Next month:
June 2006

You Got a Rotten Attitude and You Better Straighten Out!

My Bethel pal reflected on how frail people are today and how the old-timers must scratch their heads in wonder. Back in their day (the good old days) a person might be counseled this way: You got a rotten attitude and you better straighten up!

And they would straighten up! And they’d say thanks for the counsel! Or maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe they’d decide to go elsewhere in life. But they wouldn’t crumble.

Today, erring ones get counsel sandwiches. Take one thick slice of bread. Place a small slice of counsel on top. Cover with another thick slice of bread. The bread, of course, represents gushing (but genuine) praise, needed to cushion counsel’s blow to the ego.

I’ve heard them called brotherums….. Brother, um…that was a fine so and so, this or that, but, um, did you ever consider that…..

How did people get so fragile? To be sure, the blockheads of the past didn’t have a bit of tact, and it can only be good that they finally get some. But the fragility?

All of us are raised in increasingly uncertain times by families who, as a result, are increasingly dysfunctional. It takes its toll. Too, every generation is one generation further from mankind’s perfect start. That too, must take its toll.

It’s good to remember that when we interact with others. Cut them some slack.

 

*********************

Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Gospel of Judas and the Breakaway Sect

April 2006, the National Geographic Society surprised us with the Gospel of Judas, (not to be confused with the Gospel of Howard) found in the 1970’s Egyptian dessert.

Background on gospels: the Bible has four of them, each named after its author: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Gospel means good news. Did Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, write the Gospel of Judas? If so, he had to write fast. Jesus gave him secret revelations only days before Judas took his own life.

No, Judas is not supposed to have written the gospel himself, but even so, when would he have told anyone his inside information? He was busy around that time, handing Jesus to the authorities, then feeling remorse over the deed, then taking his life over it.

Like different newspapers covering the same events, gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke overlap a lot. The Gospel of John, written many years afterwards by the nearly 100 year old apostle, contains about 90% new material. You shouldn’t be surprised at that. The needs of the Christian community would have changed in 30 years, and so John highlighted different deeds and teachings of Jesus, more relevant to Christians of his time. He acknowledges in his final sentence that there is no end to material he could have drawn on. 

The Gospel of Judas was written long after this time, and thus the connection to Judas, who lived only a few days after Jesus gave him his claimed secret revelations, has to be shaky. The content is heavily mystical, not at all like the other writings.

Elaine Pagels of Princeton University says texts like Judas are “exploding the myth of a monolithic religion” in favor of Christian diversity. Nonsense. It explodes nothing that the Bible canon itself doesn’t explode.

Below are 5 separate scriptures from the New Testament. Look them up if you like. The statements make clear that the authors were indeed striving for monolithic unity, and not Christian diversity. And why not? They were the apostles after all, the same fellows in the Last Supper painting. They knew what Jesus had done and said, and they wanted to keep the record untainted, a fight they ultimately lost, at least in the short run. Do you really think, for the sake of diversity, that they would welcome a new gospel, written years after their own deaths, by someone who couldn’t possibly be in position to know anything?

The Gospel of Judas is useful if we keep in mind what it represents….the view of a breakaway sect, not Christianity itself. Unfortunately, you know and I know that next years’ Christmas or Easter sop from the TV networks will be the “real” story of Jesus, based on the Book of Judas.

2 Pet 3: 15   Furthermore, consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul according to the wisdom given him also wrote YOU, 16 speaking about these things as he does also in all [his] letters. In them, however, are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unsteady are twisting, as [they do] also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

1 Tim 4:1   However, the inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons, 2 by the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, marked in their conscience as with a branding iron; 3 forbidding to marry, commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be partaken of with thanksgiving by those who have faith and accurately know the truth.

Acts 20:29   I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among YOU and will not treat the flock with tenderness, 30 and from among YOU yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.

1 John 2:18   Young children, it is the last hour, and, just as YOU have heard that antichrist is coming, even now there have come to be many antichrists; from which fact we gain the knowledge that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of our sort; for if they had been of our sort, they would have remained with us. But [they went out] that it might be shown up that not all are of our sort.

2 John 9   Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. He that does remain in this teaching is the one that has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to YOU and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into YOUR homes or say a greeting to him.

