What was the significance of striking one’s father or mother?

As I was reading 1 Timothy, a excerpt from these verses struck me as strange. The passage to which I’m referring is 1 Timothy 1:8-11: “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.” I was specifically interested in the mention of “those who strike their fathers and mothers,” because it struck me as such an oddly specific example to give in regards to one’s parents. Although “honor thy father and thy mother” is stressed within the Bible, I was confused as to why a mention of striking them would be included to emphasize the derivation from this commandment. It is also housed among other examples of sin which are quite severe, so it can be inferred that it is being conveyed as having a harsh severity of its own in this way.

As I did my research, I discovered that this seemed to harken back to more of an Old Testament ideal, where the concept of honoring one’s parents is mentioned with much greater frequency. As this source mentions, it is the Old Testament that does much in the way of establishing these ideas regarding honor and dishonor in regards to parents. The concept of dishonoring one’s parents is mentioned twice in Proverbs: Proverbs 19:26 (“He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother is a son who brings shame and reproach.”) and Proverbs 20:20 (“If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.”). However, there are two verses which seem to set an even more severe guideline upon dishonor towards an individual’s parents: Exodus 21:15-17 (“Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death. […] Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.”) and Leviticus 20:9 (“For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him.”). These verses paint a very grim picture of the consequences of bringing dishonor upon one’s parents. It states in no uncertain terms that instances like this, including striking your father or mother, are deserving of death.

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With verses such as these, we begin to understand the real gravity behind the verses in 1 Timothy. It paints the picture of parental obedience and honor being another tenet that is paramount to a godly life, and it seems to suggest that those old beliefs of familial dishonor still carry grave consequences, because it is saying that the law is put in place for sinners and lawbreakers such as those who would strike their parents and therefore bring dishonor upon them.

Interestingly enough, I found it intriguing that it would be phrased with the term “striking,” because Proverbs 23:13-14 states: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” Once again, we see this reference to striking, although now it is used in reference to disciplining a child. So the Bible is painting a very contrasting picture in terms of disciplining one’s child and honoring one’s parents. So while the Old Testament sets the precedent for honoring your parents, this verse within 1 Timothy seems to harken back to those old regulations and draw a thread of commonality to bridge the gap.

Is insincere or false preaching condoned in Philippians?

As I was perusing Philippians, I came across several verses which offered a surprising new viewpoint for me. The verses Philippians 1:12-18 read as such: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

The tone of these verses seemed to be entirely at odds with the teachings and messages of Jesus and his disciples which had been conveyed to us thus far. It seems to me that much of the transferral and spread of the message of Jesus relies on the enthusiasm and conviction of the disciples and followers who work to share the message with others; any perceived insincerity or praise-seeking could have been a deterrent to potential converts. Although it warns against vanity or seeking praise or glory for one’s self, it still advocates that the message can be effectively spread even through these less devout individuals. To me, this struck an interesting tone that was different from what I had perceived before in the message.

Not only do those aforementioned individuals preach out of envy or a desire for their own praise, some of them actually do it to make Paul’s imprisonment more difficult. Considering Paul was one of Jesus’ beloved disciples, anyone seeking to worsen his condition seems like they would firmly fall outside of the category of someone who should be spreading those same teachings of Jesus. Although Jesus himself said that his disciples would suffer for following him and spreading his message, he never made claims that those who enabled that suffering would also be his own followers.

So those verses struck me as having a tone very different from what we’ve seen throughout the other books and teachings of the Bible. Indeed, it seems to be almost in opposition to the tone of many of the teachings in the New Testament, including Colossians 3:8-10: “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” This seems to be somewhat contradictory, because true followers should have renounced practices such as these, so how could they spread the teachings out of selfish ambition or envy without going back on the very tenets they claim to follow?

To me, this seemed to offer a more intriguing point of view in which the ends seem to justify the means. It raised an interesting question in my mind: is the message more important, or the sentiment behind it and the actions that follow it? It offered an interesting dichotomy in the typical, established viewpoint, which vouched for spreading the teachings of Jesus and the Word of God with sincerity and devotion.

The Bible’s Impact Upon Popular Culture

The Bible has had an unparalleled influence upon popular culture of every age since its inception. While some of its influence is blatant or glaringly obvious, some is much more subtle and understated. Regardless of the degree of influence, there is no denying that the Bible has impacted all mediums and genres within popular culture, spanning everything from songs to movies and all things in between. Within this blog post, I will extrapolate on three specific examples: Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Godspell.

