on Matthew 20:1f.


God has consistently covered human imperfections, especially sin, from Genesis 3:21 to Revelation 19:8.


The Bible frequently uses the word "cup" in a special way, analagous to the English phrase "poisoned chalice". Imagine being presented with a chalice containing wine that you know to be poisoned, and being told that it is your duty to drink it. Would you dare do so?

Examples can be seen in Matthew 26:39 and Revelation 14:10. The use of the word Cup to indicate suffering derives from the Old Testament. In Isaiah 51:17 it is the outpouring of God's wrath at human sin.

It is said that Lady Astor once said to Winston Churchill "Winston, if you were my husband, I'd poison your coffee." Winston replied, "Madam, if you were my wife, I'd drink it."


There are many instances in both the Old and New Testaments where the word "day" is used in the sense of an unspecified great day, as opposed to an ordinary one. This might be indicated by the use of a phrase like "the day" as opposed to "a day". These are references to "the day of the Lord", and the flavour is given by Joel 1:15 and Joel 2:1–2.

St Paul adapted this phrase to "The day of our Lord Jesus Christ" in 1 Corinthians 1:8.


Hebrews 12:11 says that the Lord's discipline is for our good, so the introduction of death by God in Genesis 2:17 is not the problem but part of the solution. Genesis 3:22 suggests that the damage done by our sin is minimised by our mortality; the consequence of sin is destruction. But also the death of Christ on the cross makes death the means of our escape from the grip of Satan (Psalm 116:16, Romans 5–6, Hebrews 9:14–18) as celebrated in Christian baptism. Perhaps we should say not that Jesus conquered death, rather he redeemed it. See Numbers 21:7. There is also another factor hinted at in John 12:24.

Our deaths are in a sense like the last battle described in Revelation; we do not know the details but the outcome is secure.

See also Rich.


"A disciple is someone who follows while an apostle is someone who is sent. We should make apostles not disciples" said Rt. Revd Frank Sargeant; but he was wrong. A disciple of Jesus isn't someone who learns about a historical figure, nor someone who learns from the historical figure's teaching. Jesus's disciples walked with him and learned to be like him. Their discipleship included being sent out without him (first the twelve, then the seventy), to do the things they had seen him do.

Door (or Gate)

On some occasions (e.g. Luke 13:24) Jesus spoke of a door and on others (e.g. Matthew 7:13) a gate. There are differences between the two: firstly you cannot see what is the other side of a door, so you have to infer what is there and enter by faith rather than by sight, and secondly a door into a house is more likely to be kept locked than a gate into a field, and in Luke 13:24–25 the door is definitely found locked. Perhaps translators have not been careful to preserve this nuance—​compare translations of John 10:7. Jesus promised that if we knock, the door will be opened (Matthew 7:8, Luke 11:9) so it is the Father's will that the door should open, and we are the ones who are effectively keeping it shut. This is consistent with "I stand at the door and knock" in Revelation 3:20. However we must not push this analogy too far, because Jesus is the one who opens an no-one shuts (Isaiah 22:22, Revelation 3:7–8).

When God shows us an open door (Isaiah 22:22, Acts 12:10, 1 Corinthians 16:9, 2 Corinthians 2:12, Colossians 4:3, Revelation 3:8, Revelation 4:1, Revelation 21:25) it is for going through; otherwise there is no reason for him to show it.

Ego = Edging God Out[21]


The idea that the Essenes were isolationist was a myth invented by Pliny; Josephus and others say that the Essenes were "a sect found throughout Judaea, 4000 strong, and so highly respected for their standards of purity and law-observance that they had separate sacrificial space in the Temple itself and an autonomous court-system; there was even an 'Essene Gate' into the Temple area.

"The Essenes had been at enmity with the Hasmoneans, but were favoured by Herod the Great, who took power in 37 BC; far from living in self-imposed isolation, they should be recognised as the Herodians of Mark's Gospel. The Dead Sea was...a source of livelihood: its bitumen was harvested when it rose to the surface in vast globules. The shores were well known, too—​in an acknowledged paradox—​for their fertility: for date-palms, for medicinal rue and mandrake, and, above all, for the salve opobalsam, grown in just two royal plantations and highly valued.

"This medicinal emphasis mattered for the Essenes. Solomon, revered in their scrolls, was famous for his healing skills. Ill-health could be an impurity incompatible with membership of Israel, or attendance at the Temple. Blindness, in particular, led to exclusion; the Essenes had good reason to cultivate and value medicines for sight. (Jesus in his turn had particular reason to heal the blind, and so to reintegrate them into the community.) It is no surprise, then, that, along the Dead Sea's western shore and its ancient road, Herod built or reinforced a series of fortresses from Jericho to En Gedi, and on down to Masada. At Qumran, his Essene protégées could live in purity, cultivate cures, and look over the lake that would, in the prophecy of Ezekiel which they knew well, eventually be made fresh by a river of sweet water that would flow eastwards from the restored Temple (Ezekiel 47.1–12).

"What, then, was the link between the settlement and the caves; between the Essenes and the scrolls? The scrolls' jars were made at the settlement. Their linen wrappers were impregnated with bitumen. (Bitumen is made usable by heating with oil or animal fat. At Qumran, animals were eaten boiIed rather than roasted; boiling releases the fat.) The caves were a burial-place for texts that had been prepared for reverent interment and for preservation. lt is no coincidence that bitumen was used as a preservative in burial shrouds.

"We may envision Qumran as the repository, used over decades, for texts that needed such preservation, brought there from the Essenes' chapters throughout Judaea. So the Qumranites were doing as Moses had commended Joshua to do: 'Protect the books that I hand over to you, and embalm them with cedar oil, and place them in earthenware jars in the place which he made from the beginning of creation; the Lord will look at them in the fulfilment of the End of Days' (Testament of Moses 1.16–8)." [22]

An alternative view is given by Joan E. Taylor[23].

[p109] The absence of reference to Essenes in the Gospels implies that they were irrelevant, isolated and not powerful. ([p110] By contrast the Pharisees are presented as teachers who enjoy popular respect, [113] and the Sadducees as a Jerusalem-based group associated with the Temple and those in power.) This is at odds with contemporary sources such as Philo or Josephus, who describe the Essenes as widespread, respected for purity, and allowed to hold their own courts, and to sacrifice in a special area of the Temple with its own Essene Gate.

[115] "Purity in Judaism is not envisaged as a permanent condition, and indeed it was impossible for anyone to maintain purity in all situations throughout one's whole life; the issue for the Essenes was that purification was necessary not just for the Temple, but for common meals."

[114] Mark 14:53 presents not a formal trial but a private consultation prior to seeking a decision from Pilate. Luke presents it as a trial in daytime, but it was still illegal because it took place during a festival. The Essenes would not have been present because their court system was separate.

[116] It is possible that the Essenes are present in the Gospels but not by that name. The Herodians are a mysterious group, and are commonly seen today as the supporters of Herod Antipas, but Constantin Daniel suggested in 1966 that they were the Essenes, who were endorsed by Herod the Great; perhaps Herodian was slang for Essene.

The Herodians appear mostly in Mark. [117] Papias wrote in Eusebius that Mark was Peter's translator [implying that Peter's Greek was poor] and wrote down everything that Peter remembered, though not in chronological order of occurrence. This tradition has been defended by recent scholars, and shows Mark's Gospel as a very early source, and thus the earliest Gospel. This Mark seems to be a Roman, [118] not John Mark of the Gospels, because some of the Greek words are constructed in the Latin style, one of which is "Herodian".

[118] In Mark 1:21–22 scribes are mentioned; [119] in 2:16 they are "the scribes of the Pharisees" and in 2:18–19 simply Pharisees. "The loose terminology seems to group anyone who studies or teaches under the Pharisees with the Pharisees proper." In Mark 3:1–6 the scribes and the Herodians cooperate to destroy Jesus, suggesting that the Herodians shared the Pharisees' disapproval of Jesus's freedom with the Sabbath laws, and have some power. The Pharisees went out of the synagogue to meet the Herodians, so they were elsewhere.

In Mark 3:19 [sic, v 22 actually] scribes from Jerusalem arrive, implying escalation of the issue. In 6:14 the escalation reaches Herod Antipas. [121] Scribes seems to be a loose term that "can be attached to any legal authority". There are occasions when Jesus praises a scribe (Mark 12:28f) but not in 9:11.

[123] Josephus says there were three legal authorities in 1st century Judaism: Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. Mark has Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians.

[124] The association between the Essenes and Herod arises from a prophecy by "the Essene Master Menahem" that Genesis 49:10 meant that the Messiah would not come until a gentile King ruled the Jews. Herod the Great was a gentile, the son of a captive who became a temple servant. [125] Thus the Essenes saw Herod's rule as legitimate when many did not. ([126] There was an idea that Herod was himself the messiah, due to confusion between the anointing of a king and the anointed one.) [128] It is hardly surprising that Herod honoured them in return. [129] the Essenes were powerful not due to popular support but Herodian patronage, so the nick-name Herodian is apt. [130] It may be that Mark invented the actual term, and the other Gospel writers were reluctant to adopt it, because its meaning was insufficiently clear to them and their intended readers.


Archbishop William Temple said "The evangelisation of England cannot be done by the clergy alone; it can only be done to a very small extent by the clergy at all. There can be no widespread evangelisation of England unless the work is undertaken by the lay people of the church. The main duty of the clergy must be to train the lay members of their congregations in their work of witness." [24]

Graham Tomlinson asked what might attract modern people to Christianity; most regard it as irrelevant to their consumerism. He suggested that the gymnasium culture might indicate an answer: Christianity offers personal development in virtue, fitness of the soul. Our churches should help people develop the "fruits of the spirit", by means of God's grace, tuition, and example seen in community.[25] [We offer fitness for heaven.]

"Jesus is present in all things, and in all places, and in every situation. The task of the evangelist is to draw him out and demonstrate him to be already present, so that people can find conscious relationship with the one who made them and longs to draw them home – and that can only be achieved by deep listening and profound understanding of people's lives." [98]

Over time "you realise that you are not there to say something to them. You are there to share something with them." [6]

However, "people are willing to join a moment but not a movement" [102].


Evening was, in Jewish culture, the start of a new day. Consequently the word is often used in scripture to usher in a new topic.


The New Testament is clear that evil comes from Satan as opposed to goodness coming from God; God's holiness destroys evil. James 1:13 goes further, saying that God does not tempt anyone to be evil. The Old Testament uses these words more loosely, or attributes bad things to God as in 1 Samuel 16:15–23. Psalm 78:49 refers to "evil angels" which appear to be good angels sent by God to be destructive[127], like those in Revelation 7:2. 2 Samuel 24:16 also uses the word "evil" to mean destruction.


Exile meant far more to an early Hebrew than we might think. Firstly, since they had been given the land as their home by a convenant from God (chiefly in Genesis 15:7f), exile indicated the end of that covenant. To a people whose religion was based on covenants, that was catastrophic. Secondly, and probably even more significantly, the early theology that visualised God as part of a council of national gods (see Psalms Theology, Psalm 24, Psalm 104) meant that their relationship with God would end when they left the promised land.

1 Peter 1:17 uses exile as a metaphor for the Church Militant on earth, as we wait to go to inheritance in heaven.


Faith is different from belief. James 2:19 says "the demons also believe—​and tremble". Belief means assent; but faith adds commitment (Hebrews 11:1,James 2). We believe because we perceive that God is all-powerful yet loves the universe in general and us as individuals in particular.

Faith and belief operate separately from understanding; see comment on John 20:8.

In this context faith means trust. Lots of people believe in God, but few trust him.[18] Faith is a gift (1 Corinthians 12:9) which comes though hearing the Gospel (Romans 10:17). Faith in Hebrews is about "stickability" and "stiff upper lip", like going to the dentist; quite different from Paul's idea of relationship or the Pastoral Epistles' idea of the Faith as a body of Doctrine and Moral Discipline. See also Luke 17:5–6.

