Bible doubts

SIR - You have to admire the courage of contributors to your religious column.

It must be daunting to pen an article of interest and relevance for a readership that ranges from the indifferent to the deeply religious. There is always a risk of lapsing into pious platitudes suitable for the Sunday school class. Most succeed.

In between those two extremes of spiritual development is a group that has a religious disposition, but a faith that falls some way short of rock solid. These doubting Thomases would, I am sure, prefer a message that was more reasoned and down-to-earth than seems to be though appropriate.

The essence of Christianity is simple: love God and love your neighbour as yourself. But, at the nuts and bolts level, the New Testament seems, in places, to be both inconsistent and contradictory. It is these awkward areas that we would like to see examined in a no nonsense way. Bearing in mind restrictions of space, I offer the bare bones of just three examples of the sort of topics I have in mind; there are plenty more.

a) Jesus expected the Kingdom of God to come during the lifetime of some of his listeners (Luke 9). Would that be the same Kingdom that we are still hoping for 2,000 years later when we recite the Lord’s Prayer? Was he wrong?

b) Jesus gave ample prophetic warnings of his crucifixion, death and resurrection. Why, then, were the Disciples surprised and dismayed when events went precisely as predicted? Could it be that the prophecies were, in fact, concocted by the early church after the event and not before?

c) Jews have always regarded themselves as being specially chosen and favoured by God. Did Jesus, too, think Gentiles were, in a sense, second class citizens? Consider these examples amongst many:

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- “I am come only to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15). Not much equivocal about that.

-the encounter with the Syrophoenician woman when Gentiles were compared to dogs (Mark 7).

- even when we have a parable to illustrate our duty of compassion towards the unknown stranger, the hero is a Samaritan, another Jewish sect, not a Gentile.

The more I chew on it, the less sure I become that Jesus intended his gospel to be for us Gentiles.

There, that gives three topics for your contributors to get their teeth into.

I look forward to reading future issues of your newspaper.

Ken Bridgman

Martletts, Connaught Close