What does it mean that Moses had “uncircumcised lips” and what is its significance?

There are many turns of phrases and unfamiliar phrasings throughout the Bible that can call into question our interpretation of things or lead us to take a second look at the intention behind them. As I was reading through Exodus, one such instance caught my eye in Exodus 6:12-13, which states: But Moses said to the Lord, “Behold, the people of Israel have not listened to me. How then shall Pharaoh listen to me, for I am of uncircumcised lips?” But the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them a charge about the people of Israel and about Pharaoh king of Egypt: to bring the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt. god-moses

The mention of uncircumcised lips admittedly gave me a moment of pause. Despite the emphasis placed upon circumcision in the Bible, it seemed like a strange way of phrasing that. I was prepared to dismiss it as a peculiar turn of phrase, but the same phrase cropped up again in Exodus 6:28-30: On the day when the Lord spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, the Lord said to Moses, “I am the Lord; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you.” But Moses said to the Lord, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?”

Exploring this interpretation of the phrase called me back to an earlier passage in Exodus 4:10-13: “But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”” We see this repeated assertion that Moses seemed to have issues with speech. The text does not specify to what extent, but we can garner an understand from his claims that he wasn’t eloquent and he wanted God to choose someone else as a representative. Even after Moses had been given miraculous signs in order to illustrate the authority and mission bestowed upon him by the Lord, he still felt that his poor manner of speech was enough to make him unworthy in the eyes of his people.

In my research, I came across this article, which offered a unique comparison for the question I was asking. As Rabbi Isaacs states, the Torah discusses different forms of circumcision beyond just the physical. In fact, she asserts that “The Jewish people (in the physical case, men) are challenged not only to have an external circumcision, but also an internal one, a circumcision of the heart. This language is often used to signal the importance of humility and submission to the will of God and Law. Some scholars believe that the verses in Exodus point towards Moses having a stutter or some other manner of speech impediment that might have made him hesitant to speak up on God’s behalf. However, this article also offers a unique alternative perspective: in terms of the narrative, perhaps Moses’s struggle with speech was directly tied to and symbolic of the exile of his people and their eventual freedom and reconnection with God.

moses_sinaiAn article by Steve Rodeheaver seems to reinforce that the phrase has literary significance, as well as physical representation through Moses’s poor speech. He states that “…circumcision marked one as belonging to God’s covenant people.  It was a sign of God’s ownership and promises.  When Moses says that his lips are not circumcised he is saying that when he speaks there is no sign of God.” This seems to offer an interesting combination of the literal and the symbolic. Moses does seem to labor under “heavy lips and a heavy tongue,” but there seems to be a greater literary significance in Moses initially being hesitant to take on God’s task before he became more self-assured with it.

Another instance that offers explanation for both the literal and symbolic meaning of uncircumcised lips can be found in this commentary on Exodus. It states that “”Uncircumcised” is used, according to the Hebrew idiom, for any imperfection which interferes with efficiency.” This supplements what we have seen thus far, in showing that Moses struggled with speech in some ways, but it also leaves room for a more symbolic reasoning behind why Moses’s trouble with speech made him hesitant and concerned about his efficacy at first.God's+Plan+step+1

Circumcision was an immensely important gesture to the Israelite people, as it was representative of their covenant with God. We see this importance stressed countless times through the Bible after its inception. In equating his poor speech to being uncircumcised, Moses was drawing a parallel to illustrate how truly inadequate and undeserving he felt of the task that God had set before him. We think of great leaders as being charismatic and magnetic in their influence over their followers, yet we are told numerous times that Moses had a “heavy tongue” and that he had Aaron do much of the speaking for him. This is not the first time in the Bible where someone who deemed themselves unworthy was chosen for a task by God, nor will it be the last. Perhaps in terms of the narrative, that was a device meant to show how even the most tentative of people could step into a successful leadership role and take part in an epic narrative.

In the end, I think it’s fascinating to consider that the phrase had a dual meaning. It certainly seems to speak to Moses’s struggles with speech, but I believe there is a larger literary meaning there as well, in showing a symbolic link between Moses’s own struggles and the greater struggle of his people.