"faith ceases to be a noun only and needs to become a verb. An interesting story comes to mind on this subject. In 1859 Jean-Francois Gravelet, better known as 'Blondin', crossed the gorge below the Niagara Falls by tightrope. He performed the feat on several later occasions, often adding new elements of difficulty. History records that, on one occasion, Blondin asked the crowd if they believed he could cross the tightrope while pushing a wheelbarrow. Having already seen him cross the wire with apparent ease and having heard about his amazing stunts, they responded with unanimous support, 'Yes, you can do it!' Blonclin was ready to attempt this amazing feat, but before he set out on the rope, he had one last question for the crowd: 'Which of you will ride in the wheelbarrow?' The crowd fell silent. Their faith in him was apparently resolute...but only in theory!" [27]

"There is much misunderstanding about Faith. It is commonly supposed to be a leap in the dark, totally incompatible with reason. This is not so. True faith is never unreasonable, because its object is always trustworthy...Jesus Christ is absolutely trustworthy." [28]

People who contrast faith with "facts" probably have an undue confidence in those facts. What is taught as fact in the classroom is described as theory in the research lab. "We are faced with all kinds of questions to which we would like unequivocal answers...There is huge pressure on science to provide concrete answers...But the temptation to frame...debates in terms of certainty is fraught with danger...We need to make an accommodation with uncertainty. Not only is the universe uncertain, but so too is human knowledgeScience as a process should never have fostered any illusions about this: it was always about provisional truths—​and knew it... Certainty is totalitarian. It forecloses further thinking...Serious thinkers are not afraid of uncertainty...The profound discoveries of modern mathematics and science show that life and thinking flourish only in the liminal and fertile land that lies between too much certainty and too much doubt." [29]

The language Sanscrit provokes thoughts on certainty and uncertainty: the Sanscrit word for uncertainty means freedom, and the word for certainty means imprisonment.[107]

In Genesis 15:6 we read that Abraham believed God, and God credited it to him as righteousness. I take that to mean that God counted Abraham righteous because of his faith. In one sense that is an extraordinary thing for God to do; there is a world of difference between faith and righteousness. However, in another sense God is acting quite logically. There is no way that a corrupt human, using his or her corrupt will, can make themselves pure. Agreeing that we are impure and in need of change is the best we are equipped to do.

Faith is a dynamic rather than a static thing; "faith always moves from belief to new belief" [14 p.75]; "you cannot judge a faith solely by its founding scriptures; for much changes over time."[121] Whenever God does something new (Isaiah 43:19), our faith has to move with him, if we are to avoid becoming a museum piece. "If faith is really trust dependent on the good will of the creator, it's something that will affect my life. I can't believe that Jesus was the son of God and was raised from the dead without it affecting my life. It isn't just a question of ticking the boxes: it is a question of how you orient your whole existence."[7]

" many people regard this gift as offered only to the fortunate few. 'If only I had your faith' they say wistfully...What these hankerers after faith are seeking is not faith—​freely given—​but the feeling of faith, the conviction of faith, which is something quite other...If we could prove our religion, then we would not need faith. It is not contrary to reason, but, as the Fathers of the Church have always said, faith comes first; understanding follows...We believe by an act of the naked will." [30] This is borne out by John 11:38f.

"People have said to themselves: "The Lord will do nothing, neither good nor bad." It is a kind of atheism. A god who does not do anything is effectively not there. It is the atheism of most of our contemporaries, even if they tell the pollsters that they believe in God." [31]

The opposite of faith is despair. Winston Churchill once said "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."


Faithfulness or Fidelity is a secondary characteristic of God. Timelessness, love and holiness are among his primary characteristics. His love for what he has made flow from them, and being timeless he cannot love one week and hate the next. Consequently we too are called to be faithful, as the natural outworking of our own weak love and holiness, and our destiny in eternity.


Fasting brings us face to face with our weakness, and may help us reconsider our priorities. Scriptures: Joel 1:14, 2:12–13; Esther 4:13–16; Jonah 3:5–10; Ezra 8:21–22; Isaiah 58; Nehemiah 1:4–11; Daniel 10:1–14; Acts 13:1–3; Acts 14:19–23.

Three Types of fasting:

  1. Normal—​abstention from all food or drink except water
  2. Partial or Daniel Fast—​abstention from tasty food or drink (no meat, wine or delicacies).
  3. Absolute Fast—​no food, drink or water

A book that has been recommended to me is: Mahesh Chavda: The hidden Power of Prayer and Fasting.


Regarding God as a heavenly father has ancient precedents (see comment on Matthew 6:9) and fits with Jesus's teaching about us being child-like in Matthew 18:3f but Jesus's use of the childish word "Abba" does not.

The use of the word Father as an honorary title for clergy follows Old Testament precedents such as Elisha's exclamation in 2 Kings 2:12.


One should be careful with the word fellowship. It tends to be used today to mean a group of people who worship together, but in the New Testament (Greek Koinonia) it means doing things together, like "participation".[32]


See comment on Numbers 9:15.


Jesus said the first shall be last and the last shall be first, more than once (Matthew 19:30 = Mark 10:31, Matthew 20:1–16, Luke 13:30). This idea is connected to the Lord Jesus washing the disciples' feet (John 13) by the principle in Mark 9:35.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son features a father with two sons, a situation which occurred many times in the Old Testament: Adam, Cain and Abel; Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac; Isaac, Esau and Jacob (see Genesis 25:22–28); Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, and so on. "In all cases, the narrative favours the younger son, and in all cases, the older brother was treated unfairly, whether by God or his parents [I disagree in the case of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, and see comment on Esau and Jacob in Genesis 27:30–40]. In Jesus's parable, the father fails the older brother; he had enough time to arrange music and dancing, and invite the neighbours to celebrate the prodigal's return, but he forgot to invite the older brother."[109]

Another example is Solomon, David's youngest son, taking David's throne in Jerusalem, despite the older sons Absolom and Adonijah having proclaimed themselves king (see the sequences in the comments on 2 Samuel 2:27 and the introduction to 1 Kings).

The idea is connected with Luke 14:11: it is better to abase oneself and be exalted, than to exalt oneself and be abased. And that is why we should not refuse those who ask (Matthew 5:42). God will put all injustices right, so what we give to the poor will gain us treasure in heaven (Matthew 19:21). Luke 6:24 shows the other side of the coin.

"nobodies become somebodies" — BRF prayer diary w/c 11 September 2022.

Balaam's Ass (Numbers 22:5f) presents another angle on this principle. Balak, King of Moab, looked to Balaam the famous prophet to use supernatural power to restrain the Israelites, but subsequent events showed Balaam that his ass had better awareness of the spiritual world than him.


Forgiveness and reconciliation are separate processes, and amnesty[134] is different again. Forgiveness is the release of negative feelings on the part of the injured party, while reconciliation enables the parties to engage socially[95]. I see a urther stage: restoration, when the situation that enabled injury to occur can be allowed to happen again. Full restoration may never be wise, for example a person who is prone to petty theft should not be tasked with counting cash receipts.


"For this is what our glorious liberty (Romans 8:21) consists in: the power to say "yes", or "no", to God. [119] See also Romans 8:1, Galatians 3:28.


See Door.


The genealogies in the Bible may seem boring apart frm a few famous individuals, but the other names remind us that ordinary unremarkable people can play significant parts in God's plan, usualy unawares. The genealogies also root the Bible stories in history, despite the fact that some are reckoned to be incomplete.


There are three groups or "streams" of gifts from God to his people: a group given at our conversion (which he identifies on p19 as Romans 12:6–8[33 p.19]); a group that we must seek (1 Corinthians 12:6–11) and a group that we become (Ephesians 4:11–16, 1 Corinthians 12:28).[33 p.28] God said to Catherine of Siena "I could well have made human beings in such as way that they each had everything, but I preferred to give different gifts to different people, so that they would all need each other".[34]

We are to respond by offering gifts to God (Deuteronomy 16:17 for example). 1 Chronicles 29:14 reminds us that we are giving to God what is already his.


The Old Testament word glory is related to the term for the more glorious members of their community, so it has connotations of wealth and status in the community, and its direct translation would speak of weight. The English word "substance", as in "a man of substance" is a good translation. "Nature never taught me that there exists a God of Glory and of infinite majesty. I had to learn that in other ways. But nature gave the word glory a meaning for me. I still do not know where else I could have found one." [35]

See also Trinity.


"We can be sure of God, yet tentative about our theology. Let us frankly acknowledge theological uncertainties." [36]

"God can be found wherever we let him in." [37]

"God is not a potentate ordering this or that to happen, but that the world is full of chance and accident and God has let it be so because that is the only sort of world in which freedom, development responsibility and love could come into being." [126]

We may smile at the descriptions in the Bible of people making idols to worship, but we make a more subtle error: imagining that God is the god we want him to be. Then when he doesn't do what we expected we complain and feel let down. Anglican doctrine urges us to stand our ideas about God on three legs: the Bible, tradition, and reason.

Capitalisation: "'when "LORD" in all caps or small caps occurs in the Old Testament, it is a replacement for an occurrence of God’s Hebrew name "YHWH," also known as the Tetragrammaton. This is fairly consistent throughout all the different English translations of the Bible. When "Lord" occurs in the Old Testament, referring to God, it is usually a rendering of "Adonai," a name/title of God that emphasizes His lordship. LORD/YHWH and Lord/Adonai are by far the two most consistent renderings throughout all the different English Bible translations.'[105]

In the Old Testament, when "God" is used, it is usually a rendering of the general Hebrew word for God, "Elohim." When "LORD GOD" or "Lord GOD" occurs, it is usually a rendering of a dual name for God "Adonai YHWH." The Hebrew term "YHWH Sabaoth" is usually rendered "Lord of Hosts." The Hebrew term "YHWH Shaddai" is usually rendered "LORD Almighty." '[105]


G[od] U [and] I DANCE [101]


The twelve tribal leaders listed in Genesis 49 are Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, and Benjamin. But Reuben committed an indiscretion (Genesis 35:2) so he was cursed (Genesis 49:4) and disinherited (1 Chronicles 5:1). His inheritance was divided between the two sons of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, whose families were described as "half-tribes" (Joshua 14:2–4). Neither Rueben nor Joseph was listed among the twelve tribes thereafter, Joseph's two sons taking their places, so that the number of named tribes remained twelve. The Promised Land was divided accordingly. However, the original list reappears in Revelation 7:5–8.


Where "loving" is contrasted with "hating" it is likely that the original Aramaic or Hebrew word meant "love less"[125 p.219] so the text is about priorities.


Jesus often used flames to describe hell (e.g. Luke 16:24). It is not clear whether he used the beliefs of his hearers as a starting point, or he was affirming them. The idea is an ancient one, evident in Isaiah 33:12–14 for example. Other Old Testament passages likened it to being devoured by worms (e.g. Isaiah 66:24; see comment there), silence (e.g. Psalm 115:17) or oblivion.

See also Matthew 7:13, Matthew 19:13–15, Ephesians 1:11, Revelation 20:1–3, and Revelation 20:4–10.


"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" [38].

"We cannot change the past, but we are responsible for how we remember it" [39].

Holy Spirit

Scripture in both Hebrew and Greek speaks of the Holy Spirit using the word for Wind. This is appropriate because we do not see the Holy Spirit, but know he is there by what he does. Hildegard of Bingen said a Christian should be a feather on the breath of God. "The Holy Spirit is not discovered in isolation but always somewhere in the interstices of human life" [14 p.79]. See Baptism above for the significance of the Holy Spirit as a sign of salvation.

The Western ("Latin") form of the Nicene Creed says that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son". The phrase "and the Son" is known from the Latin version as the filioque clause, which has always been contentious. John Stott[16 p.87] comments that this statement "lacks clear Biblical support"! But "From the point of view of the Latins, the filioque clause can be grounded in scripture by the texts of both John 16:13–15 and Romans 8:9 and in Philippians 1:19. It can be argued that it lies behind the sending of the Holy Spirit by Jesus in the Johannine texts of John 14:16, John 15:26 and 16:7." [128]

See comments on Galatians 5:22–23 for discussion of the Fruit and the Gifts of the Spirit, John 15:26 concerning his role as "Advocate", and Hebrews 4:12 concerning teaching God's people.


Horns seem to symbolise the horns of a prize ram or bull, showing power and success of the individual, as in Deuteronomy 33:17, 1 Samuel 2:1, Jeremiah 48:25, Daniel 7:8f, Luke 1:69, or boastfulness, as in Psalm 75:4–5. This is explained in Revelation 17:9f.

In Daniel 7:24 horns represent kings.


House is used metaphorically to mean a temple or a dynasty; see 2 Samuel 7:11.


Hyssop in the Old Testament is the traditional translation of a Hebrew plant name esov, but Hyssopus officinalis does not grow in the Holy Land. The plant was probably Syrian Oregano Origanum syriacum syn. O. maru. In the New Testament, the plant used to offer vinegar to Jesus on the cross must have had long stiff branches, and a Caper Capparis spinosa has been suggested.[84]


The word immediately seems to be used in the Apocrypha to imply something happening more quickly than natural causes or human influence can achieve, pointing to the action of God; see 2 Esdras 6:43–44, the additions to Daniel in Bel and the Dragon 1:39, and Ecclesiasticus 48:20. It seems likely therefore that its use in the New Testament has similar connotations, such as in Mark 1:12 and Revelation 4:2.

