A Reader Asks

“Hi there! I’m starting my journey with Christ and started in the gospels with Matthew. In the New Living Translation it says “Two women will be grinding flour at the mill” I just wanted to make sure I was not taking it out of context!”

Hi Brianna — I love this question! So much that I may need two or three posts to answer you. But don’t worry. I’ll start with the main thing you’ve brought up.

There is a difference between Luke 17:35 and the version in Matthew, and you seem to want to know why. There are a lot of reasons why, far more than I will ever know. But I will begin with a really short response first.

First, no word like flour (or grain or wheat) is in the Greek of Matthew 24:41. The word mill is there, however.

Second, the word mill was added by one of the teams of writers who worked specifically on writing Matthew. A more original version of this verse is Luke 17:35, which does not have a mill. Luke reads, “Two women shall be grinding together.”

Something I haven’t mentioned much is how the New America Standard Bible translates Luke’s version of that verse.

“There will be two women grinding at the same place.”

Talk about ambiguous. Not just grinding together, but grinding at the same place.

You quoted from the NLT. The NLT translators didn’t like that kind of ambiguity, so they added a word they say was for clarity, the word flour. That word flour, as I said, is not in the Greek text of Luke 17:35.

By itself, adding a word is not the end of the world.  Translators have to find good words for their translation work all the time, no matter the text, no matter the languages, no matter the age of the text.

What happens is that many people who read, use and translate the Bible often have political convictions and various moral priorities in addition to their day job.

These translators with different political convictions and different moral priorities all know there are several words they could use to translate an original word. So they all consider the effect the different words they choose will have on the readers. They consider the consequences of their translation.

For example, the word doulos is used all through the New Testament. Doulos means slave. But most contemporary translations don’t use the word slave. They use the word servant.

To continue using the word slave would be bad in various situations. Take for example Kenya, where Islam is 10% of the population and growing.

It happens that slavery still exists in much of the world. The Quran emphasizes that the Prophet Muhammed ended slavery in devout nations. A Bible that records Jesus and Paul discussing slavery in accepting and uncritical language might not be helpful for Christian pastors and missionaries in a country like Kenya, which deals with popular Islam.

Or consider the West. The Christian world-view is steadily losing credibility in the face of discoveries in Astrophysics and Paleontology. As in Kenya, it is a major waste of energy for employees of Christendom to have to repeatedly disavow slavery.

But a more literal translation of doulos would still be slave.

Unfortunate for some pastors, this problem of uncertainty muddies the water for their claim that the Bible is “the authoritative Word of God.”

“How can we be certain of God’s will if we don’t have God’s exact words?”

“Gee, how can we really trust the Bible if it’s all so complicated?”

One last word before I pause. The Bible says, “All scripture is inspired by God, and is useful” in in many contexts, so that “you may be thoroughly equipped for any good work.”

Brianna, if you feel God has called you to proclaim something like inerrancy, that’s not my business. But if you.want to be equipped for living your life the you know God wants, the Bible is a good place to begin.

Remember, giving someone a cup of water doesn’t require that you can even read.

I’m going to stop now, Brianna, I’m pretty sure I’ll have more to write about your question soon. Please ask more questions when they come up.

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Primates and Puzzles

Once upon a time a Dreamer dreamt a dream.

In the dream there was a very old building that had many rooms.

In each room a herd of primates busied themselves at a large table putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

Other primates had been working on their puzzles for a long time. One primate handed the Dreamer an odd piece they’d found in the box lid.

In many other rooms the same piece was in piles of red balloon pieces. But the Dreamer realized it probably wasn’t a balloon piece.

The Dreamer looked through the little box lid, and tried to fit the piece with many other pieces. After a long time the Dreamer put twenty pieces together. They looked good. But then he thought to himself, “The puzzle has thousands of pieces. Where does.it fit?”

One primate said to the Dreamer, “No, no, you’ve put the pieces together wrong.” Another primate said, “That looks like it fits over there,” and pointed.

