Monday, March 31, 2014

Getting "legit" with Alexa

Following Peter Kirby's ranking of biblioblogs, I'm learning more and more about the benefits of "Alexa", a web information site. They offer a few interesting services that seem to be helpful.

Certainly knowledge is power and knowing more about how visits the site can only seem to be beneficial. I'm going to take it slow and see how things go, but if you're running a website you might really take a look at their resources.

One thing I like: I'm not a techie, but I seem to be able to figure how to use their tools. That's certainly a plus!


Sunday, March 30, 2014

TheSacredPage.com ranks #30 among biblioblogs (academic bible blogs)

Peter Kirby has released the latest rankings by traffic of academic bible blogs ("biblioblogs"). This blog comes in at #30. Not bad!

In the last ranking, we were at #52. At that time, blogging had slowed down here considerably. However, we've stepped it up here and t's nice to be back in the top 50.

Some random observations. . .

  • The #1 and #2 slots continue to be held by Jim West and Scot McKnight. Congratulations to both! 
  • 3 of the top 10 are Patheos blogs.
  • TheSacredPage.com is one of only two blogs written by Catholic academics on the list--and the only one written by Catholic academics in English.
  • Bart Ehrman's blog has fallen from #27 to out of the top 50.  
  • Nijay Gupta's fine blog has climbed to number #28 (from #45). This is one of my favorite bible blogs and I am pleased that it is getting increased traffic.
  • Another personal favorite who is on the rise is Nick Norelli, who has risen from #70 to #48. Nick is a great guy and he has a great site. It's so good to see him crack the top 50.  
  • The top 10 include both believers and skeptics. 

Thanks, Peter, for this undertaking. I find it all very interesting. And, of course, I'm thrilled that we made the top 50!

Friday, March 28, 2014

PICTURE: Pope Francis goes to confession

Just before Pope Francis heard confessions in St. Peter's Basilica, he knelt down at a confessional and asked God to forgive him, making his own confession of sins. 


To be fair, all the recent popes went to confession regularly. However I must say: it's nice to see Pope Francis doing it in public. 

Actually, I have found personally that confessing your sins--taking ownership of them by admitting them out load to another person--is extremely important. And, regardless of what you think of Catholic sacramental theology (I know many readers of this blog are not Catholic), clearly forgiveness of sins in Scripture is not something that is merely be individualistic. In the New Testament, reconciliation occurs within the ecclesial context (cf. Matt 18:15-22; John 20:21-23). Confessing your sins in the church--at least in the presence of a representative of the church who is specially trained at giving spiritual direction--is essential for true healing.

It's really great to see Pope Francis emphasizing the importance of confession by practicing it himself--no one is above it, not even the pope! (Or better put: especially, not the pope!)

Speaking Saturday, March 29th in Long Beach, CA

I posted on this before but I have some updated information. Here's how the parish is advertising the event. I think I gave the church building address in the original post on this. That was incorrect! The talk will actually be at the school hall.

Hope you can come!
"Overcoming Temptations: Learning from Jesus in the Wilderness"
Free event 
SATURDAY, MARCH 29, at 7:00 p.m.
Holy Innocents School Hall
2500 Pacific Avenue, Long Beach, CA 90806 
Dr. Michael Barber, Theology professor at John Paul the Great University in San Diego, will be speaking at Holy Innocents on SATURDAY, MARCH 29, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. 
In this special Lenten presentation, Dr. Barber will guide us in a penetrating look at the temptations of Christ in the wilderness and show us how this mystery in our Lord's earthly life can teach us and strengthen us in our own struggle against sin and temptation.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Browsing the latest journals just got a lot easier

I realize I may be a bit late on this one, but there is now a blog that follows most major academic journal in biblical studies and theology. This is a huge help. I get email notices from most of these journals when a new volume comes out, but I think this will be even easier to follow.