The word "suddenly", such as in 1 Kings 19:5 NRSV, similarly indicates an occurrence that caught people by surprise.

In Christ

The phrase "in Christ" is used frequently in the Epistles, where its meaning is related to the idea of "seed" in the Old Testament. Both speak of a godly inheritance. Hebrews 7:9 speaks of the Jews as having all come through the Exodus with Moses, because people then believed that in a man's body were the seeds of all his unborn children for all generations, so in a sense they were indeed there in the wilderness. The Jews of subsequent generations inherited the benefits of the Exodus as surely as if they had made the journey personally. They all needed that salvation, because looking back further they were all "in Adam" at the Fall (1 Corinthians 15:22). The New Testament term "in Christ" makes a similar claim for Christian salvation, except that the inheritance does not depend on biological inheritance but our adoption through faith as sons and daughters of God.


Jehovah is not a Biblical word at all; it arose from misunderstanding due to the lamentable state of learning in the medieval church, and the lack of liaison with the Jews. The earliest scholars who made translations of the Bible into English used the new Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible. The Masoretic text was the first to have vowels added between the consonants. The Jews regarded the name of God as too holy to pronounce; it was traditional in the Synagogue to read YHWH as "Adonai" (Lord) when reading from the Hebrew Bible. Therefore where the Hebrew Bible said YHWH the Masoretic Text inserted the vowels for Adonai, giving YaHoWaiH which Tyndale translated as Jehovah.[1 p.13], [2] See also Genesis 18:1.

Modern translations of the bible therefore say LORD where earlier ones said Jehovah. This has two advantages: firstly, it is a direct translation of Adonai, and secondly, LORD in capitals reminds us that this four-letter word is a loose translation of YHWH, known as the "tetragrammaton" (four-letter word).

The origin of the word YHWH is unclear, but it is similar to the Hebrew for "I AM" which appears in Exodus 3:14.[26]


"So, how can we have joy despite everything? To recap, joy is an inner, supernatural sensation, which is different from happiness because it has nothing to do with what is going on in our outer lives. It comes directly from Jesus himself—​who is the source of joy—​and we receive it by being connected to him through his Spirit. We cannot work joy up by ourselves; it comes when we deliberately decide to "plug" ourselves into him.

"We can lose our joy when we become disconnected through unconfessed sin, holding anger in our hearts and refusing to forgive someone. It disappears when we stop looking at Jesus and become absorbed in self-pity, or while we are arguing with him over something he has allowed, rather than accepting his will.

"A few years ago best-selling books urged us to praise the Lord for everything and rejoice whatever was happening. Obviously joy comes when we choose to look for the positive things in difficult situations rather than the negative. Yet I'm not sure it is right to expect someone to rejoice when their child is suffering terrible pain; when their husband runs off with their best friend; or when the doctor says they'll never walk again. At times like these, joy burns so low it's imperceptible! However, in my worst times of suffering I've often been conscious of little jets of joy, like candles in a long dark tunnel. They appear when I decide to believe God is still there with me, holding me tight and will, ultimately, work everything out for my good (see Romans 8:28). In the worst kind of dark tunnel even these tiny candles go out. It was like that for Jesus on the cross, but he endured it by thinking of the joy that lay ahead (see Hebrews 12:2). Everlasting joy is our reward too!"[3]

See also comment on Romans 15:13.


See also Judgement and Justice below.

The word judge in the Bible does not mean quite the same role as a judge in a British court. In Britain the judge is like a chairman who oversees an argument between the prosecution and the defence, and in many cases a jury decides who won. When the case is decided one way or the other, the law dictates what the judge is allowed to do about it.

In biblical times it was more like going to arbitration: the judge looked at the facts, to establish to what extent each side was in the wrong. Then the judge decided what should be done to get the fairest possible outcome. The Biblical Judges were also national leaders, because the people had no King but God, and they were prophets, giving people warnings when they were going wrong. The Judges (people like Deborah and Gideon) were God's representatives.

God is the supreme judge. He has complete knowledge of the situation; Jesus said "there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light" (Mark 4:22). Everything we've done, even in private, is known in heaven. Also God has infinite wisdom to judge what is right in any situation; and he has unlimited power to do whatever justice demands. But he has to be asked: see Genesis 4:10.


See also God and Judge above and Justice below.

When we die (or the end comes—​see Matthew 24:3) we will find that:

  1. everything bows to "the Lamb", Jesus (Revelation 5:13), including the dead (John 5:28–29);
  2. books will be opened (that is, the truth becomes known) containing every detail of our lives (Matthew 12:36, cf. Mark 4:22) showing that we often "choose darkness rather than light" and are all sinners (John 3:19) yet the Father judges no-one (John 5:22), having delegated it all to the Son;
  3. then the Lamb's Book of Life is consulted and those not listed in it do not enter heaven (Revelation 20:14–15);
  4. the Lamb's Book of Life lists those who believed the message and obeyed it (John 3:16–21, Mark 16:16, Luke 9:26) which will show some surprises (Matthew 7:21f, Matthew 25:12f);
  5. those who enter heaven will be changed in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:51–52).

So we're all judged on our actions and shown not to justify admission to heaven on our own merits (because heaven can only be a perfect place if nothing imperfect, us for example, is there); but those who responded to Jesus's message by beginning to change from evil to good are instantly made good and are admitted. Luke 19:41–44 shows that Jesus grieves over those who will not accept the salvation he offers; 1 John 2:2 shows that Jesus's sacrifice is sufficient for everybody who accepts it, and would be sufficient even for those who refuse it. However, it may not be necessary to physically stop people from getting in to heaven because the tendency to run away that they have always shown will continually drive them away from God (John 3:19–20).

Paul warns us to be careful not to miss out (1 Corinthians 9:25 – 10:12, Colossians 1:23). 1 Corinthians 6:9f explains why. Though "none can pluck us from his hand" (John 10:28) we can nevertheless fall away and be lost; see Romans 11:21, 1 Thessalonians 3:5, Hebrews 3:12, Hebrews 5:4–6, 2 Peter 2:21 and 2 Peter 3:17. We must not rest on our laurels and say "once saved, always saved". In 1 Corinthians 10:1–6 Paul argues that the Exodus should act as a warning to us in this respect. But if we do wander away, the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32) shows that we can return.

C S Lewis adds two further ways of getting into heaven: Baptism, Belief (by which I think he means Faith) and taking Holy Communion all convey God's life to us[18 p.59]. One cannot claim that all three are necessary because that would be inconsistent with scripture (John 3:16, John 5:24 and Romans 10:13 all speak of faith alone being required) and Anglican policy in that it would defeat the object of infant baptism long before admission to Holy Communion. The example of John the Baptist (Luke 1:15) shows that the Holy Spirit can indwell someone even in infancy and before they understand their faith.

See also Justice below.


See also Judge and Judgement above.

We are saved because God chooses mercy over justice: see Isaiah 53:10. The Hebrew concept of justice is quite different from the Greek one. When Plato speaks of justice he means people accepting their rightful places in life, whether high or low, but the Hebrew concept is centred on equality because we are all made in God's image. Therefore every human being has certain rights, including life, honour, and the fruits of their work.[41]

"Justice establishes right principles, judgment decides what specific behaviour is right and wrong, and righteousness means actually doing it." [83]

Revd Martin Luther King Jnr said "justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere".

Thomas Jefferson 1743–1826 said "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever".

"In Greek the idea of justice was aking to harmony, in Hebrew it is akin to holiness ... 'truth' is usually preceded in Scripture by 'loving-kindness', to remind us that the truth must be spoken in love."[41 p.820]


The street preacher loves to explain this word as "just-as-if-I-were-perfect". The word translated Justification in the New Testament is dikaios which literally means being "right" with someone, which is sometimes alternatively translated righteousness. That all fits in with the idea that the Gospel is about reconciliation between people and God. This idea is clearly present in the sayings of Jesus ("Abba" = Father or Daddy) and the writings of Paul and John; John calls it "knowing" while Paul calls it "faith". Jesus implies that justification can come through repentance and prayer alone in Luke 18:14.


God limiting ("emptying") his power and scope in order to free his creation. The idea was implicit in the decision to create—​see comments on Genesis 1:1.

Canon John Polkinghorne5 says "I think there is a divine kenosis in relation to creation, in that God is not the puppet-master pulling every string, but he allows people to be themselves, and to make themselves, and indeed the whole of creation, in appropriate ways, to be itself, and to make itself. ... The God of Love must give some degree of due freedom to creatures—​freedom that's appropriate to their natures. That means that God is not the cause of everything, and that is a kenosis on the part of God ... If we understand evolutionary history in this way, it's a great good, but it has to be purchased by the possibility of ragged edges and blind alleys. ... But you cannot have genetic mutation, producing new forms of life to be selected and sifted through natural selection, without the possibility, also, of malignancy. So the fact that ther is cancer in the world is not a sign that God is gratuitously incompetent or uncaring, but that it is the necessary cost of a world in which we people are allowed to be ourselves.

"...God has given freedom to creatures to be, and to make, themsleves; that's simply the first step in what is basically a two-step creation process ... First of all, God creates creatures that exist at some distance from the veiled presence, and are able to be themselves, and make themselves. But of course, the eventual purpose is to draw all creatures freely into encounter and exploration with the divine reality, increasingly unveiled. And that's the concept of the New Creation, which is pretty fundamental in the New Testament, and a concept beyond science's grasp. If you just take the scientifically discerned history of the world, the predictions that science, of itself, can make, then the world does seem to end in futility rather than fulfillment."

"I think that theology is the theory of everything, because God is the ground of everything. It seems perfectly clear to me that science does not answer every question, and, therefore, we have to seek other insights as well. ... the beautiful equations and deep intelligibility of the physical world are understood as being a reflection of the mind of God. Theology really does have a 'scope' that enables it to be an integrating discipline."

King James Version

The tensions between protestant and catholic Christians that erupted during the reigns of the Tudors continued after the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603 into the reign of King James. He was presented with a petition with about 1,000 protestant signatures, and convened a conference in 1604 at which both factions were represented. The puritans called for a new translation of the Bible, and the king commissioned it. Translation teams were set up and instructed to revise the existing English Bibles by comparing them with other translations and ancient texts.[1 p.32–34] They took the Greek Textus Receptus as the definitive source[1 p.178].

The resulting version of the Bible was published in 1611, and was widely used for centuries, with minor corrections being made. The early editions included the Apocrypha.[1 p.43–46]. It is sometimes known (incorrectly) as the Authorised Version ("AV") but more correctly as the King James Version ("KJV")[1 p.8].

The KJV generally follows the tense of the Greek, which can be counter-intuitive. Robert Young, a Scottish publisher whose command of Hebrew was outstanding, wrote in 1862:

"The Hebrews were in the habit of using the past tense to indicate the certainty of an action taking place, even though the action might not really be performed for some time, and ... in referring to events which might be past or future, were accustomed to transferring themselves mentally to the period and place of the events themselves, and were not content with coldly viewing them as those of a bygone or still coming time; hence the very frequent use of the present tense." [1 p.213–214]


One would expect the phrase "kingdom of God" to mean Theocracy, as existed in Genesis before the fall, and in Israel before the Kings. But Jesus used the word Kingdom in a way that leaves one wondering what exactly he meant; how can the kingdom of God be "near" (for example, Mark 1:15), in other words, not quite present? The people who heard those words saw him as he walked about; he was near enough to see and perhaps to touch.

In the Lord's Prayer the phrase "yours be the kingdom" seems to be about yielding to God's authority. So when Jesus spoke about God's kingdom being "near" he meant that people were close to the point of allowing God his rightful place in their lives, which makes available his power to help (for example, Matthew 12:28). The Kingdom means God's rule[42 p.72]. The words in the original are malkuth or basileia, both feminine abstract nouns, which mean "reign" rather than something concrete like a kingdom.

"Jews understood the phrase 'kingdom of God' to mean a state of accepting God as king of your life." [43].

See also Save below.


In Aramaic the words for Lamb and Servant are the same talya.


In biblical times, lamps consisted of a wick with one end in oil and the other bearing a flame. "One end of the wick must be immersed in the oil and the other extended into the world, otherwise there will be no light. The same is true for us. Our lives, ideally, are both contemplative and active. If they are to bear fruit, we must ensure that our hearts remain immersed in God, while our lives also branch out into the world, bearing fruit." [93]


See First.


It has been suggested that the Old Testament law fulfilled at least two objectives: firstly is led the people toward holy living, and secondly it made them distinct. It follows that some of the law's requirements are related to separateness rather than godliness, and no longer apply now that the Gospel is to be preached to all nations, and the Holy Spirit is available to all flesh (Joel 2:28) to provide guidance on how to please God in any context. The Laws of Moses addressed men only; women came under the criminal law when Deuteronomy was added much later[100].