Different groups of primates were working on their puzzles in the different rooms. Many of them had been working on their puzzles for generations. And in some rooms they didn’t use the same pieces others used.

Then the Dreamer thought, “All the primate teams are putting the edge pieces together different from the others.”

One primate told the Dreamer, “A long time ago some primates took scissors to pieces to make them fit. How weird is that? Most primates won’t believe you if you tell them their puzzle pieces were trimmed, but from a distance you don’t notice. It’s still pretty.”

The Dreamer saw there were many different box lids laying in the various rooms. Some boxlids were very old, some were newer. Some of them looked elegant, but others were very mysterious. Most were quite pretty, but they were all handmade.

Then the Dreamer woke up and said, “What an odd dream.”

And the Dreamer’s partner said, “Tell me your dream.”

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Where Did This Theory Come From?

An acquaintance asked where this came to me from.

Actually, it began with a simple question, “Could the couples in Luke 17:34-35 be gay and lesbian?” Once I had established that they were, using standard exegetical methods, I was left with a couple of questions, “What does it mean? Why is it even there?”
 
So I tracked down a reference to the most important Pharisee of the era, Yohanan b. Zakkai, whose years in Galilee overlapped those of the historical Jesus. Reading the Talmudic material vetted by Jacob Neusner, I saw that his anti-homosexual hermeneutics, and numerous other characteristics, made him the likely agent of legal gay and lrsbian persecution. During the Siege of Jerusalem he later emerged as a leading establishment figure, but seemed to come out of nowhere. This prompted me to investigate his airbrushed Galilean tenure. 
 
Once I identified Rabbi Yohanan as the agent of law enforcement persecution I realized that the popular Christian understanding of Pharisees was faulty. I investigated Josephus for his narrative portrait of Pharisees, who were conventionally political Jews. 
 
Next I studied Philip the Tetrarch (also in Josephus) and next the city of Bethsaida. Little by little all the pieces of the puzzle began to fit together. The geopolitical situation in which R. Yohanan and Philip the Tetrarch found themselves, and the overall picture of persecution during the “gospel era” fell into place last. 
 
When I first looked at gays and lesbians in Luke 17, my computer searches turned up nothing. It seems that my blog posts and my months-long debate on SermonIndex.com ignited what is now a common topic on conservative Christian websites and Q&A sites.
 
An acquaintance on Linked In observed that my thesis is not necessarily beneficial to gay and lesbian Christians, and is moreover directly negative to Dispensationalists. The point was well taken, and I continue to grow comfortable with the logic of my research. 
 
I usually feel more comfortable when I’m the most liberal person in the room, not the most conservative.  But I’m growing more comfortable acknowledging the fact that I am not a theist, and that I really do tabernacle, mentally at least, among intellectuals and rationalists whom I used to consider the enemy. It’s still a little weird, though.

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From Theism to Non-Theism, part 1

I’m sure greater minds than mine have put this better than I will, but I have some things I’d like to share now that I’ve taken a pause from my Covid-19 Netflix binge.

We homo sapiens differ from our primate cousins in two major ways: we are virtually hairless and we have evolved larger brains. Since the preponderance of homo sapiens believe in unseen spirits and/or gods, I believe there is almost certainly a connection between these three things.

I’m more familiar with correlating the nearly universal belief in God with the large brain than I am correlating spirituality with the larger brain AND the sensuality encouraged by our lack of hair.

When we are faced with unknowns, we search for answers and explanations.

I am almost embarrasses to remember the explanations I generated for things before I “had the facts”.

As a child I thought the bands I heard on the radio were actually in the radio studio. I thought the coins people dropped in the bus fare box dropped onto the road.

Growing up poor, I knew my parents couldn’t afford all the presents I saw under the Christmas tree, so I made this deduction, “There must be a Santa Clause.” This logic kept me believing in St. Nicholas, I kid you not, until I was ten years old.