 

**************************

 

Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Oh No! Politically Correct Ancient Scribes!

Elihu listened to days and days of speeches, enough to make anyone antsy. When he’d heard all he could stand, he spoke himself. As it turns out, the young man was the only one who knew what he was talking about.

A short summation of the Book of Job, the ancient exploration of suffering: Job, the account goes, was a wealthy and honored man, deservedly so. But he ran into very hard times. In short order, he lost possessions, family, and health. He exiled himself from the city and waited to die. Only he didn’t die. He just suffered.

News gets around, and Job receives three visitors who, rather than empathize, keep watch vulture-like for days. When they finally speak, it’s not to console the sick man, but to condemn him! Job has only himself to blame, they point out, because he’s been such a skunk, and so God is getting payback.

Only, Job has not been a skunk. He’s really been a good man. So he defends himself. Vehemently. He has to, because his visitors become more and more vicious, furious that their words should not be taken to heart. They keep goading him, by degrees, till Job, too, shoots off his mouth: Nobody’s ever been more worthy and free from blame as he, and  nobody’s ever suffered more at the hands of an unjust God, who must be unjust to pick on him this way, when He surely ought to be able to find better things to do with His time.

This is when Elihu, up till now silent, speaks. He’s steamed. But who is he steamed at?

Everyone.

Against Job his anger blazed, because he justified himself rather than God; and against his three friends too, his anger blazed, because they had found no answer, and yet they had pronounced Job wrong.    Job 32:2,3 Berkeley Version

Most Bible translations agree with the last phrase: …they had pronounced Job wrong. But the New World Translation and a few others, render it that God is the one who’d been pronounced wrong!

That’s a significant deviation. What accounts for it?

Since papyrus and vellum, like paper today, disintegrates over time, and yet the scriptures were preserved for centuries, someone had to have copied and copied and copied. Before Christ a class of scribes called the Sopherim were charged with this work. They did nothing but reproduce manuscripts, maintaining accuracy. After Christ, a class called the Massorites did the same thing. The latter made copious notes in the margins, mostly things to ensure correctness, for example counting individual letters per line to make sure their maunscript didn’t vary from that they were copying. But there’s a few places where they note that the earlier Sopherim had tweaked the Scriptures a bit, to improve readability.

Job 32:3 is one of those tweaks. It apparently says, originally, that God was pronounced wrong. But scriptures were read aloud in the synagogue on Sabbath day, and the notion of God being made wrong struck those scribes as so offensive that they changed the subject to Job, who could be wrong as rain without causing any harm! The Massorites note the substitution and give a margin footnote: this is one of the 18 emendations of the Sopherim. [Google the expression] Only, after they recorded the number, they found a few more, so the 18 emendations is really more than 20. They are scattered throughout different manuscripts.

Thus, we have political correctness way back in ancient times!

Which rendering really fits: Job or God?

Sometimes when translating, and there is a genuine choice of terms, you use context to determine which one fits. Oddly, for Job 32, both renderings will do.

Job fits, for his pals clearly accused him of vileness, without giving any evidence. They did pronounce him wrong. If you’d read Job only up to this chapter, you might prefer this rendering.

But God fits too, and seems more likely in view of what Elihu goes on to say….he speaks up in defense of God, not Job. And the three pals did level wrong charges against God, for example, telling Job that his goodness was meaningless to God, since there was no pleasing Him anyway. 

At any rate, writers of the New World Translation concluded that, since over-pious scribes took out the subject God, they should put it back in. The large print edition explains the decision in appendix 2B

Job 15:15;  42:7

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Who to Blame for Human Suffering...Katrina

Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans last year. People lost everything and they asked, some of them: where was God?

Fundamentalist preacher Pat Robertson had the answer right away. God destroyed New Orleans, he declared, because of abortion and homosexuality. But the mayor, Ray Nagin, disagreed. Sharply. And at his own news conference, he set the record straight. God did not destroy his town because of abortion and homosexuality.

He destroyed it because of war in Iraq and disunity among black residents. That’s what steamed God, Nagin said, not abortion and gays.

Either way, God is the heavy. But is he really the one to blame?

After Katrina, for a few days in the ministry you could focus on the theme of humans ruining the earth. You could use Rev 11:18.…..God will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” You could ask: “do you think human activity is causing the destructive weather?” Even those who thought not would listen, out of respect for Katrina.