Some people look at Old Testament passages which say that God commanded people to do seemingly immoral things, such as the anihilation of the original inhabitants of the promised land, and conclude that his law cannot be absolute because he appears to break it himself. Certainly it can be argued that God is far too great and complex to be encapsulated in a few words, but on the other hand we must accept his authority as absolute to us, or we are not treating him as God at all.

The Law prophesies that Christ would be human (Genesis 3:15), a descendent of Abraham (Genesis 12:3), would be a Jew, overcoming Satan to rule for ever (Genesis 49:10), and would be a prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15–18).[44]

Jesus set an example of pragmatic goodness rather than narrow legalism; see People in the Bible: David. Joseph had done the same in Matthew 1:19, following Hosea 6:6.

Romans 2:17 makes it clear that when Paul speaks of "the law" he means the Old Covenant. Deuteronomy 4:12–14 says that the Ten Commandments come from God, the rest from Moses, and Jeremiah 7:21 appears to support this view. Exodus 18:20 suggests that Jethro urged Moses to produce a code of Law, to allow him to delegate the arbitration that was occupying his time. In Mark 10:8 Jesus gives text from Genesis priority over Deuteronomy.

The New Testament teaches us that Law cannot save (Romans 8:3, Galatians 2:12, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:1); the Law should lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24); and it does so by adding to our awareness of our sinful state (Romans 5:20). But there is still something to obey, something against which we might sin: see Galatians 6:2.

Since the law cannot save, it can seem irrelevant today. However, many people today have no sense of their own sinfulness, and are consequently unaware of their need of salvation. A similar situation presented itself in Jesus's time; though the Law was very demanding, religious Jews believed that they had met its demands and were thus righteous in themselves. The Great Comandment is not amenable to measuring oneself against, but the Sermon on the Mount is so challenging that nobody can say they have met its demands. Thus the teaching of Jesus showed even the scribes and pharisees that they needed God's mercy (Matthew 5:20).

The early church did not tell Christians to keep the Law, not even the Ten Commandments, but Romans 13:9–10 shows that they are all contained in Jesus's command to love God and neighbour (Matthew 22:37–40).


"Colin Powell, four-star general and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the American Forces, defined leadership as 'the ability to provide direction and generate trust'. Direction without trust leads to control. Trust without direction causes confusion." [112]


In Old Testament times the word translated leprosy meant "skin diseases in general", but archaeological evidence has been found indicating that the specific disease now known as leprosy had reached Jerusalem by New Testament times.[45]


Liberal Theologians are "people who present a broad view of the narrow way, rather as estate agents use wide-angle photographs to make tiny rooms seem large".[46]


Genesis 1:13f establishes the principle, used metaphoprically throughout scripture, that light rules over darkness.

The book Isaiah (e.g. Isaiah 5:30) and John's Gospel (e.g. John 1:4) use light and dark as metaphors for good and bad things. However "darkness is not all bad. It was in a dark sky that the eastern stargazers saw a star that led them to a king. Sometimes we need the darkness to fully appreciate the light." [120]

"The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime" [47].


"The little thing I bring is all God needs to make a difference."[129]

Living word

"If you write in your bible it will say the same thing to you next time you look, whereas being the Living Word it ought to say something different" (unknown girl to Rt. Revd Frank Sargeant).


"Grief is the price we pay for love" — HM Queen Elizabeth II.

Paul alludes in various places to loss as a positive thing. cf. Mark 10:17–23. The disciples left everything behind when they answered Jesus's call to follow him. The rich young man (Matthew 19:22) couldn't do that; perhaps Jesus was putting his finger on a fundamental misconception that assets would help him to get closer to God. Jesus was pointing out that they were (in his case at least) a hindrance.

God does not require the average Christian to literally give up everything, but rather to be ready to give up anything God requires.[48 p.90]

It is obvious that we don't reach heaven without dying—​except inasmuch as heaven starts here and now. What is less obvious, and frightening, is that loss (whether through self denial or something that happens to us) is a route to God. "Counting all things as loss, that I may gain Christ" is the sort of phrase that Paul wrote—​yet who can aspire to it? In 1937 Bonhoeffer wrote "When Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die". Some years later he was shot in Flossenburg concentration camp by the Nazis.


See also the paragraph about hate.

+Richard, Bishop of Kingston: not Descartes "I think, therefore I am" but "God loves me, therefore I am".[92]

There are four Greek words used in the New Testament all of which are commonly translated love. They are:

a) eros romantic love or sex

b) filia friendship

c) agape desiring the good of the other

d) storge parental love

Eros is focussed on another's beauty; Agape is focussed on another's need; Filia is focussed on a common task. Nietzschke says that a marriage based on Eros or Agape is doomed to fail; marriages succeed through Filia. The gulf between humans and God is so great that we cannot aspire to relationship with him based on Agape or Filia; we can only aspire to a perfect form of Eros that looks on him in wonder.[49]

Examples of their use are found in 1 Corinthians 13 and John 17:15–17. The Trinity (explained in background to Matthew's Gospel—​Trinity) is bonded by agape and we need to learn to participate in God's love, both to become the people we are supposed to be on earth (our true selves) and to fit us for heaven. Notice that the opposite of agape is self-centredness, which tends to isolate the individual, defeating relationship, and prevents the expression of personality.

Price used to teach that agape is a higher form of love than eros. He now regards that as a mistake; they are all inter-related, and expressions of us as whole people.[50]

Storge is perghaps the easiest to understand. God loves what he has made, even to the extent of giving us the freedom to sin against him. A key feature of his love for us is a desire to nurture, to seek the best for us. Consequently we should seek the best for each other.

Love is different from kindness: love includes discipline (Hebrews 12:6–11) so that the beloved may improve, while kindness is content to spoil a child.[48 p.33] HM Queen Elizabeth II said[122] Christ "commanded us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves, but what exactly is meant by 'loving ourselves'? I believe it means trying to make the most of the abilities we have been given. It means caring for our talents."

The example of love that Jesus presents involves meeting the person's need even if they are unlovely, even if it is costly, even if it is unpopular, even if it is risky, even if it is rejected.

"Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams"—​Dostoevski.

"There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread."—​Mother Theresa.


A martyr is a person of God whose ministry is cut short by the violence of sinners. Therefore a suicide bomber is not a martyr.

Winston Churchill once said "Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed."

On the day of his controversial consecration, the gay American bishop Gene Robinson, as he put on a bullet-proof vest, said to his daughter "Death is not the worst thing. Not living your life—​now that's a bad thing." [51]


See Ezekiel 45:11 and Matthew 13:33.

See also Money below.


Meditation sometimes has a bad reputation because some non-Christian practices involve emptying the mind in an attempt to bypass our rational abilities. Christian meditation is about focusing and engaging the mind by concentrating closely on scripture. It enables us to commit texts to memory and under the revealing influence of the Holy Spirit to penetrate more deeply into their meaning and incorporate them into our lives (see John 16:13–15).

"It will be helpful to have a pen and paper handy. Calm yourself by sitting comfortably with your eyes closed, and by breathing deeply in and out several times. You may find that as soon as you start doing this a rush of busy thoughts comes to the front of your mind. Use the paper to quickly note down anything which needs doing later. You'll find this clears your mind. When your mind is settled, silently ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the written Word, then dwell on each of these phrases, personalising them. Turn them over in your mind and allow their meaning and personal significance to sink in. Spend as long as you want on each one—​there's no hurry.

I am in Christ Jesus.

He has become for me wisdom from God.

He is my righteousness.

He is my holiness.

He is my redemption.

"At the end, jot down anything significant which God has shown you or said to you." [52]


Meekness is often referred to in the Bible but not in secular thinking, and there is a danger that those reading the Bible misconstrue it as "weak". Meekness is about having power but using it with restraint and gentleness, as Jesus did (2 Corinthians 6:1). The Bible appears to expect the meek to be receptive to God's rule.

See Isaiah 42:1–9, Isaiah 61:1, Matthew 5:5, Matthew 5:13


Coggins p39 says that historians do not accept the Old Testament as a historical document partly for want of supporting evidence and also because of its implausibility, for example, the ages of some of the characters, intervention by spiritual beings, and "contravention of the natural order" [miracles]. However, John Henry Newman is reputed to have said "The Incarnation is the most stupendous event which ever can take place on earth, and after it henceforth, I do not see how we can scruple at any miracle on the ground of it being unlikely to happen". Flannery O'Connor wrote "For you it may be a matter of not being able to accept what you call a suspension of the laws of the flesh and the physical, but for my part I think that when I know what the law of the flesh and the physical really are, then I will know what God is." (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1979).

While God has the power to work miracles at will, as shown most dramatically in creation, it seems he prefers other ways of getting things done. Thus the plagues that afflicted the Egyptians in Exodus 7–8 were signs that it was indeed God who commanded the Exodus; in 1 Kings 17 the widow acknowledged that Elijah spoke for God when she saw her son raised from death; and in John's Gospel a miracle is usually called a "sign". It is a sign that Jesus's teaching should be heeded.

The main miracles in the Gospels are summarized in this table.

See comment on Acts 2:43 regarding the place of miracles in the church today.


"In recent years, we've engaged in a blatant denial of reality. We can't work less, earn more, cut taxes and increase spending."—​French President Emmanuel Macron's New Year address, quoted and translated in Metro newspaper 2 January 2019 p.8

Money-worship has been elevated into a religion, Perhaps it is the only real religion—​the only really felt religion—​that is left to us. Money is what God used to be. Good and evil have no meaning any longer except failure and success. Hence the profoundly significant phrase, to make good.[97]

According to Numbers 3:47:
20 gerahs=1 shekel
1 maneh (or mina, =100 drachma[125 p.153]) =50 shekels=100 beka=1,000 gerahs (until Ezekiel 45:12)
1 talent=60 maneh (or minas)=3,000 shekels
and archaeologists have found what appear to be shekel weights that weigh between 9.56 – 10.16 grams. So a gold shekel was probably about 10 grams of gold.[53] It follows that a maneh (or mina) weighed 600g and a talent 30kg.

Thus at late 2020 prices a talent of silver (about 6,000 denarii[125 p.142]) would be worth about £20,000 and a talent of gold about £1½ million.

The figures above relate to Hebrew money. Other cultures used similar terms with variations in the values, such as a Babylonian Minah being worth 30 Babylonian Shekels[135].

See also Measures above, Rich and Wealth below, Appendix 4 Materialism and Appendix 4 Money.


Scripture uses the word "name" to mean much more than a simple label. It refers to the person's character and reputation, as in English phrases such as "made a name for himself".


Where the word "nations" appears it implies all the gentiles. The two words are identical in the original Hebrew text.


The term is defined by Numbers chapter 6.


Where the word "neck" (Hebrew Nephesh) appears in the Old Testament it may imply the person's will, as in "a stiff-necked people". In Psalm 105 verses 18 and 22 the same word is used but they are often translated differently.


Both Seine nets and throwing nets were used in Galilee in biblical times; see comment on Habakkuk 1:15. Therefore a reference to people fishing with a net does not necessarily indicate that a boat was involved.


Today, old age is associated with dementia, confusion, and inabililty to use the latest technologies. But in biblical times it was often associated with accumulated wisdom. Humanity's success is largely due to our continued effectiveness beyond our reproductive years. We are born with almost no instinctive ability or knowledge, but our elders teach us complex knowledge and skills over many years. "Anecdotally, middle-aged people tend to be better at developing long-term plans, selecting relevant material from a mass of information, planning their time and coordinating the efforts of others—​a constellation of skills that we might call wisdom." [54]


People have always wondered why God (who is good) made a world that has pain in it. Pain doesn't seem a good thing in its own right, so it must be essential to something else that is good. C S Lewis's book The problem of pain is helpful though long-winded.

"There is a school of thought saying that, if [robots] don't care about things, they won't be able to make any choices. We may therefore need to equip them with ways to have feelings. this raises one of the hardest problems: will machines be, or need to be, conscious? Will they feel as people do and how might we tell?" [55]

"It has seemed to me, for a long time, that we lack an understanding, a theology, of the importance of risk. We see that children are impoverished if their play is always safe; that hurt is actually essential if we are to become adult. ... I could perhaps add that my previous career involved addressing aircraft safety. The safest aircraft is one that never leaves the ground. Unfortunately, it's probably as of much use as a non-risk-taking Christian." [56]


Jesus taught extensively by means of moral stories, following the example of Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 5:1–7. "A parable is not an anecdote; it is something you live in."[132]

Jesus "uses parables because, due to their hardness of heart, they will not grasp his message without them...Their ultimate purpose is to set us thinking and to encourage us to explore the gospel message revealed by them. Then, as we hear, believe and act on the words of Jesus, we grasp the secret of the kingdom of God." [57] So, is mystery at the heart of Christianity? Certainly God is beyond our understanding. Jesus's parables "call us into deeper and deeper reflection about God, ther world, and ourselves"[125 p.233] .