lily-potterIn my first example, I will focus on an allusion to the Bible, wherein parallels can be drawn to Lily Potter being viewed as a Christ figure in the Harry Potter series. First of all, we must establish that an allusion is a reference to some other work of art, event, or so on (in this case, the Bible is the work which is being alluded to). Within the Harry Potter series, there exists a prophecy that the Dark Lord, Voldemort, can only be truly unparalleled in his power if he eliminates a threat to him: a child who is born, who will be the only one capable of bringing about his downfall. This child happens to be Harry Potter, son of Lily and James. When Voldemort came seeking the Potters, intent upon killing Harry to fulfill the prophecy, Harry’s mother, Lily, became a sacrificial figure almost reminiscent of Jesus in certain areas. She willingly gave her life in place of someone else’s (in her case, her son’s), and in doing so, provided salvation for him from certain death. Although we are given details about her sacrifice throughout the series, it becomes apparent that it was her selfless love that created the sanctity of that sacrifice and protected Harry. This allusion and parallel are further emphasized because in doing so, she provided Harry with a sort of redemption; her sacrifice meant that he was protected and became the only person to ever survive the Killing Curse. This allusion draws a heavy parallel to the way in which Jesus offered redemption and salvation to all those who believed in him; Lily was the only conduit through which Harry’s live could have been spared and he could have earned that salvation. The Bible has a clear influence here, if you choose to look closely enough; much of the theme of such sacrifice and love can be related back to the selfless sacrifice of Jesus within the Bible. I found several Youtube videos which illustrate this sacrifice. The first video embedded below is a brief clip of Voldemort’s attack on the Potters and Lily’s subsequent sacrifice for her son. The second video is a tribute created, using the audio book recording from the book, which extrapolates upon the event in greater detail.

buffy-the-masterI also found traces of Biblical influence within one of my favorite television series of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There is an allusion to the Bible which can be found in the season finale of the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Prophecy Girl,” in which Buffy is presented as something of a Christ-like figure. As stated above, an allusion is a reference to another material or work of art; in this case, it is now Buffy which is alluding to certain themes and events in the Bible. Much like Jesus’ crucifixion bringing about salvation for believers, Buffy willingly goes to her death due to a prophecy that states she will die at the hands of the Master, an ancient and powerful vampire, if she fights him. Although she is initially resistant and fears the thought of dying, especially at such a young age, she eventually comes around to accept her fate. She knows that she must prevent the Master’s ascension, even if it results in her death, so she willingly goes to confront him and accepts her death. Much like the prophecy stated, she does die when the Master drains her blood and tosses her aside into a puddle. The pool of water into which she is thrown could further serve to be viewed as a baptismal font of sorts, as she is revived and rises again, stating that she feels “different.” In this way, she can be alluded to as a Christ figure, since she willingly sacrifices herself in order to bring about salvation for others and in the way she is resurrected. She is also shown as wearing a cross necklace throughout the episode, which serves to heighten the connebuffyandangel_1769773cction between the episode and the Biblical allusion it’s making. As evidenced with Harry Potter above, the Bible plays a large hand in these themes of sacrificial offerings in order to bring about salvation, as well as a subsequent resurrection. Once again, I located a Youtube video which further illustrates the demonstrated point. The video embedded below is a tribute to the episode “Prophecy Girl,” and it shows interspersed clips, allowing us to see the various transitions from her initial hesitance and fear of death, to her eventual acceptance, willing sacrifice, and subsequent resurrection.

godspelltabloidflyercopy2As a thespian myself, I of course took a particular interest in finding Biblical references within theatrical productions. There are several shows which deal directly with the Bible or the life of Jesus in some way, such as Jesus Christ Superstar or Godspell. For this purpose, I found allusions within Godspell, particularly the 2011 Broadway revival with which I am most familiar. This musical does not tell the direct story of Jesus’ life; rather, it couches his teachings within the message and builds this community of believers through other means. The cast do things such as play charades with the audience in order to complete examples of Jesus’ parables or teachings, and wear badges or flowers to symbolize themselves as followers of the Jesus figure within the musical. The cast is often dressed as hippies or in casual street attire, and famous philosophers and their teachings – Socrates, Martin Luther, and Galileo, to name a few – are interwoven through the story to show the ways in which Jesus’ teachings have impacted thinking throughout the ages. In doing so, the musical presents this cast of followers while building a sense of love and community that seems in keeping with Jesus’ teachings, while alluding to the Biblical story of Jesus throughout. It even references Jesus’ crucifixion (which occurs towards the end of the show, although it is not done in a strictly Biblical reenactment, and there is no direct resurrection of Jesus) through lyrics such as “Not till that hour/Shall God’s whole will be done” in the song “Turn Back, O Man.” This is a very illuminating example of the Bible’s influence of pop culture, 06GODSPELL1-articleLargebecause this show would not even exist if not for the Bible; the very premise of the teachings and many characters within the show are drawn directly from the Bible, so its existence was crucial to Godspell ever being written and staged. The below videos offer more insight into the Bible’s influence on this show. The first video is a live performance of the aforementioned song “Turn Back, O Man,” in which we can see Biblical references in the lyrics. The second video contains an assortment of clips from the 2011 revival of the show, and it demonstrates some of the Biblical themes found throughout the musical.

The amount of Biblical references and influences which can be found in popular culture are truly innumerable. However, because all of these examples are interests which are near and dear to my heart, I found it particularly interesting to delve into these various mediums and explore the impact which the Bible had upon them.