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-The Modern Samaritans Struggling to Survive

by Dr. D ~ September 23rd, 2015


                              (Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim: from Wikipedia)

Most Christians only know about the Samaritans from few passages in the New Testament gospels. Today the Samaritan people and religion struggle to survive in the face of the larger communities of Muslims, and Jews along with Christians in Palestine and Israel. There are only 780 left in two small communities that are looking forward to being part of a future Palestinian country.

Here’s a good article introducing their basic beliefs and their struggles from Al Monitor:

NABLUS, West Bank — Mount Gerizim, south of Nablus in the northern West Bank, is home to the Samaritans, who call themselves the world’s smallest religious community. There are some 780 Samaritans total, distributed between Gerizim, where 380 of them live, and the city of Holon in Israel, where they number 400. …

The Samaritans celebrate seven holidays a year. One is Passover, during which they present offerings to God, who made way for the Israelites to save them from the Pharaoh. Among their Passover traditions, Samaritans eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs, commemorating the bitterness of life in Egypt. The others are the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, which lasts for six days, the Harvest Festival, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shavuot. …

The holiest place for Samaritans is the summit of Mount Gerizim, which they believe to have been the chosen location for the holy temple. By order of Israel, the area is now fenced off and only accessible to the Samaritans for pilgrimage three times a year, during Passover, the Harvest Festival and Sukkot.

The Samaritans are led by a high priest, the eldest member of the Levites, who are descendants of Eleazer, the second high priest of the sect and son of Aaron, the first high priest and Moses’ older brother who accompanied Moses during the Exodus. Abdullah Tawfiq is the current high priest.

<Read the whole article>

Response: What is particularly interesting to Bible scholars is their ancient Torah scroll (first five books of the Bible) which they claim to be older than any other OT manuscripts presently extant. Far older than even the Dead Sea scrolls.

Scholars have noted at least 7000 differences between the Jewish copies of the same books in the printed editions. Most of them minor. However, only Samaritan priests are allowed to see and handle the original scroll so the claims of ancient origins  and accuracy cannot be confirmed.

From the Jewish perspective, the Samaritans are a mixed people that were refused access to the post-exilic temple worship in Jerusalem so started their own cult based on Mount Gerizim. The Samaritans on the other hand claim to have genealogical records that stretch back 163 generations and say that worship at Mount Gerizim predates the temple in Jerusalem.               *Top

Here are links to other articles about the Samaritans:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritans




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-Summing Up the Assault on RFRA’s and Freedom of Religion in America

by Dr. D ~ August 4th, 2015


We have been writing on the issue of Freedom of Religion for over nine years. Lately we have been observing that religious liberty is under assault in America and the traditional understanding of the First Amendment is in the process of being redefined. Our greatest disappointment is that so many Americans appear to accept the substitution of ‘freedom of worship’ for the traditional understanding of freedom of religion.

Here’s one of the best articles I have read summarizing what has happened lately to the freedom of religion in America:

“The Decline—and Fall?—of Religious Freedom in America” by Bruce Abramson

The essay appears in the Mosaic Magazine and not only brings a Jewish perspective to the table, but provides a good summary of the on-going process to change and limit our First Amendment rights to religious liberty and religious practice in the USA.

In different sections of his essay, Abramson talks about the difference between ‘freedom of worship’ and freedom of religion, the history of  RFRAs and the rise of the anti-RFRA movement, possible future problems for Jewish freedom, and the assertion of new ‘dogmas’ concerning religious freedom abuses and limitations.

Here are several poignant quotes from the essay:

American society is thus rethinking the relationship between church and state, returning once again to a fundamental question: once the state has spoken, why should it make room for what the church, any church, has to say? …

Throughout American history, most legal scholars believed that the First Amendment recognized the right to lead a faith-based life, to follow a minority moral code. That belief has now changed.  …

But the First Amendment does not guarantee the freedom of worship; it guarantees the free exercise of religion—a much broader concept that explicitly includes the right to lead a faith-based life and to behave in a manner that faith dictates and eschew choices that faith prohibits.  …

Freedom of religion falls when we refuse to allow people to align their lives, their families, and their businesses with the dictates of their faith. And if freedom of religion falls, so do all of our other rights.