And I was a theist until I was about thirty-five. All quite logical, until I realized what I didn’t actually believe.

Without explanations, we are frustrated until we find out the why of things, and we apparently concoct a variety of explanations.

We legitimately depend on those two adults to explain things. And in the old days, before the smart adults discovered human growth hormones and pheromones, other smart adults taught us about God and the Bible.

Of course my journey to nontheism was carefully shepherded by my diligent study of the Bible, “allowing it to say what it actually said.” That is not the same as forcing it to square with traditional piety and orthodoxy

But you already know that.

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One Primate’s Philosophy of Life at 65

Diversity of opinion, beliefs and behavior is rooted in instinct diversity, intellectual capacity, the language(s) we speak, the religions and ideologies we are born into, our family of origin and birth order, gender, differing and competing social norms, all these things make us different from one another.

“Celebrating Diversity” is an excellent virtue, but social groups will continue to resist tolerating murderers and rapists. How we deal with murderers and rapists will vary. Always has, always will.

Our task as individual primates is to figure out where we fit in.

Our diverse instinct packages, our large brains, and our relative lack of hair were factors in the survival of our species. They will continue to do so long after you and I are dead.

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What is the”Pericope Eiusdem Sexus”?

The Pericope Eiusdem Sexus is a unit of four verses in Luke 17 which have a unique same-sex theme. The Same-Sex elements of Luke 17:28-29, 34-35 are as follows:

1. Lot and Sodom (vv 28-29) 

2. Two men in one bed (v 34)

3. Two women grinding together (v 35)

4) In that night (v 34)

The Pericope Eiusdem Sexus (Same-Sex Pericope) was written to bring into focus historical information already present in the Q Source.

That historical information was a record of Philip the Tetrarch’s decision allowing Jews to impose Torah on other Jews, but not allowing Jews to impose Torah on non-Jews.

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An Independent Scholar and His Admission

My book, The Galilee Episode, began with a simple question about two Bible verses. “Could the couples in Luke 17 be gay and lesbian?” Two men, two women, in bed and grinding together.

It would have been irresponsible not to investigate. I didn’t expect what I found.

What was that? I discovered a bona fide Catch-and-Release policy in ancient Palestine. I found raids and entrapment aimed at gays and lesbians.

Putting history ahead of theology, I assembled the missing pieces and filled a big blank spot in the puzzle of history.

This is a conjectural case, a theory if you will. The background material I discuss is well-known to historians. But I have studied additional material on and off for over a decade.

I am what is called an independent researcher. My conclusions are based on a reasonable reinterpretation of one well-known, key piece of evidence, followed by the judicious use of evidence from three standard sources.

If you have the slightest doubt about using the Bible to prove God hates “homosexual sin”, you may want to read The Galilee Episode: Two Men in One Bed, Two Women Grinding.

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The Persecution You Never Heard About

There’s a persecution in the gospel that’s been totally hidden until recently. Of course there are delails we’ve known about, but one key fact was hidden from us. A lot of what follows may be familiar to you, but let me go over it anyway.

“Beware of the Pharisees. They will drag you into the synagogues, and falsely accuse you of all sorts of evil things. Your enemies will be your own family members: parents against their children, children against parents, in-laws testifying against in-laws”

“Beware of the Pharisees. When they say, ‘Go out in the field,’ don’t go! When they say, ‘Look in the inner room,’ don’t believe them!”

“There will be two men in a field; one will be seized, but the other left. Two women will be grinding together; one will be seized, and the other left.”

“Beware of the Pharisees. When they put you on trial in the assembly, don’t worry about what you’ll say. The spirit will give you the words when the time comes.”

But have you ever noticed how vague the charges are? Why are the targets being taken before the magistrates? What are the charges?

The key to understanding is the outcome of the trial. From now on the verdict is a foregone conclusion.

One will be seized, and the other will be left.