Parables "are narrative worlds complete in themselves, but occasionally the interpretation inserts itself into the story and changes it."[125 p.134]

Jesus's parables took familiar details of his audience's everyday life and revealed heavenly things through them, which are available to those who take the trouble to think about them. Similarly Moses investigated the burning bush and encountered God (Exodus 3:1–6).

They are:

The use of the word "parable" to describe all of Jesus's stories might mislead us into trying to interpret them all the same way. In fact they differ greatly. Some contain their interpretation within the text (e.g. Luke 18:7–8). In the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:18) the main characters can be identified with real individuals, but in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32) they cannot. Some are very sparse in details; perhaps the hearer is expected to fill in the blanks in their own way. The synoptic gospels contain parables (Gk parabole), but John does not. But John’s “I AM” sayings (Gk paroimia meaning illustration) work in the same way, except they are all about Jesus. John 10 presents all the stories about sheep together.[115]

"It is quite clear that Jesus told his stories more than once and that, when he did so, he sometimes changed the key point of the parable".[125 p.xxi]

Parables and other Bible stories are still useful in today's culture. "Storytelling is one of the best ways to convey truth. When exposed to stories, we often lower our defences and suspend our disbelief for the sake of experiencing the narrative. They make us more recptive to truth that we might otherwise reject. The right story told in the right way can change minds, hearts, lives and eternities." [106]

"Apart from personal experience, stories are the quickest way to learning. We learn most easily in the concrete, but, because we cannot easily remember hundreds of concrete accounts, our brains store most easily in the abstract. In teaching and preaching the shortcut is to repeat the abstract idea we already know, forgetting that others still need to learn in the concrete." K. Snodgrass Stories with Intent quoted in [115]

It has been suggested[108] that parables need time to take root in the hearer; if so, the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:18) and the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:24) are parables about parables!


The words advocate, counsellor, paraclete, and comforter are all translations of the Greek word paracletos meaning advocate. This is the direct opposite of the role of Satan, referred to in the New Testament as Diabolos meaning accuser[85]. The language is that of a court of law, where Satan accuses us but God defends us.

The need for an advocate in heaven was identified by the patriarch Job in Job 9:33, but he could not find one. 1 John 2:1 announces Jesus as our advocate.

Jesus illustrated God defending his people from accusation in Matthew 26:11, Mark 2:25 and its parallel Luke 6:1f, Luke 10:38f, Mark 7:1f. However, in John 15:26 Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would take over this role.


Jesus instituted Christian worship at the Last Supper; see Calendar for the timing of this festival. It seems to have been a Passover meal, or a meal at Passover time. Passover was the Jewish festival commemorating the last meal in Egypt before departing for the Promised Land; see Exodus 12:5f. The procedure at Passover (according to a 2nd Century C.E. record) appears to have been as follows:

  1. a lamb was slaughtered
  2. words were spoken over the first Passover cup of wine
  3. a relish of green and bitter herbs was eaten
  4. the second Passover cup was poured
  5. the Passover dialogue took place "what does this mean ...?"
  6. the first Hallel Psalm was sung: Psalm 113
  7. the second Passover cup was drunk
  8. a prayer was said over the Passover bread (unleavened bread)
  9. a meal of lamb with beef and herbs was eaten
  10. prayers were said over the third Passover cup
  11. the other Hallel Psalms, Psalms 114 – 118, were sung
  12. the 4th Passover cup was drunk.

So when we find difficulty in reconciling the order in which Jesus spoke over cups at the last supper, we should use the meal as our reference when considering which gospels record which cup.

Luke 22:16 records Jesus speaking at the Last Supper of fulfilling the Passover.


The Jewish word Shalom means much more than the English word peace; it encompasses all kinds of well-being. That is why God's kingdom is marked by not only the end of hostility but also healing the sick and feeding the hungry. See comments on Matthew 6:14–15, Matthew 25:31f.

Zechariah prophesied that the Messiah would bring peace, which he apparently understood as freedom from threats to the nation (Luke 1:68–79) but Jesus said his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) so Christians look for peace with God and peace with their neighbours.

"People living in a dangerous environment generally think in a more short-term way".[58]

It has been said that "feelings do not decompose if you bury them", but I question whether that is true for all people in all contexts, and cf. Ephesians 4:26.


The word Pharisee has the same root as Persian, indicating that their attitudes were the same as those like Ezra who tried to preserve racial and religious purity during and after the exile in Babylon.[59]Jesus's comments in Matthew 23:23 show that they focussed on the minutiae of the Law of Moses and its traditional interpretation.


"Misery is inconvenient, unpleasant, and in a society where personal happiness is prized above all else, there is little tolerance for wallowing in despair. Especially now we've got drugs for it." [60]


The word poor as used in the Bible has three main meanings:

  1. lack of physical things, in other words, some degree of destitution.
  2. lack of power over things and people
  3. lack of spiritual understanding.

In Mark 14:7 Jesus says that there will always be opportunities to help the poor; see the parallel passage Matthew 26:11 for the reason. The first of these can arise through laziness or folly and we are often tempted to be judgmental; I am reluctant to help somebody who won't help themselves. This reluctance may be echoed by the way the prophets and Jesus often placed a test before those seeking healing; for example Naaman had to wash seven times in the Jordan, and the lepers had to go to show themselves to the priests. The bible speaks against laziness and folly (Proverbs 6:6f, 2 Thessalonians 3:10) but we should remember that those without resources need help to get out of their predicament even if it was their fault they got into it. Passages such as Psalm 12, Psalm 146 and the Magnificat (Luke 1:46f) speak of God's mercy to the poor, and as God's servants we are a channel for that mercy. Even if we are poor ourselves we should still be merciful, hospitable and generous because we are a channel for God's resources, as the Disciples found when Jesus used their meagre rations to feed the 5,000 (Matthew 14:19–20, and see also Matthew 16:9–10).

See also Rich.


"The Enlightenment" assumed that each person is a complete and rational being, which only relates to others where self-interest demands it. The most extreme is biological reductionism, which sees us as machines whose behaviour is determined by our genes and our environment; this appears to make morality an irrelevant concept. Post-enlightenment thinking sees relationships as much more important to who we are, but opposes traditional relationships based on power and authority. People see themselves as the product of places and experiences, constantly changing as life continues. Individual choice based on these factors is right and proper, and thus moral, even if it goes against traditional morality. Fulfilment is escape from the chains of other people's choices." [61] [It follows that Bible passages featuring the word "choose..." will speak to such people.]

Praise (see also Worship)

J C McCann said only praise can "dislodge our arrogant assumption that we can save the world." See also the coment on Psalm 33:1–4.

Prayer (see also Appendix 4: Stories: Prayer)

John Wesley said "God does nothing on earth save in answer to believing prayer" and "Without God, we cannot; without us, God will not". Was he right?

It is reasonable to ask "why pray"? If God knows everything and loves everyone, will he not do what is necessary whether we ask or not, in other words, whether we pray or not? That argument leaves out the effect of human self-will. God has not made us as robots but as beings with independent wills. That means that he has delegated some of his absolute authority to us; he wants us to participate in his work. We are like assistants to whom tasks have been delegated. Sometimes the assistant needs to go back to the boss and say "I am sorry, I do not know how to do this bit". That is prayer.

Some people think of praying as saying "please may 1+1=3". This is not how it should be. We should pray "Help! I cannot do this!", without telling God how he should sort out the problem, so that God's power is released into the situation. Humility is essential; we have to say (to ourselves as well as God) "I cannot do this" so that he takes the helm. As 2 Chronicles 20:12b puts it, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you." "Prayer is not getting on the telephone on a faulty line and struggling to get though to Go. Itis far more like stepping into a boat." — BRF prayer diary w/c 3 September 2023.

An American Cardinal called Francis Spellman said we should "Pray as if everything depended upon God and work as if everything depended upon man". It follows that we should do what we can; tell him what we cannot do; and trust him to make up the difference. Nehemiah is "a prime example of the need to sometimes be the answer to our own prayers." [116] But we need to know where our responsibility stops, in order to avoid the mistake Abraham made in having a child by Hagar (Genesis 16), which was not the child God had promised.

In prayer we come to know God better; see comment on Genesis 18:23–32. Angela Ashwin[40] links this with the opening verses of John 15, about remaining in the true vine: "we seek to bring our lives and wills in line with the loving energy and direction of God in Jesus." She also quotes Archbishop William Temple "When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don't, they don't."

"I firmly believe that God answers prayer. And I believe we should pray about the things that are on our hearts and occupy our minds. But God's response often addresses something deeper of which those things are a symptom. We often fail to perceive it, and then God seems not to be answering our prayer." [62]

Jesus taught persistence in prayer; see comment on Luke 18:1–8.

In Isaiah 30:18–19 God answered prayer at once, but the blessing was delayed. God may seem slow to act, but John 11:37 shows that he may delay in order to show his power and glory. In Matthew 15:21f and in the wedding at Cana Jesus was reluctant to answer but granted the request when great faith was evident. This is puzzling and there are only a few plausible explanations:

  1. Jesus was pretending to be reluctant, in order to test the person;
  2. the request (the prayer) changed Jesus's (God's) mind;
  3. Jesus didn't know God's mind when the request was first made, but it became clear to him as events unfolded.

See also Matthew 15:21f, Luke 23:8–9, James 4:3, James 5:16, the example of Mary in John 2:1–11, and comments on Genesis 4:10, Ezekiel 37, and the Lord's Prayer.

The Bible indicates many ways of praying, such as:

Stand to pray Luke 18:11, Mark 11:25
Kneel to pray Luke 22:41
Lift hands to pray 1 Kings 8:38, Psalm 134:2, 1 Timothy 2:8
Lay hands to pray Acts 6:6, 8:17, 9:17, 13:3, 19:6, 1 Timothy 4:14, 5:22, 2 Timothy 1:6, Hebrews 6:2
Pray in the heart 1 Samuel 1:13
Pray aloud Daniel 6:13
Pray after confession Psalm 66:18, Isaiah 59:2 (sin blocks our prayers)
Pray alone Matthew 6:5–6
Pray together Hebrews 10:25


Even those whose ears God has unstopped will not hear the message unless we speak it. Therefore the fact that God can already see (being eternal and omnipresent) who will be saved does not mean that we can see it too, so we must tell everybody, as if they were all called.

Scientists sometimes say that people do not have free will. This is a technicality and does not mean that we do not make morally significant choices. "You can do what you decide to do, but you cannot decide what you will decide to do" but "the choice still matters because it leads to outcomes in the real world" although "that choice came out of the 'darkness of prior causes' " [63].

See also comment on Romans 8:29 and Appendix 4 Predestination.


Numbers chapter 3 assigns various ministerial duties to the descendents of Levi. Deuteronomy 10:9 confirms their roles and records that they received no inheritance of land but relied on offerings for their survival. Ezekiel 44:15 says that many if them fell into idol worship, but the sons of Zadok remained faithful and were given special honour.

The Greek word used to signify a Christian minister in the New Testament is presbyteros which is a word derived from the title of the elders of a synagogue[65]. One might be considered suitably old to be called an Elder from the age of 40 in both Hebrew and Greek culture[65 p.45]. The English word priest is derived from presbyteros.

The word for the old testament type of priest who offers sacrifices is hiereus which is never used in the New Testament of Christians, but only of Christ. Exodus 19:6 called the Hebrews to be a nation of priests, and Isaiah 61:6 affirmed it, but they missed their vocation so Christ fulfilled it. We as the body of Christ take over that role, except for the sacrificial part, which as Hebrews explains has been completely fulfilled by his death on the cross. We, as a nation of priests (Exodus 19:6, Isaiah 61:6, 1 Peter 2:5 & 2:9, Revelation 1:6, 5:10 & 20:6), take on the other roles of access, mediation and suffering; the phrase "living temples" conveys the same idea.

Access: In the Old Testament the High Priests, after purification and being covered in blood, could dare to enter the Holy of Holies once per year; now all believers have access to God (Mark 15:38, Romans 5:2, Ephesians 2:18, Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 10:19, 1 Peter 3:18) so no other priest is necessary for this purpose, though some may choose not to use their right of access but use a priest instead.