What were the cultural and marital standards of the time that caused the two men who claimed Sarah to be punished, rather than Abraham, even though he was the one perpetuating the lie?

Now that a new class section is starting, it’s time to dust this thing off and bring it back to life. There’s a Lazarus joke to be made somewhere in there, but quite frankly, I’m too lazy to make it.

Pharaoh_takes_SaraiAs I was reading through Genesis, two occurrences in the lives of Abraham and Sarah caught my attention. It first occurred in Genesis 12:11-20, which states: When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.”

A similar incident is repeated in Genesis 20:1-17, a portion of which states: From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.” So Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid. Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.””10740

These passages presented a bit of a quandary for me: for Abraham to be such a favored and blessed servant of the Lord, wasn’t it contradictory for others to be punished for acting on what they presumed to be the truth, when really Abraham was perpetuating the lie? This seems contradictory to other parts of the Bible where people are cautioned against lying and deceit, especially when taking into consideration that Abraham holds stature as one of God’s favored people. As I considered this question, I realized that I would have to address it from a position of understanding the marital and cultural dynamics of the time.

In addressing this, we must understand that women of the time held little real power and were viewed as property in much the same way that livestock and other worldly possessions were; they belonged to the men in their life, whether it was their father or later their husband.

This point is illustrated in “Divorce and remarriage in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament),” which offers that “The Mosaic Law, which historical Christianity believes was handed by God to Moses, assigned a very low status to women. They were generally viewed as inferior to men, as sexual predators, and deceitful and untrustworthy. They were considered an item of property: A girl was considered to be owned by her father. At marriage, her ownership was transferred to her new husband…During biblical times, fathers could sell their daughters into slavery. Men could divorce their wives for various reasons. There was no reciprocal arrangement by which women could divorce their husbands.” This was reinforced by my readings in “Ancient Israelite Marriage Customs,” which stated “Though there are some cultures in the Ancient Near East which were matriarchal in structure, Israel’s was not one of them. Israel’s family life was dominated by the husband. When a marriage occurred the husband took his wife from her home and “ruled” over her…Because the husband was the dominant member of the family, he was given the title of lib (Ba’al) which meant “lord”, “master of the house”, “leader of the family circle”…”

I also found further evidence of this marital hierarchy in “Summary of Old Testament Teachings on Divorce and Re-Marriage,” which set forth: “In short, the Old Testament taught that marriage was intended to be a permanent, covenantal relationship between a man, who was to protect and provide for his wife, and a woman, who was to remain monogamous to her husband…The Law called for the execution of a woman who broke her marital vow, and when the practice of that punishment was discontinued, divorce became an accepted substitute, an act of discipline.”

abimelechabrahamThe article “Love and Marriage in the Bible” by Cynthia Astle raises an interesting point with this statement: “Women really weren’t considered equal players when it came to love and marriage in the Bible. The only way that a woman could have more than one husband was if she remarried after being widowed. Men could be simultaneous polygamists, but women had to be serial monogamists…”

While marriage was mutually beneficial for both men and women, women of the time still had less authority and agency in the situation as a whole. As Eric states in “Women and Marriage in the Old Testament,” “Women are always under the authority and protection of a man, with the possible exception of older women who outlive their husbands. This is initially their father and eventually their husband.” This highlights the disparity of power between men and women of the time, as he goes on to elaborate a few examples: women needed protection as they were often views as the spoils of war, a woman’s vow could be canceled by her father or husband, and if a woman was raped, then she had to marry her rapist or face even greater shame if she did not.

In all technicality, Sarah violated that ideal of the marital contract and vow within the customs of the time. The catch, of course, is that the violation was prompted by Abraham’s own commands, so as his wife, she was bound to obey. In this case, Abraham’s will and his assertion of his own agency seems to trump what was the custom of the time, in order to preserve his own well-being.

This seems like a lengthy divergence into the role of women in that age, but it’s essential to understand their role in order to make sense of the action taken against the Pharaoh and Abimelech when they took Sarah as their own. According to the standards of the time, they had violated something which belonged to Abraham.

