bible blog 300

This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church

Reading 1, Revelation 14:1-3, 4b-5

1 Next in my vision I saw Mount Zion, and standing on it the Lamb who had with him a hundred and forty-four thousand people, all with his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.2 I heard a sound coming out of heaven like the sound of the ocean or the roar of thunder; it was like the sound of harpists playing their harps.

3 There before the throne they were singing a new hymn in the presence of the four living creatures and the elders, a hymn that could be learnt only by the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the world. 4 These are the sons who have kept their virginity and not been defiled with women; they follow the Lamb wherever he goes; they, out of all people, have been redeemed to be the first-fruits for God and for the Lamb. 5 No lie was found in their mouths and no fault can be found in them.

Fear of women: Beryl Cook

I don’t know what the purpose is of the male virginity celebrated here, but it is one of the passages in the bible where the reader should say, “This is not the word of the Lord!” It contains dirty propaganda against women. What allows an author to write the words, “defiled with women”?

The Greek novelist, Katzanzakis, in his book about St Francis has his hero preach before the Sultan and use expressions like “defiled” in relation to women. The Sultan stops him and tells him that he will listen to stories of Christ, but if Francis insults his womenfolk again he will be killed without further ado.

The transference of male lust and disgust to its female object is one of the least attractive aspects of Christian thinking, and is not unconnected to the refusal of churches in the catholic tradition to give women equality in their ministries. Wee adolescent boys who never grew up dignify their fear of women as being derived from the practice of Jesus. What nonsense!

Gospel, Luke 21:1-4

1 Looking up, he saw rich people putting their offerings into the treasury; 2 and he noticed a poverty-stricken widow putting in two small coins, 3 and he said, ‘I tell you truly, this poor widow has put in more than any of them; 4 for these have all put in money they could spare, but she in her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’

Jesus gave dignity to the widow by recognising her generosity. Before we provide help for poor people, we must do the same. They have contrived to live with very little and we have no right to diminish their independence by any act of unasked assistance. Creating a more equal society would be our best move. That’s what the first church in Jerusalem did.

The dignity of the poor

At present, one of the tactics of the apostles of inequality in the UK and USA is to attack the honour of poor people by suggesting that they are mainly scroungers. Christian people should resist this nonsense vigorously, recognising it as a way of refusing justice. Jesus’ example of seeing and understanding the life of a poor woman show help us keep our eyes open.

7 comments

  1. Hello Mike. It has been too long, but I have been glad to read your comments the past several days (got home Thursday night feeling very sick, and only really felt like myself yesterday morning).
    I had to laugh at the audacity of your words regarding Rev 14.4 . . . “I don’t know what the purpose is of the male virginity celebrated here, but it is one of the passages in the bible where the reader should say, “This is not the word of the Lord!” It contains dirty propaganda against women. What allows an author to write the words, “defiled with women”?”
    I am not willing to follow you down this road, much as I appreciate your main point. You ask too many questions of this passage to be able to reach the kind of certain condemnation that you conclude with.
    I would prefer to continue looking for answers to the questions you raise without condemning the author in ignorance. This seems to me to both wise and safe.

  2. Welcome back, my friend! I’ve missed you. Do tell me about your sojourn abroad. I’m sure there will have been much of interest.

    Audacity? Well, tell me any interpretion of the phrase “defiled with women” that doesn’t deserve a ticking off? It’s only that, after all-if you look back you’ll see I’ve been praising the author of Revelation as a true messenger of the gospel.

    It’s just possible that the virginity is a metaphor for true belief, in the tradition of Hosea, meaning that these are people who have not gone whoring after false Gods. Even at that, the phrase is an insult to women.

    I’m too old to be wise and safe!

    1. LOL! Too old to be safe and wise. I’ll have to remember that in about 20 years!!

      I’ll tell you one good, longish story. I stayed in a Fulbe (i.e. Fulani) village for about a week, after which time they said they would share some things with me, because in Fulbe culture they wait to do things like that. But they said I could share this with others also.

      They told a parable. A man comes into your parlour (e.g. living room) looking for food and rest in your compound (i.e. house), so he is starting to walk through the parlour into the house. But you know there is no food and rest there; the food is not ready and there are no beds available. However, you know that if you tell him that, he won’t believe you. He’ll think you are greedy and wicked, and try to force himself into your house, and he will not leave. So instead you invite him into your house, but you seek to pull him through your house and on into the next house, where you know there is food and rest available. He will follow you, because he is hungry and tired, and he needs those things, and he sees that somehow you have been fed and rested. Eventually you will lead him to the place where the food and rest are and he will thank you for it.

      Islam is the house with no food or rest, but a Muslim will not believe this, so you will not be able to drive him backward out of it into Christianity – where the food and rest are. For a Muslim, to look to Christ is to go backwards because Mohammed comes after Jesus, and he will not wish to regress in that way.

      So you agree with Islam as much as you can, and you lead him on through it. The new life in Christ that you have will show him that you have indeed found food and rest, so he will follow you if he believes these things will eventually come. The new life in Christ includes the joy and peace that you have, plus all of the differences that have come in the lives of the women around you (and here, Mike, the differences are huge – much to praise God for).

      So I started preaching according to this when I spoke to Muslims. I talked about my friendship with a Muslim lawyer who wanted to intellectually discuss Islam and Christianity. He told me about the five pillars, and how they were all weight bearing pillars, where if any of them broke, then the whole house would come down. I said this was the Bible’s teaching also – James says if we have broken one law it is as though we have broken them all.

      I asked him if anyone had kept all the pillars strong enough to go to heaven, and he didn’t have anything to say. So he asked me about the pillarss of Christianity. I said, yes the pillars were very similar – we are to fast and pray, and give to the poor, and so on. But we only have one weight-bearing pillar, and this is Jesus Christ. That is because he has kept all the law for us.

      Then I talk about a discussion I had with a drunk Muslim one night (saying that both the Bible and the Koran condemn drunkenness, even as there are both Muslims and Christians who get drunk). As he was ramblling away (much as I am doing now), I prayed about what to take away from the conversation. The thought was that the Bible and the Koran both teach that the Christ is returning and that we need to be ready for him.

      This sermon was preached three times, all with very good response. No mass conversions or anything, but open doors for the evangelists to follow up.

      The trip as a whole was harrowing in some aspects, but well worth whatever we had to put up with.

  3. I’m glad you had time to sit with people, and to understand them. I think our peaceful conversation with Islam is one of the world’s most important initiatives. I like the parable and will think about it. Christendom is our house (where a Moslem will not find food); so where is next door, the house of Christ-beyond- Mohammed, the Christ who is to come?

    Thanks for this advance contribution to Advent!

    1. Actually, in the parable – as these former Muslims understand it – Christendom where Muslims will find food and rest. All who are weary, etc., may come there. They understand that to be a disciple of Jesus, that is to say, to be a Christian, is to have found where the food and rest is, in the compound beyond Islam.
      I have asked them about the normal issues that Muslims often have about Christianity – e.g. the woodenly literal thinking about Christ’s birth and so on. They tell me that once Jesus actually comes into their lives these questions are not really relevant anymore. They are simply interested in living the Christ-life, and believe themselves to be brothers and sisters with all other Christians.

  4. Christendom is what we have made of Jesus but true missionary preaching points to Jesus himself. The missionary moves along with the convert to new Jesus. That’s my experience as a missionary in my own land.

    1. Okay, that makes sense to me. The believers I fellowship most with in Nigeria would say, in agreement, that what matters is following Jesus – not looking a certain way to the outside world.

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