Mediation: The priests spoke to the people on behalf of God (Malachi 2:7) and interceded before God on their behalf. We now all have a duty to declare God's word to the world and to pray for the world before him. A Christian minister can mediate between a Christian and God, but it is not essential. Any Christian may act in a priestly role by mediating between a non-Christian and God, and thus we are a all priests (1 Peter 2:9). Moses also mediated between people in Exodus 18:22.

Suffering: The Old Testament priests offered gifts and sacrifices. God now seeks a number of forms of sacrifice from us: praise and thanksgiving (Hebrews 13:15), faith (Philippians 2:17), alms (Acts 24:17, Philippians 4:18), generosity (Hebrews 13:16) and ourselves (Romans 12:1–2). But our sufferings do not contribute to atonement, as Christ's do.

"[In] the 12th- and 13th-century reform of the Church associated with Pope Gregory VII...To achieve the (laudable) aim of reclaiming the spiritual authority of the Church over feudal claims, a permanent division between clergy and laity emerged. The priesthood was elevated and separated." [64]


Biblical prophecy is the words of God not those of the prophets (2 Peter 1:21 and see also the second-century writer Athenagoras in Pleas for the Christians, 9). In the Old Testament the word indicates commentary on the present times, with possible consequences for the future; foretelling the future is a Greek concept[103 p.64].

2 Kings 6:1 shows that there was a group of prophets living together in the time of the kings, sometimes referred to as "the sons of the prophets", also individually referred to as "man of God" (1 Kings 17:18) or "seer" (1 Chronicles 21:9).

Luke 12:12 shows that every Christian has the potential to be a prophet.

The type of experience described in Numbers 11:25 would be a legitimate experience in charismatic meetings: gifts like prophecy may be given for a specific occasion. Baker[66] describes similar situations where "pure prophetic preaching" occurred, saying (p.44) "in such preaching the mind of the preacher is entirely inactive" in contrast with other forms of prophecy such as where the preacher is told what to say sentence by sentence, and he says it in his own words. Leach[67 p.202] desribes it in similar terms.

This description contrasts with a "word of knowledge" where someone is supernaturally made aware of a fact and can then describe it (or keep it to themselves) in their own words.

Prophecy is not a hard and fast statement of what will happen; Jeremiah 18:7–10 tells us that Biblical prophecy is not just tomorrow's newspaper printed today, but rather the consequences of a certain course of actions. The prophesied result is optional; the hearer can choose to repent and avoid it. The prophecy of Joel illustrates this: Joel 1:1 – 2:11 described the fate of the people if they carry on as before, while Joel 2:12 f offers a different result if they repent. Job knew that prophecy has this effect, and was angry, because he did not want Nineveh to repent and be pardoned. As George Orwell said in a television interview concerning his book 1984, "The moral is a simple one: don't let it happen". See also comment on Matthew 2:5. Leach[67 p.204] adds that the presence of a "window of hope" is characteristic of a message that is from God; it is never unmitigated doom but allows room for repentance. I agree because if God had given up with us he would no longer speak to us. However, those who exclude any future-telling from prophecy go to far, as shown by Deuteronomy 13:1.

Prophecy would be forgotten unless it meant something in the context of the time, but biblical prophecy lives on in the faith community and acquires future meanings as well. Thus biblical prophecy may be incomprehensible to us until a similarity suddenly becomes obvious.[42 p.12] The phrase "shall be likened" in Matthew 25:1 means that when the time comes, people will see the similarity. I believe that the Apocalyptic writing in Revelation will also be recognised when it comes true.

Present day prophecy in church should be guided by these principles:

  1. accept that what comes out is a mixture of the prophet's ideas and God's ideas, so don't try to give it more authority than is due by saying things like "Thus says the Lord ..."
  2. prophecy generally encourages and builds up but contains no judgement, criticism, dates or mates; if that is what you think you have received, share it privately with someone wise first for a second opinion;
  3. interpretation is a separate gift, so the prophet should simply share the words or picture, leaving interpretation to others. Don't cloud what God has said by adding your own sermon at the end.


The word "prostitute" in English translations usually represents the Greek word porne which includes all kinds of fornicators, paid or not.[125 p.127]


The KJV uses the word publican to mean a tax-collector; they were hated as collaborators because the taxes went to the occupying Romans, not to mention the likelihood that they collected more tax than was due. The word derives from the term publicani meaning tax collector in Latin translations of the Bible[125 p.70]. Nowadays the word is used to indicate the manager of a public house ("pub"). The two meanings are connected: both tax-collectors and pub managers hold public licences; and most of the price of a pint of beer is tax, so publicans are still collecting tax for the government!


Purgatory is a Roman Catholic doctrine that there is an uncomfortable cleansing stage between our earthly life and eternity in heaven; see Wikipedia. Ths belief was rejected by the Reformation churches. The relevant New Testament passages are these:

I conclude that those who died without having heard the Gospel enter some sort of waiting place until they have that opportunity, but believers go straight to heaven.


Coventry's International Centre for Reconciliation use a sequence of the "six Rs": researching, relating, relieving, risking, reconciling, resourcing.[70]


means gaining an understanding of the deepest roots of the conflict by listening carefully without judging or relying on preconceived ideas.


See Tell


See 1 Corinthians 6:20 and Philemon.


The woman at the well "asked a question about cult, and in reply Jesus changed the whole perspective of the matter. Nowhere in the New Testament, in fact, is Christianity presented as a cult or as a religion. Religion is needed where there is a wall of separation between God and man. But Christ who is both God and man, has broken down the wall between man and God. He has inaugurated a new life, not a new religion." [71] Therefore the pagans charged him with atheism.


The word repent means re-consider; in other words, think again. Bible translations into traditional English apply it to God when human behaviour changes, prompting a change in his response; an example is in Jonah 3:10. Repentance when applied to a person means turning away from sin. The Greek word metanoia means a complete change of direction, a "u-turn"; an example is in Romans 12:2.

Since the concepts of Sin in the Old and New Testaments are different, the concepts of repentance differ correspondingly. In the Old Testament sin meant falling short of God's demands, so repentance involved "bringing the whole tithe" (Malachi 3:10). In the New Testament sin means turning away from God, so repentance means turning back to God (Luke 1:16).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that there can be no cheap grace. "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ".Genesis 27:41 and 42 illustrate a Jewish understanding of repentance: the sinner is enabled to enter into the experience of their victim [4].

The author of the medieval book called The Cloud of Unknowing points out that those who have done very bad things often make better progress after repentance than others.


"Scholars do not dispute that the resurrection was proclaimed in Jerusalem a few days after it allegedly happened. This would have been a puzzling and risky thing to do had the tomb not been empty. The location of the tomb could not have been unknown to the authorities: Roman guards [no, Jewish guards, according to Matthew 27:65] were placed there, and Joseph of Aramathea was on the Sanhedrin."  [117]

The earliest [surviving] account of [Jesus's resurrection] is not in the Gospels, but in Paul's letter to the church at Corinth, probably written about AD55, a mere 20 or so years after the crucifixion of Jesus ... (1 Corinthians 15:3–7). ... Twice, Paul's statement asserts that this happened "in accordance with the scriptures"—​that is, foretold by the prophets of Israel. On the other hand, he doesn't mention the women who by the unanimous testimony of the Gospels were the first witnesses of the empty tomb; or Mary Magdalene, the very first person to see the risen Christ. ...

The witnesses to Jesus's resurrection appearances all attest that it was undoubtedly Jesus that they encountered, though on several occasions they recorded that at first they didn't recognise him (for example, John 20:14; Luke 24:15–16). "We too may not recognise Jesus immediately, buthe is present among us, reaching out to us, just as he was present to mary on that first Easter morning."[131]

What the witnesses saw was not, they were clear, a "ghost", but equally clearly it ws not an ordinary flesh-and-blood person - otherwise how would they account for the appearing and disappearing? But perhaps we should be content to say that people's failure to receognsise the risen Jesus is an exmple of the way people fail to recognise who God is or what he is doing. Consequently they may feel that God is distant or absent, while in fact he is closer than they can imagine.

Whatever resurrection is, whether of Jesus or of people today, it is emphatically not a physical restoration of the body. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God," Paul says (1 Corinthians 15:50). ... The risen spirit (whether of Jesus, or of you and me) will have a "body" in which to express itself, but it won't be this one, or anything else that would wear out, decay, or perish.

"When we apply that insight—​"turn that key"—​to the question of the Gospel accounts of the resurection of Jesus, we shall find that many of the difficulties disappear. ... Jesus of Nazareth, the son of the village carpenter, was not there—​or, in a sense, anywhere else. The "incarnation" was over. They would meet the risen Messiah, but they would never again see the carpenter's son.[91]

This understanding is developed by John Polkinghorne[7] who draws a distinction between the resurrection of Jesus to eternal life, and people being brought back to life such as those in The Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37) and the raising of Lazarus (John 11) which are examples of "resuscitation" in his terms, "the restoration of this sort of life" in that they would die again. The failure of the disciples to recognise Jesus after his resurrection is a sign that his resurrection was not a resuscitation but the gift of something new and different. He cites science as supportive evidence: the atoms in our bodies are replaced every two years on average, and yet our essential self, even our scars, remain. Our identities and characters are not dependent on our physical constituents.


Lust for riches is a trap (1 Timothy 6:7–10) but wealth is a gift from God to be enjoyed and used. "In order to find freedom, we must first be prepared to lose it. In order to find what we most desire, we must first give up the desire for everything else." [86]

The wealthy businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie said "the man who dies thus rich dies disgraced".

See also Poor.


"Many people in the West simply assume that the language of rights is the only valid ethical language there is, and that they must, for the good of humanity, impose it on the rest of the world. Many Muslims, however, see it an alien imposition. If you believe that your sovereign creator has revealed his will for your life, and your only hope of reaching your potential is by humble submission and the reception of his mercy, how can you base your ideas about living well on what people perceive as their rights?" [72]

See Luke 15:11 where the Prodigal Son claims his rights.

See also Money and Wealth, and Appendix 4 Materialism.


A sacrament is an outward sign of what God is doing, or is being invited to do; "a sacrament not only points to God's grace; it is also a sign that grace is present" [14 p.172].


"Without scientific explanation for the unruly climatic and geophysical disturbances in their environment, most people in the ancient world believed that the divine powers(s) had to be placated by offering them your best possessions: your child, your horse, and so on."[124]

"Christians talk a lot about Jesus' death as a sacrifice. This comes from the New Testament, particularly from the writings of Paul and from Hebrews, which refers to Jesus' death as a sacrifice. Unless you know otherwise, you might assume that there was only one kind of sacrifice and therefore miss the nuance of what is being said by the New Testament writers who knew a lot about how sacrifice worked in the temple. Leviticus 1:2–7:38 lays out in detail the regulations for all kinds of sacrifice and 16.1–24 talks about what they did on the Day of Atonement. It is well worth reading these passages in light of Romans 3:23–25; Romans 12:1; Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 4.18; Hebrews 2:17; 5:3; 10:12; 13:11 and 15 and noticing how much richer they sound when you know more about sacrifice." [13]

In almost every case, sacrifice in the old Testament was initiated by people rather than by God, as did Cain and Abel in Genesis 4:5–7. 1 Samuel 13:12 indicates that the sacrifice was expected to win God's favour. Exceptions to this rule are found in Genesis 15:9, Genesis 22:1 and Exodus 25:1.


The Sadducees were a faction of Judaism in New Testament times, who did not believe in resurrection (Matthew 22:23, Mark 12:18, Luke 20:27) and consequently opposed the Gospel energetically. They seemed to have the ear of the High Priest (Acts 5:17).


"A ship is safe in harbour, but that isn't what ships are for."

Dan Gardner wrote that we're "the healthiest, wealthiest, and longest-lived people in history. And we are increasingly afraid. This is one of the great paradoxes of our time."


The word Saint comes from the Latin Sanctus meaning Holy. Jesus's sacrifice on the cross makes his followers holy, so they are all saints.


According to 2 Kings 17, the Assyrians deported people from far away and settled them in Samaria in place of the Hebrews of the northern ten tribes. The result was a mixed religion, so the Samaritans were not regarded as semitic people by the Jews. There has been enmity between Jews and Samaritans ever since; Ezra 4 records that the Samaritans consistently opposed the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and denounced the Jews to King Ahasuerus.


The process of becoming holy like Christ (Luke 6:40, Romans 13:14). See also Saint.


Bishop King was once sitting in a railway compartment; a keen young evangelist bounced in and said "tell me, Bishop,are you saved?". The Bishop replied "young man, do you mean sesosmenos, sotheis or sozomenos?" These are the perfect tense (I have been saved), the aorist tense (I am completely saved) and the present sense (I am being saved). A Christian who has not yet gone to heaven has been saved, in the sense that they have accepted Christ's full and sufficient sacrifice, but they have not yet received the promise in full, but they are being saved day-to-day as the Holy Spirit works in them.