In telling Sarah to lie about her relation to him, Abraham was only taking action with something that rightfully belonged to him, at least according to the standards of the time. However, this was still done by sowing deceit, which in turn led to the other men acting on the ‘facts’ that were presented to them. Abraham made assumptions about their actions if they discovered Sarah was his wife, and so he decided that the potential risk to his life was greater to him than the truth. Since Sarah had to bow to his authority, he was entitled to command her to present whatever story he instructed her to, even though it led to her being taken by the other men. After all, since women had very little real agency or authority of their own in that period, he was taking action with his ‘property’ in order to protect his own life and well-being. Even more, those men presented Abraham with gifts in order to seek his forgiveness, even though he had deceived them. Despite the deception, according to customs of the time and the punishment that was set upon them by the Lord, they were seen as being at fault and thus had to seek forgiveness.ketubah

It provides an interesting moral quandary (one which admittedly falls to the personal convictions and interpretations of each individual), but according to the laws and standards of the time, Abraham was within his rights in perpetuating the falsehood that he did with Sarah. In terms of the law and customs of the time, Abraham had every right to present that story about his wife. The moral boundaries of the situation aren’t quite so clearly defined, but they don’t negate the legality of it. Considering the depth and scope of the Bible especially, I found this to be a fascinating question in examining morality vs. legality, as well as the implications that those two might not always be aligned or easily reconciled with one another.

Interestingly enough, the same thing happens in Genesis 26:7-11, when Isaac perpetuated the same story about his wife, Rebekah. It must run in the family, huh? It seems Abimelech learned his lesson about that with Abraham and Sarah, however.

If all else fails, I guess Abraham could always fall back on the old “well, she’s really my half-sister.” When in doubt, skate by on a technicality!

What is the significance of Wormwood?

While I come from a church background, I have admittedly spent little time in the study of the book of Revelation. Needless to say, all of the intricacies and various theories regarding Revelation are fascinating to me now as we’ve begun to delve into an examination of it. For that reason, I have found my attention caught by numerous passages or concepts which are brought up within the book. One such occurrence was in the mention of Wormwood in Revelation 8:11: “The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter.” This struck me as interesting because I have been aware of the phrase wormwood for a while, without ever really knowing exactly what it meant or what the significance of it might be.

The meteor EffectThe appearance of Wormwood as a “great star” directly correlates to the blowing of the third trumpet by the third angel. If we are seeking to find tangible proof beneath the many literary devices and heightened points of emphasis within Revelation, we must acknowledge that it is highly unlikely that an actual star would strike the earth. Considering their limited understanding of space during this time, it is not so strange to think that a meteorite or foreign object such as that could be interpreted as a “great star.” The meteorite theory could also have a possible explanation in the portion of the verses that describe the waters being poisoned. If we look to contemporary events, we can find a correlation within the 2007 Carancas impact event: after the impact of a chondritic meteorite near a lake and the village of Carancas in Peru, the villagers succumbed to an unexplained illness. The meteorite impact was later confirmed by scientists, and since the ground water in the surrounding area contains arsenic compounds, theories began to circulate that the heat and impact of the meteorite strike caused the local water to boil near the impact, which boiled the arsenic-laced water and led to sickness in the villagers who inhaled that compound. A geologist who studied the impact lent feature_meteorite1credence to that theory, stating that “the reaction between the elements in a meteorite and the Earth’s surface can generate gases that then dissipate.” Since people at the time of the writing of Revelation would have no understanding of compounds or reactions such as this, it is highly possible that it could be interpreted as a divinely appointed “great star” crashing to poison the water and make humanity suffer during this time of judgment and tribulation.

In order to gain a better understanding of Wormwood as it is used here, it would also be helpful to look back at its various mentions throughout the Old Testament. Wormwood is mentioned numerous times in the Old Testament, and each occurrence relates to bitterness or death in some way. A few examples include Proverbs 5:4 (“but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.”), Lamentations 3:15 (“He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood.”), and Amos 5:7 (“O you who turn justice to wormwood1 and cast down righteousness to the earth!”). There are other mentions of wormwood in the Bible, but like the aforementioned ones, they all deal with bitterness, poison, or even death in some manner. So clearly, wormwood has negative connotations within a biblical context, which means that calling the great star Wormwood in Revelation could be a way of tying it to these negative views.

wormwo37-lWormwood is also an herb which has been known to work as both a poison and as a medical treatment. Wormwood most commonly refers to A. absinthium, which is used today as the main ingredient in absinthe. For that reason alone, I believe it is fairly clear that wormwood can have some strong effects on people. As this source states, numerous cultures have used wormwood in medical practices; however, the full effects of wormwood are not entirely known, so there is also great risk involved in using it. In fact, wormwood can sometimes cause “seizures and other adverse effects.” For this reason, people of the time period who encountered wormwood without fully understanding its effects could easily have thought of it as being a kind of poison.