The Good Shepherd and True Sight: The Readings for the Fourth Sundayof Lent


The major theme of this Sunday’s readings is coming to true “sight” and being restored from the darkness of sin. This is explored in different ways. Here we will simply offer some brief thoughts on the way this motif is explored in this Sunday readings.

THE FIRST READING: 1 Samuel 16:1B, 6-7, 10-13A
The LORD said to Samuel:
“Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.
I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem,
for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”
 
As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice,
Samuel looked at Eliab and thought,
“Surely the LORD’s anointed is here before him.”
But the LORD said to Samuel:
“Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature,
because I have rejected him.
Not as man sees does God see,
because man sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart.”
 
In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel,
but Samuel said to Jesse,
“The LORD has not chosen any one of these.”
Then Samuel asked Jesse,
“Are these all the sons you have?”
Jesse replied,
“There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said to Jesse,
“Send for him;
we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.”
Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them.
He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold
and making a splendid appearance.
 
The LORD said,
“There—anoint him, for this is the one!”
Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand,
anointed David in the presence of his brothers;
and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.
A man after God’s own heart. The first reading from 1 Samuel is the biblical introduction to the figure of David, the man identified in Scripture as “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22). Though David certainly sinned, David also repented and, by Jesus’ day, was basically regarded as the model of piety for ancient Israel (cf. Ps. 1; Sir. 47; Ps. 151). To be righteous is to walk in the ways of David (e.g., Sir. 48:22; 1 Kgs. 3:14; 8:25; 11:38; 2 Kgs. 22:2); to be wicked is to be unlike him (cf. Sir 49:4).

The Lord looks into the heart. In this reading David is chosen not because of his appearance—the Lord sees his true greatness, but others are not able to see it. Whereas the worldly look towards outward appearances, true greatness is found in the heart. Thus, whereas Samuel expects to anoint one of Jesse’s older sons, the Lord chooses the young man David.

Of course, God always does this in scripture. He chooses the weak to shame the proud. He chooses the unlikely as his instruments so that when his purpose is accomplished through them, it is clear: it had to be God (because the victory could have been the result of that guy—something more was at work).

By the way, there’s a lesson in humility here. God chooses the weak. If God uses us for his purposes, we can never become proud. God chooses the unlikely. If you think you’re something special because you were able to be an instrument of grace in someone’s life, don’t get full of yourself—God chooses the weak!

David as the “Messiah”. David’s anointing is linked to the coming of the Spirit. Indeed, in Catholic tradition the anointing of oil is used as a symbol of the Spirit (e.g., the sacrament of confirmation). Specifically, it is because the Spirit is upon David—not just oil, which represents the spirit—that he is “anointed”. The Hebrew word for “anointed one”, mashiyach, is where we get the term, “Messiah”. The Greek translation of this term, christos, is where, of course, we get the term, “Christ”.

In fact, David is specifically identified as “the anointed of God” (2 Sam 23:1). It is no surprise, then, that the New Testament describes David as a kind of type of Jesus. For example, psalms about David are specifically applied to Jesus (cf., e.g., Acts 2:25–36).


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Colbert on atheists against the 9-11 "cross"

Stephen Colbert did, I think, a pretty funny segment on the protest against the "cross" at the 9-11 museum being made by some atheists.



The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Presenting at the Paul and Judaism Conference in Houston, TX

I am very much looking forward to presenting a paper, entitled, "Cultic Theosis in Paul and Second Temple Judaism" at the big Paul and Judaism Conference this week at Houston Baptist University. The paper is co-written with my friend and colleague at JP Catholic, John Kincaid.

The conference should be a lot of fun. Other speakers include N.T. Wright (who will, of course, be speaking on his recently released book on Paul), Ross Wagner, and Beverly Gaventa.

For more information on the conference, which begins on Wednesday (March 18) and ends Thursday (March 19), go here.