These have been summarised as:

  1. I have been saved from the penalty of sin;
  2. I am being saved from the power of sin;
  3. I will be saved from the presence of sin.

Job 33:18 f gives a clear description of redemption. Perhaps the earliest warning that nothing a person does can save them, so by implication God must do it, is given in Psalm 49:7.

The traditional understanding of Judaism, traceable to Martin Luther, was that obedience to the Law of Moses was regarded by God as righteousness. A "new understanding" traceable to Sanders[90] sees obedience to the Law as a response to an already-existing covenant relationship with God. Thus Paul did not dispute the basis in God's grace, but the idea that it was exclusive to the Jews.[89 p.255] In 2 Corinthians 5:18–19 Paul defines salvation as reconciliation with God, and adds that we should offer reconciliation to others as God's ambassadors. This neat idea fits Galatians 3:28 but not passages such as Galatians 3:10, Galatians 3:19 and Hebrews 9:12. Colossians 1:13 describes salvation as moving from the kingdom of evil to the kingdom of God.

Some people argue from John 10:28 that a person who has been saved cannot then fall away; see comment on 1 Thessalonians 3:5 which shows that Paul did not agree. See also the comment on Romans 4:25.

One might ask, are we saved from sin and its effects in this life, or losing our place in the next? But perhas moral corruption into sin and physical corruption towards death are two sides of a single coin.


The word Scribe is not found in first century Hebrew texts yet is common in the Gospels. They often met Jesus in the company of Priests or Levites (but never Sadducees). They are thought to be priests who were not on duty at the time.[113]


C S Lewis says of Scripture "There are chroniclers whose intention may have been merely to record. There are poets like those in Song of Songs who probably never dreamed of any but a secular and natural purpose in what they composed. There is (and it is no less important) the work first of the Jewish and then of the Christian Church in preserving and canonising these books. On all these I suppose a Divine pressure; of which not by any means all need have been conscious.
The human qualities of the raw materials show through. Naïvety, error, contradiction, even (as in the cursing Psalms) wickedness are not removed. The total result is not 'the Word of God' in the sense that every passage, in itself, gives impeccable science or history. It carries the Word of God; and we (under grace, with attention to tradition and interpreters wiser than ourselves, and with the use of such intelligence and learning as we may have) receive that word from it not by using it as an encyclopedia or an encyclical but by steeping ourselves in its tone and temper and so learning its overall message." [69 pages 93–94]


We might imagine an engagement ring when we read about a seal. The important feature is that a promise of what will happen is confirmed now by a physical guarantee.[17]


"The simple act of sowing a seed is an act of faith." [94] A seed "contains all the information inside that it needed to grow, but that other factors such as the right envionment were also needed" [73].

See also the section above on "in Christ".


In Aramaic the words for Lamb and Servant are the same: talya.

Duhm saw four "servant songs" in Isaiah: Isaiah 42:1–4, Isaiah 49:1–6, Isaiah 50:4–9, and Isaiah 52:13–53:12 [74].

In his inaugural address as US President in 1961, John F Kennedy said "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Sheep and Shepherd

This analogy for God and his people is expressed in Numbers 27:16–17 but can be seen earlier in Numbers 9:17.

Sin (see also Appendix 4: Stories: Sin)

The Old and New Testament arose from peoples with different languages, so words that appear identical in English translations can have different meanings in the original text, and Sin is one such.

As we review our lives we can see many places where we hoped to achieve more but did not, or we thought someone better than ourselves might have achieved more than we could. That is the Hebrew concept of Sin. Sin in Hebrew means falling short as in Romans 3:23 (which might shed new light on "going the extra mile"). We usually have a different concept, more rooted in the New Testament: we think of going in the opposite direction (e.g. "repentance" means thinking again, implying changing direction), rather than making less progress than we should.

As Francis Dewar puts it[75 p.52], "Sin is basically the failure to respond to God's invitation" and he seems to suggest that the difference between the wide and narrow gates in Matthew 7:13f lies in the courage to be different, to be individual, rather than following the herd[75 p.53]. Perhaps this is also what "sing a new song" (e.g. Psalm 149:1) means; see also comments on Genesis 3:21. These ideas have significant ramifications for what we mean by holy living.

Martyn Percy[76] draws attention to the old word "trespass" for sin. The analogy with the legal meaning makes it clear that a line has been crossed in a way that is offensive to God. The weakness of his argument is that it implies that apart from discrete trespasses we spend most of our time on the correct side of the line, that is, without sin, which is unrealistic.

God can use someone who is trying to go the right way but not getting as far as they might; this is a classic "coaching" or "teaching" situation. Something positive, as opposed to negative, has been achieved, some good done; God can use it. However, if we were going the wrong way entirely, doing Satan's work, how could God use that? We should not forget C S Lewis's point[18 p.61] that God is not pleased with us when we do good, because actually it is simply him doing good through us. After each choice we make we are automatically more or less fitted for heaven, according to which way we chose to go, because all choices affect our core being, the eternal part of us[18 p.83–84]. Repentance is itself a choice, so a repentant murderer has chosen heaven and receives God's forgiveness, while ongoing and unrepented sin is disastrous.

We may suffer persistent temptation despite prayer; when we pray God gives (in the early stages of fighting the temptation at least) not immediate victory but the ability to repent, receive restoration, and keep trying[18 p.91]. Our behaviour is a spiral: good behaviour helps us to be good next time but cruelty and hate become habitual, so every choice affects our life thereafter[18 p.115]. But only those who have really tried to be good know that they cannot do so in their own strength; the others cling to the convenient idea that they are really good people who often choose to sin[18 p.126]. Bad people know very little about sin, because they have never tried to resist it; they tend to think it would be easy if they tried[18 p.123]. Also Lewis reminds us to "hate the sin but love the sinner" [18 p.103].

Augustine of Hippo said "Love God, and do what you like"; that is the key to life. Dewar agrees, saying that our deepest desires, normally buried below sinful desires, are consistent with God's will for us. This seems consistent with the idea that true peace and joy are only to be found in obedience to God; how could that be true unless it satisfied our deepest desire?

If you love God you will not do things he hates, things that are wrong. Jesus confirmed this when he was asked about the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:23–40).

Grün likens the hardening effect of sin on a person to their being frozen[77]. This analogy enables us to visualize that if we respond to their hardness coldly we deny them the opportunity for the little melting that God's warmth within us could have achieved.

Abraham made some serious mistakes, but righteousness was credited to him in Genesis 15:6, with no hint of what process might achieve it. "It's not that God forgives you for erring; it's that God doesn't see your errors as being the essential thing."[131]

Psalm 85 indicates the God deals with our sin not by denying the truth that we are sinful—​God cannot lie—​but by covering it, as in Psalm 32:1, also in James 5:19–20; Isaiah 1:18 indicates that the effect is to make the sinner look clean. The New Testament describes the process as "putting on Christ" which is achieved by choosing Christlike behaviour (e.g. Romans 13:14). The Gospels (e.g. Matthew 22:1–14) and Revelation (e.g. Revelation 7:9) use the metaphor of white garments to combine the Old Testament ideas of whiteness and covering.

See 1 John 1:8f, Save above, Romans 3:23 (all have sinned), Hebrews 4:15 (Christ without sin), Amos 2:7 and Matthew 12:31–31 (unpardonable sin) and comment on Romans 5:12 concerning Original Sin.


Genesis 3:19 says we are made of dust, literally the earth under our feet. In Matthew 13:1–9 Jesus's Parable of the Sower contrasts the receptiveness of various soils to the Word of God; the soils clearly represent us.

Son of Man

Jesus often applied the term "son of man" to himself. It clearly didn't mean "son of a man" because he wasn't the son of Joseph (Matthew 1:20). It simply means Mortal or Human in Aramaic (as in Ezekiel 2:1 for example). In a sense he represents us all. Thus it is entirely appropriate that Jesus is referred to in some hymns as "a second Adam" [78] and in 1 Corinthians 15:45 as "the last Adam".

The question arises then, when Jesus said "the son of man is lord of the sabbath" (Matthew 12:8 and Luke 6:5) did he mean that only he was lord of the sabbath, or all humanity? Psalm 80:17 recognises a Son of Man who is as strong as God. In Matthew 9:6 he declares that the Son of Man has power to forgive sins, which can only apply to God, so the phrase "Son of Man" must refer to Jesus alone. The idea seems to be based on the opening verses of 1 Enoch 46:

And there [in heaven] I saw One who had a head of days, and his head was white like wool, and with him was another being whose countenance had the appearance of a man, and his face was full of graciousness, like one of the holy angels. And I asked the angel who went with me and showed me all the hidden things, concerning that Son of man, who he was, and whence he was, and why he went with the Head of Days. And he answered and said unto me: This is the Son of man who hath righteousness.[88]


Sword is often used in the Bible in a way that is clearly meant to be understood figuratively, such as Revelation 1:16. In Psalm 59:7 it appears to mean violent talk, that is, threatened violence, which helps us to understand its meaning elsewhere. When the sword is being wielded by Jesus it represents warnings of judgment (following the precedent of Psalm 150:9); when it is wielded by others it is usually an indication of violent sin.


The question of why a good God allows suffering has been asked many times. The Genesis chapter 3 points to human disobedience prompted by evil forces. A related question is why those who try to be obedient to God are not protected from suffering, but many passages including Psalm 23:4 and Romans 8:36 promise God's help during suffering rather than a way to avoid it.


All major languages today and down the ages share words for telling a story and counting items (e.g. in English: to recount a story; tellers in an election). This seems to indicate something about human attitudes, and should be reflected in the Bible.[79]


In early times a temple was a place where God could be found and encountered. Now his people are his temple; we have no fundamental need of priests or buildings, though they still have their place. We are now the place where God may be enountered, and our behaviour should show it.

The animal sacrifices required by the Law of Moses had to be made on an altar, and the kings suppressed every altar except the one in Jerusalem, when they centralized power there (2 Kings 23:15–23).

The construction of the temple at Jerusalem (which replaced the tabernacle) is described in 1 Kings 5f but it became ruinous during the exile. Haggai prophesied about its reconstruction in Haggai 2:1–9 and work commenced in Ezra 3—​the "Second Temple" of which only the Wailing Wall remains. Jesus foretold its destruction in Luke 19:34. He spoke mysteriously of rebuilding a temple in three days in John 2:19–21. Paul says that every Christian is called to be a living temple in 2 Corinthians 6:16; the phrase "kingdom of priests" conveys the same idea.

It is possible that the temple authorities in New Testament times were dominated by the Sadducees[23 p.113] [110 p.16].


"I believe in theology as I believe the sun has risen: not only do I see it, but by it I see everything else." [80] We live in x, y, z and t [three spacial dimensions plus time], and in history and places and culture. God is incarnate in all of those. Breuggemann defined place as "space that has meaning". "Theology of Place" explores God's relationship to places. The church needs to identify what places are important to people and show them how God is there; examples might be family graves and parishes. Each parish has its own character and history and needs the Gospel related specifically to it. CS Lewis said in Christian Apologetics that we must immerse ourselves in our cultural contexts, learn their vernacular, and translate the Gospel into that vernacular.


C S Lewis wrote that despite living immersed in time "we are so little reconciled to time that we are even astonished at it. 'How he's grown!' we exclaim, 'How time flies!' as though the universal form of our experience were again and again a novelty. It is as strange as if a fish were repeatedly surprised at the wetness of water. And that would be strange indeed; unless of course the fish were destined to become, one day, a land animal." [69 page 115]

When Bill Collins (Apollo 11) was asked what was the most important qualification for being a lunar astronaut, he replied "being born in 1930".

Why has God immersed us in time, and then offered eternity as a gift? Time inexorably flows past, and we can't go back to put our mistakes right. God is truth, and he makes it perfectly clear to us that our mistakes cannot be hidden nor erased, but can be "covered". See also Ecclesiastes 3:–8.


We might expect the list of the twelve Hebrew patriarchs and their tribes to be unchanging, but the lists and details in scripture vary; even the identity of the eldest son is in doubt. The differences raise the question of whether history was deliberately edited, and why.

The earliest record is said to survive in the Song of Deborah and Barak in Judges 5:14–18; it mentions Ephraim first. Later lists mention Reuben first, e.g. Genesis 29:32, Genesis 49:3, Exodus 1:1–5 and Numbers 1:1–16. Later lists also elevate the trans-Jordan tribes, suggesting editing after the division between the northern and southern tribes.[130]

See also Half-Tribe regarding the disappearance of Reuben from the later lists.