Wormwood can also sometimes be classified as “something harsh or embittering.” So perhaps wormwood could even be considered as a literal bitterness amongst people during the events of Revelation. With the events of Revelation being a time during which judgment is passed and people undergo tribulations, it is not farfetched to deduce that non-believers could become embittered or harsh about the trials which they are forced to endure. Considering the hardships and trials that are prophesied about within that book, it seems likely that the people who remained during and after those events would have very little to feel benevolent or hopeful about, which could easily lead to a bitter, sharp mindset.

So as I’ve researched Wormwood, I’ve drawn these aforementioned theories. As with much of Revelation, it is very open to interpretation. However, there is evidence to support these varying theories, from the literal to the metaphorical, within the Bible’s mention of Wormwood in the book of Revelation.

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.

KJV_Exodus_21-15stock-photo-grey-stone-tablet-with-the-text-of-biblical-proverb-message-engraved-on-it-990070

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.

Does Paul reference Jesus as a sort of deus ex machina?

While perusing Romans, I found that most of the questions I could have asked strayed too far into the arena of theology. However, I finally stumbled across some verses that caught my attention in a more literary way. Romans 5 raised a question in my mind about the function that Jesus served within the context of the solution of salvation, so to speak. Romans 5:18-21 states:

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

So the question I ask is this: Does Jesus Christ serve as a sort of deus ex machina in this scenario? First, we must establish what function a deus ex machina serves within literature. Deus ex machina is defined as being “a person or thing (as in fiction or drama) that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly and provides a contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty.” Or, as this website shows, the attributes of a deus ex machina can be delineated through a few key points:

“1.) Deus ex Machina are solutions. They are never unexpected developments that make things worse, nor sudden twists that only change the understanding of a story.

2.) Deus ex Machina are sudden or unexpected. This means that even if they are featured or referenced earlier in the story, they do not change the course of nor appear to be a viable solution to the plotline they eventually “solve”.

3.) The problem a Deus ex Machina fixes must be portrayed as unsolvable or hopeless. If the problem could be solved with a bit of common sense or other type of simple intervention, the solution is not a Deus ex Machina no matter how unexpected it may seem.

In this case, the problem that requires solving is the referenced transgression of Adam: his failure in the eyes of God perpetuated the dilemma for which the arrival of Jesus must provide a solution. As the above requirements state, Jesus does not worsen the situation in any way, and indeed, his sacrifice can only improve things for the plight of those who are condemned through sin. So in that way, Jesus does serve as a solution for an otherwise hopeless problem; as stated throughout the New Testament, salvation is impossible without Jesus Christ. It is only through the sacrifice of Jesus that the transgression of Adam can be made right. So on those points, Jesus does fulfill the requirement of being a deus ex machina.

However, one of the stipulations of deus ex machina is that it is sudden and unexpected in its arrival to solve the problem. There were numerous prophecies that foretold the arrival of the Messiah long before Jesus’ arrival. Although some doubted Jesus’ claims of being the Messiah, the concept of the Messiah itself was a long-held belief of the time. So in that way, Jesus does not fulfill the stipulations of being a deus ex machina.

As demonstrated, although Jesus does not fulfill all of the requirements for being a deus ex machina figure within Romans, he does meet a surprising number of those requirements. This is also interesting because the concept of deus ex machina had its origins in the ancient Greek theatre and was popular amongst both Greek and Roman plays, so in some ways, it was a contemporary of Jesus’ time. While Jesus does not match every single one of the requirements in order to be a deus ex machina, I do think it serves as an interesting device in illustrating the way in which he provided a solution for a perceived problem.

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