Why? Because it was two gay men seized in the field, one Jewish and the other a gentile. Because it was two lesbians grinding together, one Jewish and the other a gentile.

In an imperial system, subject people’s were granted self-government as long as they paid their taxes. Pharisees were allowed jurisdiction over Jews, but not gentiles.

A strange thing about those persecution details in Matthew and Luke is how scattered around they are. The details in the trial, crucifixion and resurrection stories are amazing, but the persecution details of ordinary people prior to the Passion Narratives are found scattered here and there.

Telling the story of the persecution that occurred before the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Christ was too messy, too controversial for the scribes who wrote Matthew and Luke. Discussing the gays and lesbians in the Gospels simply didn’t belong on the agenda.

The pre-Crucifixion persecution mentioned in the Gospels was over homosexuality. The Pharisees objected to “intermarriage” and same-sex relationships, but Roman surrogates could not allow Torah to be imposed on non-Jews.

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So Why Did Jesus Mention Sodom, Anyway?

Jesus is recorded mentioning Sodom two times in canonical Luke.

You’d think that during the church turmoil over gays and lesbians that someone would have found a way to weaponize Sodom in the struggle.

For most end users, the Luke 10 mention of Sodom is a warning against rejecting the gospel. And Luke 17 is blandern yet, that judgment will be sudden, without warning.

If these were just “simple  warnings” against rejecting the good news, and about the suddenness of judgment, then transforming them into ammunition for church polemics would be understandably difficult.

Mentioning Sodom seems like a pretty dramatic move, considering the Genesis story. In the story there’s the threat of homesexual rape, the hero’s drunken incest, an angel, a woman turned into a pillar of salt, and fire and brimstone destroying a city.

All this, and how does the Lukan authorship use all that juicy stuff? To illustrate how bad it is to reject the gospel and that Jesus’ second coming will come as a surprise?

Seriously?

No. Sometime, somewhere, somebody somehow missed something.

Why did Jesus mention Sodom, anyway?

That’s been a big mystery. For today’s combatants there’s a kind of awkwardness, I think, because we wish “Jesus” had used that opportunity to make things clear, one way or the other.

“So tell us, Jesus, where do you stand? Are you pro- homosexual or anti-homosexual?”..

“If Jesus really agreed with Leviticus, why didn’t he say something? Why didn’t he warn homosexuals about the consequences of their sin?”

Or, “If Jesus was so accepting and inclusive, then why didn’t he show it? He touched lepers and bleeding women, why not something with homosexuals here?”

“If he was telling us how normal same-sex couples should be, why didn’t he just come out and say it?”

You see, we really do want something didactic. “The moral of the story is…” If we can’t use it to comfort, challenge or instruct someone, what good is it? If we can’t use it to rebuke, instruct or edify, why is it even there?

Interesting question. Why is it even there? If all scripture is inspired, and useful for a variety of things, then why waste a setting with such dramatic potential?

Originally, the Sodom mentions were hints, clues to something. They were an “X marks the spot” for readers, and “X” was a sensitive subject.

You’d think that after decades of Christian debate that someone would have figured out why Jesus mentioned Sodom, not once, but twice, once in Luke 10:12 and again in 17:29. You’d think that in such an important debate, Jesus’ mentions of Sodom would have been brought to bear by now, by someone.

So what would that purpose be? Was there something else being communicated to us?

In Luke 17, the story of Noah concerned a world-wide flood and an inexplicable disaster. The story of Lot concerned one city and an inexplicable disaster.

The fact of inexplicable disaster doesn’t make the difference. The homosexuality connected to the Sodom story makes the difference. Homosexuality.

Then, a few verses later, there are two men in one bed and two women grinding together.

Why did “Jesus” mention Sodom in Luke 17? To let us know that the two men in one bed were gay and the two women grinding together were lesbian. The mention of Sodom is called context.

So what about that other mention of Sodom in Luke? “In the day of judgment Sodom will do better than that city.” That city was Bethsaida. The sin of Bethsaida was rejecting the messengers.