Things often happen in threes where God is involved; for example Isaiah 6:3 tells us that God is "Holy, Holy, Holy". Jewish thought identified these three with the past, present and future tenses, an idea that entered Christian thought through the phrase "who was, and is, and is to come". Revelation 4:8 combines these two ideas.

Christian worship traditionally celebrates God's glory in "the Gloria" which is appended to psalms and canticles. It begins with the Trinity: "Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit..." but then adds the Jewish sequences of three tenses: " it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be".


In biblical times trumpets were used for:

  1. raising the alarm, such as when the community was under attack, like and air raid siren or fire alarm, as in Joel 2:1 and 1 Corinthians 14:8;
  2. announcing public events, as in Leviticus 25:9 and Psalm 81:3.


See comment on Proverbs 12:22.

"Without truth there can be no justice...There are people trying to govern through fear and anger. And what they want is for everybody to be afraid, and everybody should be angry, because the truth is that, when you allow yourself to be governed by fear and anger, you tolerate thigns you should never tolerate." [118]

"Why do newspapers tell the truth? Why do they even try? These are not rhetorical questions: if we could establish the answers, it would help to explain why many of them, most of the time, don't even try." The article went on to say that most readers want entertaining embellishments on the truth.[123]


The word type is used by theologians to indicate a concrete example of something that is otherwise hard to visualise. An example of this is Melchizedek. It might be helpful to think of type as short for prototype.

Urim & Thummim

Urim and Thummim were a method of discovering God's will, operated by a priest. 1 Samuel 14:41 shows that a question was put to God in the form Urim = answer 1 or Thummim = answer 2, rather like tossing a coin for heads or tails. However, in addition to the yes/no answers, sometimes (e.g. 1 Samuel 28:6) there was no answer. Perhaps we should imagine tossing two coins, giving four possible outcomes, some of which indicated a non-result.

Exodus 28:30 indicates that they were kept in the priest's breast-piece. The Breast-piece was a square a [hand]span across made of metal folded double (Exodus 28:16) like an envelope. In order to be physically fit into the breast-piece, the Urim and Thummim must have been thin and small.

According a footnote to 1 Esdras 5:40 in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Anglicized Edition, 1998 Edition, the Septuagint translates "Urim and Thummim" as "Manifestation and Truth".

In 1 Samuel 10 Urim and Thummim was used to confirm the institution of the Jewish monarchy. By the time of the return from exile in Babylon the Jews were longing for "a priest with Urim and Thummim" to arise (Ezra 2:63, Nehemiah 7:65), implying that either the Urim and Thummim or the authority to use them had been lost, so decisions could not be made any longer by this method. It has been suggested that they were suppressed by kings who saw them as a threat to their authority[74 p.130].


A book published by Thomas More in 1615.


The Old Testament uses a vineyard as a metaphor for Israel (defined in Isaiah 5:7) in Psalm 80:8–16, Isaiah 5:1–7, and Jeremiah 12:10.

Jesus often referred to a vineyard, presumably implying that he was speaking about Israel, in Matthew 20, Matthew 21:28, Matthew 21:33f (= Mark 12:1–11, Luke 20:9) and Luke 13:6–9. Jesus's "I am the true vine" in John 15 is a related metaphor.

See also Wine below.


The Latin version of the Bible produced by St Jerome. It could be regarded as a paraphrase rather than a translation, because he said "I render sense for sense, not word for word." [87]


The word was in New Testament Greek implies something continuing as opposed to something that is now history. So where John's Gospel says "he was God" he does not mean that this was so at some time in the past, rather that he is God and has been for all time.


Leviticus 17:11, Leviticus 17:14 and Deuteronomy 12:23 tell us "the life is in the blood", so blood is a good and God-given substance. It follows that when blood is associated in scripture with impurity, it is not the blood itself that is impure, but the treatment of it.

I suggest that the same applies to semen, which contains the man's posterity, in Leviticus 15:16 f.

Water and Waters

In the Old testament "water" singular means a manageable water source which might be suitable for drinking (e.g. Exodus 17:1) which can become a plural where there were several sources in one place (Exodus 15:27), but "waters" can also mean the chaotic expanse of the sea, and any other chaotic fluid including gases (Genesis 1:2, Psalm 18:1). See also comment on Genesis 1:6–7.

The phrase "waters beneath the earth" in Exodus 20:4 and Deuteronomy 4:18 is intriguing. It might mean the sea, whose level is below that of the dry land, or the molten magma which can spurt to the surface in a volcano, or some unseen quantity of water from which springs can rise to the surface. Genesis 1:7 indicates that there is "water" of some sort that is separated from surface water by the dry land. Exodus 20:4 and Deuteronomy 4:18 assume there are fishes there.

Scientific research shows that there is indeed a considerable amount of water within the earth; see and


The New Testament divides the night into watches, apparently corresponding to the 3-hour[125 p.115] watches set by the Roman army but giving each watch a nickname. Mark 13:35 lists them as evening, midnight, cock-crow and morning.


Deuteronomy 26:1–4 warn of the dangers of wealth. See Luke 12:15, Luke 12:32–34. It is said that the Pope once pointed out some of the Church's treasures to Thomas Aquinas, saying that the Church could not now say "silver and gold have I none" [Acts 3:6a]. Thomas replied that she could also no longer say, "Take up your mat and walk" [Acts 3:6b]. God's blessing often leads to wealth, but it seems to make the church less powerful rather than more. Perhaps the poverty of the early church led to total reliance on God and his power. The key is the attitude of 2 Corintians 10:8: we are made rich so that we can be generous.

"The antidote to greed is waiting." [81]

Free markets and competitive tendering: "The common good cannot be achieved through competition arbitrating between selfish objects" [114].

See also Money and Rich above, and Appendix 4 Materialism.


The sound of a wine-cork being pulled has nice associations for me. The Bible often talks about wine and vineyards, and they are always seen as something good and desirable. Wine is not something to slake your thirst, it is about relaxation and a little luxury. The familiar concept of wine helps us to understand how God feels about things he enjoys. God is portrayed as enjoying his people.

Isaiah showed how God has put a lot of effort into preparing his people, in the hope that they will respond in a way which pleases him. God did everything possible to get good grapes, so that he could enjoy good wine in due course, but it came to nothing. This shows us the disappointment God felt when his people did not keep the old covenant.

In John 15 Jesus uses the same metaphor, but with extra details, to explain how our relationship with him is meant to bring pleasure to the Father.

Why does the Bible talk about grafting and pruning? Vine types that make really tasty wine do not do very well if you plant them straight into the soil. You need a vigorous and healthy root stock to get a respectable crop. These root stocks send down tap roots a very long way, so they can grow even in what looks like completely dry soil. So, first you plant you root stock which can cope with the type of soil you have got in your field, and then you graft into it a grape whose taste you like and which can cope with the amount of sun you get where you live. You do well to graft a new branch onto an old root stock. Root stocks which are hundreds of years old and look all gnarled and lumpy are actually very good because their root system is fully developed. Their stems are also strong enough to support lots of grapes.

When the Americans started to build up their grape industry recently they knew they should chose their root stock carefully. They planted the whole Californian wine-making area with the same type of root stock, because some expert said that it was the best. Then a few years ago a pest was accidentally introduced and they found that this root stock was not immune to it. The result was that they had to dig up all their vineyards and start again.

We can learn a few things about our relationship with Jesus from this information. Firstly, we need to be grafted into him; we will not flourish without the life-blood from a mature trunk. Secondly, we rely on his strength and protection from the enemy. Thirdly, we must do our best where we are—​the vine branch cannot choose where it grows. The trunk holds it aloft where it can enjoy the warmth of the sun. In the same way Jesus brings us into the presence of the Father so that we can receive from him.

What does the branch do? It grows some stem, some leaves, and some grapes.

The stem is about growing nearer to the sun. in the same way we should grow towards the Father, closer and closer. But imagine that you are looking after a plant: you watch it grow and you look after it. When it grows a bit you are pleased, but if one branch grows much more than the rest you may well cut it back. You don't want the plant to get out of shape. In the same way we are not Christians on our own, but we are in a community with other Christians. God wants us to support each other and work together. If one of us goes running ahead without bringing the rest along too then God may not be pleased.

The leaves are for receiving the benefit of the sun. A plant angles its leaves to collect as much sunlight as it can. Unfortunately a vine which is planted in rich soil tends to produce too many leaves, covering the fruit. The result is firstly that it grows fewer grapes than it might because it is putting all its efforts in to making leaves, and secondly the grapes it does make never see the sun so its fruit never ripens. That is the main reason why the vine dresser prunes a vine—​he is cutting off excess leaves so that the grapes get some sunlight. We are like this too—​when everything is wonderful we just bask in God's love and we never actually do anything much. God has to shake our shoulders every now and then to get his work done. Some of us may be planted on poor soil, because that is how the best wine is made. On difficult soil you may not get fruit in quantity, but what you get is of the highest quality and is very special. When God puts us in a difficult situation he knows we can only do what Jesus gives us the strength to do, but our fruit will be very precious and pleasing to the Father.

Now to the grapes. We know we are supposed to produce fruit. You may wonder what kind of fruit you are supposed to be producing, but you have the concept of having something to show from your Christian Life. The important thing is to use the life-giving strength that is flowing to you from Jesus, not anything else. There are lots of kinds of grape, and the farmer may not want us all to produce the same kind of fruit. So what are we supposed to do?

We sometimes say that now Jesus is ascended to his father the only hands God has to do good on earth are our hands. We think in terms of being fruitful by being busy. The trouble is, that is the kind of thing we do in our own strength. The whole point of Jesus describing himself as the true vine is that we must do things in his strength. St Paul wrote "the fruits of the spirit are these: love, joy, peace, patience ...". This is what the father hopes to see growing in us. This is what he yearns for and works for. If we are grafted into Jesus the Holy Spirit will produce this fruit in us, imperceptibly, like grapes growing.

But there is no wine in heaven—​see comment on Revelation 21:6.


Origen said "the wise man is known by the fewness of his words".


(see also Praise) means literally "worthship" or giving God his worth. In practice this means responding to God. Luther said worship is "the tenth leper turning back". The tenth leper turned round to give thanks for what he had received.

CS Lewis said, praising God is "an acquired taste".

In the time of the Old Testament Kings there was an ongoing tension between worship at Jerusalem and worship at the High Places. Before the Hebrews entered the promised land there were already High Places where local gods were worshipped, though some had originally been for the worship of YHWH (Genesis 28:18–22, Joshua 4:20–24). Numbers 33:52 commands their destruction. Instead the Hebrews tried to retain them. It appears that both God and idols were worshipped there (2 Kings 17:32, 2 Chronicles 28:25). 1 Kings 3:2 suggests that the temple was seen as an opportunity to gain control of the situation so that only God would be worshipped. However, there were problems even at Jerusalem and it became necessary to destroy the Bronze Snake to prevent it being venerated (1 Kings 18:4). Centralising worship at the Temple provided an opportunity for the old high places to slide back into paganism.[82]

2 Chronicles 20:1–30 illustrates the idea that not only is worship our rightful behaviour toward God, it also releases God's power into our situation.


See Jehovah above.


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  124. Joyce D'Silva quoted by Terence Handley MacMath in "Interview" Church Times 7 July 2023 p.56
  125. Paula Gooder The Parables Canterbury Press "Biblical eplorations" series, 2020
  126. Bishop John V. Taylor Weep Not for Me: Meditations on the Cross and the Resurrection quoted by Canon Brian Davis in a letter published in Church Times 17 November 2023 p.16
  127. Anne Marie Kitz "Demons in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East" in Journal of Biblical Literature Vol 135 no 3 pp 447–464
  128. Nicholas Cranfield With Father and Spirit, Church Times 5 January 2024 p.23
  129. Unknown Canterbury poet, quoted by Jennifer Llewellyn in a homily during Evensong on 25 February 2024
  130. Andrew Tobolowski "The Problem of Reubenite Primacy: New Paradigms, New Answers" in Journal of Biblical Literature Vol 139 no 1 pp 27–45
  131. Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark, "A view from the Bridge" in the Southwark Diocesan Newspaper The Bridge April 2024 p.2
  132. Marilynne Robinson interviewed by Shoshana Boyd Everyday story of regular people Church Times 22 March 2024 p.17
  133. Rich Gower When the calling is to change things Church Times 15 March 2024 p.25
  134. Stephen Cherry Unforgivable? Exploring the limits of forgiveness reviewed by Robin Gill in No forgiveness on the cheap Church Times 3 May 2024 p.26
  135. Bruce Wells "Death in the Garden of Eden" in Journal of Biblical Literature Vol 139 no 4 p 647

© David Billin 2002–2024