If you really want to begin to understand this issue more fully and the possible ramifications for the future, I highly recommend reading this essay in its entirety.            *Top

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-Scholars Now Believe the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” is a Modern Fake

by Dr. D ~ July 18th, 2015


Most scholars now believe that the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” is a modern fake. This is not a new story but you probably haven’t heard about this on the 10 o’clock news which originally hailed the story of its magnificent discovery. In fact, most folks on the street probably haven’t heard about the scholarly updates and conclusions on this document. Many out there may still believe that a ‘new gospel’ has been discovered that ‘proves’ Jesus was married.

Last year most of the newspapers of record did carry the updated story of its exposure as a probable fake somewhere in their back pages. Nothing like the announcement in 2012 when the main stream media gleefully spread the news far and wide that a new ‘gospel’ had been discovered that proved that Jesus was married. All based upon a tiny scrap of  papyrus (shown above) that appeared to be written in 4th century Coptic. But later testing showed that it was possibly as late as the 7th or 8th century.

At the time we posted several articles which contradicted the popular notion that this so-called ‘gospel’ was a threat to Christianity in some way. We also presented a number of facts that would preclude this document from having anything to do with the historical Jesus who lived at least 4-8 centuries before this ‘gospel’ was even reported to have been written. Even the Harvard professor that introduced it to the media admitted that it really had nothing to do with the historical Jesus. Here are links to our earlier articles:

-Re: ‘The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’

-Christian Scholars Respond to So-called ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’

-So The ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ May be ‘Authentic’ But The Story Really Isn’t

In the meantime, we have been following the back and forth on this document in trade journals for several years. Most scholars are now convinced that this document is a modern fake merely copied on a scrap of old papyrus.

If you want to be brought up to date on the latest, here’s the best and most readable article that I have found presenting key reasons why most scholars now believe it is a modern fake:

5 Reasons Why the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Is a Fake” by Simon J. Gathercole               *Top

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-LDS Church (Mormon) Response to Supreme Court Marriage Decision

by Dr. D ~ July 1st, 2015


          (LDS Temple -Salt Lake: Wikipedia)

The leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) has issued an official response to the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. A letter supporting traditional marriage and prohibiting same-sex marriages and celebrations in their churches and on their properties has been sent out to be read on July 5 in all of their churches in the USA and Canada. From the document:

…Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to His plan for His children and for the well?being of society. … Strong families, guided by a loving mother and father, serve as the fundamental institution for nurturing children, instilling faith, and transmitting to future generations the moral strengths and values that are important to civilization and vital to eternal salvation.

A family built on marriage of a man and a woman is the best setting for God’s plan of happiness to thrive. …

Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. …

Consistent with our fundamental beliefs, Church officers will not employ their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages between two people of the same sex, and the Church does not permit its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions, or other activities associated with same?sex marriages. Nevertheless, all visitors are welcome to our chapels and premises so long as they respect our standards of conduct while there. …

<Read the whole Document>

Response: Every religion, denomination, church and Christian organization in America will now have to clearly declare where they stand one way or another on same-sex marriage.  No exceptions. Well, maybe the Muslims will get a free pass.

Look for the liberal mainstream churches to come out eventually for it and the Catholic and Orthodox and most Evangelical churches and denominations against. Actually the current language being used by the main stream media is not really correct or fair since most of us who support marriage between one man and one woman do not agree with any redefinition that includes same-sex unions. We believe that marriage was defined and ordained by God at the beginning of creation and no government agency including SCOTUS has the right to change it.

The Mormon Church is among the first to commit. Those of us who support Biblical teaching and theology can do nothing but compliment their stand in this case and their timing.