I used this scripture in the 1970s when only means of ruining the earth anyone could imagine was nuclear holocaust. That was then. Today, there are so many ways humans might be fouling the nest. Global warming, global dimming (a new one), pesticides, air pollution, water pollution, ozone depletion, contamination of food supply, species extinction, deforestation. All debatable to different degrees, but all plausible.

It’s as if a man runs his automobile without concern for maintenance. He doesn‘t care about oil changes. He doesn‘t care about brake shoes. He doesn‘t care about tune-ups. Little does he know the consequence of his ignorance, but if it comes, he can hardly blame the manufacturer.

And it’s the same way with earth’s manufacturer. God knows the right maintenance for the planet. Plus, the Bible account tells of His Son walking on water and silencing a violent storm….in other words, showing mastery of the elements. Adam gave up a lot when he rejected God’s rule. For God’s rule would implement knowledge and ability that humans don’t have.

And we won’t even mention the smarts of building a city next to the sea yet below sea level. Hardly God’s wisdom, it barely passes for human wisdom.

So you can’t blame God when human shortsightedness brings suffering. Moreover, the real answer, his kingdom rule, is approaching. Best thing to do in the meantime is clean up the mess, and alleviate human suffering.

In our own organization, volunteers have arrived from across the country and even outside. They report, strangely, that not too much is happening with rebuilding. Being volunteers who travel at their own expense, they focus on our own family first. The June 2006 Awake! tells of 3200 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses destroyed by the flood. Half were renovated by February. It would be about two thirds by now.

They don’t blame God for their inconvenience.

Prov 1:31,31, Mark 4:37-41, Matt 6:9,10

***************************

Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Who Has Fought the Fine Fight?

When they hauled James Copp in for sentencing, he got to make a speech, which he enjoys doing. Copp, you’ll remember was the fellow lurking in the woods outside Dr. Bernard Shlepian’s Buffalo home, who fatally shot the man through his kitchen window, in full view of wife and children. He’d shot at other doctors, too, but Shlepian was the first one killed. Dr. Schlepian worked at an abortion clinic.

Copp compared himself to the apostle Paul.

I have fought a fine fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. --- 2 Tim 4:7

These words, Copp supposed, applied to himself as much as to Paul.

There is a similarity. The apostle Paul, like Copp, had taken life, and also like Copp, he had been motivated by religion.

There is also a difference.

Paul’s killing stopped when he became a Christian, whereas Copp’s began when he assumed his version. Paul’s violence was directed against the newly formed Christian congregation, and it was fully sanctioned by that days’ religious authorities. He hated the new faith and he meant to stamp it out. So he spearheaded a group of thugs, hauling Christians off to jail, and, at least in Stephen’s case, presiding over a vigilante death.

The 2006 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses recalls the history of our people in Romania, Eastern Europe. And it awards Paul’s "fine fight" words to someone who merits them. Martin Magyarosi for 45 years spearheaded the Bible education work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in that country, which was continually afflicted by oppressive regimes. Hence, the work was always underground. Its weapons were words only, declaring the Bible’s good news to any who would listen. Martin endured lifelong assaults by first Nazis, then Communists, and always religious opponents. "Many and great have been his sufferings for the sake of the truth," said a report at his death in 1951, "especially since his arrest in January 1950. Now these sufferings have come to an end."

Like Stephen, Martin was persecution's target, not its perpetrator. He never lurked outside anyone’s window with a rifle, looking to take life.

The way it works with judging is that the congregation has no authority whatsoever over those outside. It’s authority is only over it’s own members… to ensure, to a reasonable degree, that such members adhere to Bible standards. This is how it is with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Thus they are no threat to anyone, even those with whom they disagree. But with religions ever ready to thrust, and even enforce, their convictions on others, its no wonder that many people view them as a threat to society. Copp typifies that dangerous version.

Acts 7:58-8:4; 2 Cor 10:3-5; 2 Tim 2:24; Matt 24:14

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Like No Evangelist I've Ever Seen

I am a writer for the City! newspaper in Rochester. Only they aren’t aware of it. (Thank you, Garrison Keillor)

A published City! article and unpublished response.