Sodom was mentioned in Luke 10:12 so that we would know that Bethsaida rejected the messengers because of homosexuality. The rejected messengers were gay and lesbian.

If God spoke through Baalam’s ass, if God poured out his spirit on gentiles, if Philip had seven daughters who prophesied, I guess God can use homosexuals to speak to me.

What a concept.

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Beyond The Galilee Episode

Other primates have been working on this jigsaw puzzle for a long time. Around 2008 someone handed me an odd piece they’d found in the box lid. In all the other rooms it was in piles of red balloon pieces. But I realized it probably wasn’t a balloon piece. I looked through my little box lid, and over the years I put a couple dozen puzzle pieces together. They look good. The problem is, it’s a 25,000 piece puzzle.

Different groups of primates are working on their puzzles in different rooms. Many of them have been working on their puzzles for generations. And in some rooms they don’t even use the same pieces as the others! And everyone seems to have put the edge pieces together differently. I heard that a long time ago a few primates used scissors to make certain pieces fit. How weird is that? Most primates won’t believe it if you tell them their puzzle pieces were trimmed, but from a distance you don’t notice.

There are some pretty old box lids floating around. Some of them look good, but others are a mystery. They’re all pretty, but they’re all handmade.

Okay, enough metaphor.
___

This is Luke 17:34-35 (KJV), used eschatologically by most Christians, although Dispensationalists use it to support the rapture idea.

I tell you, in that night,
Two men will be in one bed,
one will be taken, and the other left.
Two women will be grinding together,
one will be taken, and the other left.

Let me cut to the chase. These verses seem to be the only record of a legal verdict rendered by Philip the Tetrarch, son of Herod the Great. The founder of Rabbinic Judaism, R. Yohanan b. Zakkai, had put on trial two mixed-ethnicity same-sex couples in Bethsaida, but their case had to be appealed to Rome-approved regional ruler Philip. Philip recognized Rabbi Yohanan’s authority to enforce Torah on Jews, but disallowed the rabbi’s attempt to extend his authority to gentile sexual offenders.

There is evidence for the entire scenario in the Q Source, the Talmud and Josephus. I researched on and off for over ten years to be as thorough as possible. I published a longish summary yesterday (https://biblethumpingliberal.com/2020/03/16/summary-the-galilee-episode/) and I recently published the title The Galilee Episode.

Somehow this record (Luke 17:34-35) of a Jewish imperial puppet protecting gay and lesbian gentiles against the expansive encroachment of a Torah-motivated Pharisee was preserved in the papers of the target community (gay and lesbian gentiles), which records became part of the original documents used in the Q Source.

To my knowledge, this evidence hasn’t been recognized before, although the material is not new.

What follows is not something I wrote about much in my book. I believe that the figure of Philip the Tetrarch influenced the creation of the New Testament Christ material. The “parousia” of Philip to judge disputes between his Bedouin tribal subjects, his practice of “tabernacling” in his domain with his select friends instead of requiring every kindred and every tribe to travel to him for dispute resolution, and the characteristic peace of his dominion (compared to Galilee and Judea), and his solution of the Jew-gentile division contributed essential elements to the evolving Christ doctrine.

It is not coincidental that the dominion of Philip the Tetrarch extended east from the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee to the west, the area now considered southern Syria. Shortly after Philip’s death, the tetrarch’s territory was officially renamed, “The Roman Province of Arabia.” You may be aware that after his “Damascus Road Experience” the Apostle Paul reportedly spent three years in . . . Arabia. Not what we think of as Saudi Arabia, but the region previously ruled by Philip the Tetrarch. It is not coincidental that both Philip the Tetrarch and the Apostle Paul dealt with the conflict between Jews and gentiles, in similar ways, with both addressing the issue of submission to authority.

I’ve believed for a long time that Paul spent three years working out his new theology, which was quite a departure from Pharisaic Torah-enforcement. Little did I know.

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