The letter is a clear and unambiguous stand by the Mormons for traditional marriage by God. It also clearly states that no one in their denomination has authority to perform same-sex marriages and unequivocally declares that none of their churches or properties may be used for that purpose or even for receptions or activities associated with it. A model that other churches might want to consult in writing their own declaration.

In the meantime, Christian legal organizations are suggesting that churches and Christian organizations need to clearly define their stands on same-sex marriage and homosexuality in their organizational papers. Several legal groups have offered help in this process. Here’s a link to some guidelines from Pacific Justice Institute.                *Top

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-Does God Have a Gender?

by Dr. D ~ June 8th, 2015


Recently a number of priests in the Church of England publically called for changes in the church’s liturgies to include references to God as a female and mother alongside the traditional male designations. From Christian Today:

Proclaiming "Jesa Christa, crucified" is among the liturgical changes that could help lessen abuse of power in the Church, according to a leading woman priest.

While there is support at the highest levels for the liturgies to be rewritten to represent the female as well as the male side of God, any change would need to go through the General Synod of the Church of England.

Many priests and bishops already substitute "she" for "he" in parish services around the country. At a recent Westminster Faith Debate on women bishops, a woman rabbi sang ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’ with female instead of male pronouns.

<Read the whole article>

Does God have a gender?


Gender is a physical characteristic and God is not a created physical being with flesh and blood but a spirit outside of time and space (John 4:24, Luke 24:39).

Nevertheless, even though God does not have a gender as such the conversation continues as a factor of human language and a description of relationship. Since God really has no gender, some have concluded that it really doesn’t matter what pronouns or gender specific language one might use in identifying God. While ‘it’ may sound too disrespectful for worship, in that line of thinking, ‘God the Mother’ is just as good as ‘God the Father.’ Better yet, since it supports the feminist movement and is more in tune with our modern Western culture.

However, I believe that we should be careful to use designations for God that are clearly supported by scripture.

First. The Bible should be recognized as the best and most authoritative source for identifying who God really is. Christianity is a revealed religion. So let’s review what we can find in the scriptures.

Many in favor of using feminine designations for God point to the scriptural passages which use feminine metaphors for the Divine (Isaiah 42:14, Isaiah 46:3, Isaiah 49:15, Isaiah 66:13, Luke 15:8-10). So there are scriptures which indicate that God’s personality may include some characteristics which are normally associated with women.

However, there are also scriptures referring to God as a ‘rock’ (Psalm 18:2), a ‘lion’ (Hosea 11:10), a ‘bear’ (Hosea 13:8), and as a’ bird with wings’ (Psalm 91:4) just to name a few.  So anthropomorphisms and metaphors of God in the Bible are better understood as evidence for character and personality rather than gender.

Fact is , in the scriptures God is most clearly and consistently named and referred to using masculine pronouns and language.

Second. I believe as Christians we should continue to honor the designations Jesus used during his lifetime. Jesus consistently referred to God using masculine names and pronouns, particularly ‘Father.’

Some have pointed out that he did refer to God once as a woman looking for a lost coin in Luke 15:8-10 but that was actually a teaching parable. But no one would say in a similar passage that Jesus was really calling himself a female chicken (Matthew 23:37 or Luke 13:34) when he refers to himself as a ‘mother hen’ trying to gather together the folks in Jerusalem.

Third. All of the nations and cultures surrounding ancient Israel and Judah featured goddesses even though all of them were patriarchal societies. If the identity of God was merely a function of culture, the ancient Hebrews would have joined the rest of the world by adding a feminine deity to their worship.

However, the Hebrew prophets consistently condemned the inclusion of any goddesses in the homes and the worship of their people. Culturally it would have been a natural response to at lease emphasize a feminine nature of the One True God to combat the problem but that never really happened. Though there is some evidence related to the ‘Spirit of God’ that we will explore later.

Fourth. Traditional Christian Trinitarian theology should not be ignored since the doctrine was formed by carefully analyzing every single scriptural reference to the identity of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is the defining doctrine of God accepted by all major Christian churches and denominations.  So I believe it should be included in the discussions since a number of different issues are raised in the process.