Ding-Dong, heaven calling “Hello, my name is Angelina and I’m telling all your neighbors about the New Millennium.” She was young and unlike any door-to-door evangelist I’d ever seen: black leather jacket, sunglasses, thick black hair unbound, tight checkered shirt. What kind of little angel is this, I wondered. She was sexy. But in a dulled, dim sort of way. Not like live bait dangling, bright and glittering. She was definitely not hot-wired into God’s dynamo. “Do you know how you’ll spend the next millennium?” she asked, in a far-off voice

They usually come in pairs, trudging up my street together, somnambulistic, slack-faced, dulled by the endless repetition of come-on lines and the emotional hardening of all those doors slammed in their faces. Angelina gave me a single-sheet bi-fold tract, like a flimsy Sunday school flyer. Bad colors and cheap printing. Thin apocalyptic images on one side. Soldiers, red dragons, fighter planes. And those weirdly tepid New Millennium pictures on the other. A kid with a lion, a basket of fruit, beautifully bland landscape. If that’s paradise, I thought, I’ll stick with my suburban bunker visited once a year by sexy evangelistic girls. “What does the future hold for you?” her tract asked. She gave me a wan smile, bored as a Wal-Mart checker, and bid me to “have a nice day.”

Was she a renegade evangelist? An end time angel doing a little last-minute soul-trawling? Did she represent some new wrinkle in the door-to-door salvation biz? No, I decided. She’s an anomaly. Doing her duty, her own way. But if the elders knew what kind of ripples were spreading out behind her, they’d yank her off the street in a minute.

My unpublished response:

Somnambulistic, slack-faced, dulled, trudging and emotionally hardened. ("Ding-Dong, heaven calling,") With a single-sheet bi-fold tract...a kid with a lion, a basketful of fruit, depictions of paradise. That sounds like me. Flat nosed from all those slamming doors. And Angelina must be one of my co-workers. Not a flattering description. I might choose different adjectives to describe myself.

Why did she visit? What motivates her? Why does she volunteer her time? Does it require courage? What would she say if given opportunity? We don't know. The writer shows no interest in these things, but can take time to drool in City over what a hot chick she may be.

Many people have Bibles, but few know the contents. So I, as Jehovah's Witnesses do, along with Angelina, (who I don’t know) make calls on people to discuss Bible promises. People are busy, involved in many things, have their own views, and I usually come without appointment. So I appreciate when folks are hospitable for a few minutes. They are not required to speak with me. Some do, some don’t. But if they do, I hope they will remember what I said and why I came, and not just if I seemed sexy or not.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

The Gospel of Judas and Howard

The folks at National Geographic are all abuzz. April 6, 2006 they gave us the Gospel of Judas, found in the 1970’s Egyptian desert .

The Gospel of Judas (I kid you not) asserts things found no where else. Judas was not Jesus’ betrayer. No. Instead, they were the best of chums, and Judas betrayed Jesus only because Jesus asked him to. Not only that, Jesus gave his special friend inside tips that he kept secret from the other eleven.

Of course, this gospel contradicts everything else in the Bible, but no matter. Research is research.

Intrigued, I went down to the desert and poked around. Sure enough, I too found an ancient gospel, the Gospel of Howard. My hands trembled as I leafed through the crumbling pages, and I gasped at the new truths I learned

According to this exciting new find, Howard, like Judas, was Jesus' favorite, and is affectionately called 'Howie' throughout the gospel. Howie was the only disciple whom Jesus bowled with, generally every Wednesday night, until, discouraged at the Master's continual 300 games, he sold both his shoes and ball.

Next, and this revelation took my breath away, the mark of the beast never was 666! That was only an accident! Turns out that a scribe had left his copying briefly, likely to use the bathroom, though we can’t be certain of his exact reason. While he was gone, his wife came in to dust, just as my wife does, and inadvertently caught the corner of the original with her feather duster, spinning it completely around. Not noticing, the copyist upon returning, resumed his work, and copied 666, when it should have been 999!

I took my find straight down to the authorities so that they could include it in the Bible canon. So far, though, the soreheads only want to fire it from a cannon. But I’m patient. Attitudes change.

What do you mean, you don’t believe it? You got something against advancing knowledge?

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)