     -God The Father: The  first person of the Godhead was consistently called ‘Father’ by Jesus Christ. Since he had a natural mother- Mary and the scriptures identified him as the ‘Son of God,’ it was natural for him to refer to God as ‘Father.’ But the scriptures go beyond that mere convenience. There really are no references to ‘God The Mother’ in the New Testament. So I don’t see how it can be supported by Christians without appealing to ambiguous and possibly misapplied Old Testament metaphors.

In later Catholic traditions,  Mary is called the ‘Mother of God’ but never is elevated to divine status herself. However, I will concede that I have no real problem with Christians using a more generic reference to God as a ‘Heavenly Parent.’

     -God The Son: Jesus Christ is fully God but lived on earth as fully a man so it is difficult to see how the second person of the Godhead could ever be successfully identified as a female.

While we are at it, the one statement that really bothers me in the key article above is the reference:

"Jesa Christa, crucified"

There is no way that Jesus Christ can ever seriously be identified as such. One has to totally disregard the Gospel record and his life as an actual man in history.

     -God The Holy Spirit: The third person of the Godhead offers the best scriptural evidence for some kind of a feminine identity. The Hebrew and Aramaic word for ‘Spirit’ is feminine. So all the way through the Old testament feminine language is assigned to the Spirit of God (at least 74 references). Also the divine personification of ‘Wisdom’ in Prov. 8:12-31 is feminine. Add to that the fact that Jesus probably spoke Aramaic and there is some real scriptural support for a possible feminine identity for the Spirit of God and a scriptural basis for the inclusion of the feminine in the Godhead. This should not be a complete surprise since God created humankind in his own Image; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

However, a feminine identity for the Holy Spirit is not supported in the New Testament. In the Greek language ‘spirit’  is neuter. But all the way through the NT all of the pronouns referencing the Holy Spirit are masculine and plus several titles (Paraclete, Comforter) applied to the Holy Spirit are also male.  Add to that the fact that in the Septuagint (ancient Greek translation of the OT) all of the references to the Spirit of God are also neuter and do not reflect the possible feminine designations of the Hebrew and Aramaic.

So looking at the evidence in the Biblical languages used throughout the Bible does not completely resolve this issue for us.


-God does not have a gender. But gender designation may none the less be useful as a factor of language identifying personality and relationship.

-The Bible should be recognized as the best and most authoritative source for identifying who God really is.

-Anthropomorphisms and metaphors in the scriptures are evidence for character and personality but not necessarily gender.

-Patriarchal culture did not necessarily force a masculine identity for God since nearly all of the neighboring nations (also patriarchal) worshiped goddesses.

-The references to God used by Jesus should be honored by Christians.

-Triune references of identity and relationships of the One True God should still be respected since their source was Biblical.

-There seems to be a basis for a feminine identity of God in the Hebrew and Aramaic references to the ‘Spirit’ of God and the personification of ‘Wisdom’ in the Old Testament. However, it is not supported in the Greek New Testament nor by the Septuagint.

-There is also a basis for a feminine side of God in creation since male and female were made in the image of God.


Back to the issue before us. There are a number of priests in the Church of England that are demanding changes in the church’s liturgy to identify God as a female and a mother in addition to the masculine language that has been used traditionally. A lot of the pressure for the change is coming from the modern culture and the feminist movement in particular.

It is my view that Christians should continue to use and respect the designations that are clearly supported in the scriptures. One might refer to God as our Heavenly ‘Parent’ without any real departure and referencing the ‘Spirit of God’ and ‘Wisdom’ using feminine pronouns has at least some scriptural support. But the idea that God can be called ‘God the Mother’ really has no Biblical support at all and confuses the Trinitarian identities. And finally, a reference to Jesus Christ as ‘Jesa Christa’ is just plain ridiculous if not offensive.             *Top

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