Give me a Drink! The Third Sunday of Lent

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You know we are “picking up steam” in the season of Lent when the Lectionary starts turning to the long readings from the Gospel of John (John 4, 9, 11).  The Church turns to these texts from John at this point in the liturgical calendar, because John is, in so many ways, a mystagogical document, a gospel intended to takes us deeper into the mysteries, that is, the sacraments.

If one is not initiated into the sacraments, John remains—in many respects—a closed book.  I can attest to this from personal experience.  Although I have always loved my name-sake Gospel more than any other part of Scripture, I virtually never preached from it in while I was a Protestant pastor.  I was enthralled with the words and fascinated with the realities behind them, but wasn’t sure what the application was for texts like John 4 or John 6.  The problem lay in the fact that, as a Christian outside the visible Church, I was only partially initiated into the sacraments.  Not having experienced the sacraments, I could not recognize when Jesus was speaking of them.

Tonight I'm speaking at St. Theresa's Catholic Church in Sugarland, TX

If you're in Texas, I'll be speaking at St. Theresa's Catholic Church in Sugarland, TX, tonight, Tuesday (3/18/14) at 7pm at the school hall.

This is a Lenten talk, entitled, "How To Battle Temptations: Learning from Christ in the Wilderness".

I'm really looking forward to being there! Hope you can make it.

For more information, go here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Living by Faith and the Transfiguration: The Readings for the Second Sunday of Lent

Trust in the Lord. That is the major theme of this week's lectionary readings. From Abraham as a model of faith, to Jesus, who tells his disciples, "Do not be afraid", this Sunday the liturgy underscores the importance of faith.

Let us look at how this motif is developed in the readings this Sunday.

FIRST READING: Genesis 12:1-4a
The LORD said to Abram:
“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk
and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.
“I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
and curse those who curse you.
All the communities of the earth
shall find blessing in you.”
Abram went as the LORD directed him. 
The first reading comes from Genesis 12. This is the chapter in the Bible that really introduces the story of Abraham. Although much could be said, there are a few things to note in reference to the major theme of this Sunday's readings.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fasting on Fridays and the Passion of Jesus the Bridegroom



Have you ever wondered? Why do Catholics fast on Good Friday? Moreover, why is it traditional to fast on the Fridays of Lent?

There are, of course, various historical and liturgical reasons for the custom of fasting. But there's also a biblical foundation for fasting on Fridays that's directly tied to the topic of my new book, Jesus the Bridegroom: the Greatest Love Story Ever Told. The connection really hit me when I went to Mass last Friday with my wife and children. 

Jesus the Bridegroom and the First Friday in Lent
Sitting there on the front pew (because that's the best seat if you have young children!), we were, like many other young families at the beginning of Lent, somewhat tired and distracted at the end of a long week. I for one was starting to get anxious about the flurry of speaking engagements and interviews that were coming up to promote the book, and also thinking hard about how to help people see why the topic was not just fascinating but spiritually relevant to their lives. And then, much to my surprise, when it came time to stand for the Friday Gospel, I heard these words:

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the Bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the Bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast." (Matthew 9:14-15)

As I heard these words,  a big smile spread across my face. Any worries I may have had about the importance of the topic of the new book melted away.  My twelve-year old daughter reached over and tugged my arm, smiling and pointing up to the Gospel! (She knew my book was on Jesus the Bridegroom.) At that moment, I realized for the first time: Every year, on the very first Friday of Lent, the Church proclaims Jesus' riddle about the Bridegroom and the Wedding  Guests. Why?

For one thing, it's because this is one of Jesus' first allusions to his coming passion and death. You can see this by realizing that Jesus' mysterious response is really a parable, in which he makes three key comparisons.

Jesus' Riddle about the Sons of the Bridechamber
First, Jesus implicitly identifies himself as "the bridegroom" in order to suggest that the present, while he and his disciples are together, are like an ancient Jewish wedding feast: it's a time for celebration, not for fasting.

Second, he compares his disciples to the wedding guests--or, more literally, the "sons of the bridechamber" (Greek huioi tou nymphonos). These were basically the ancient Jewish equivalent of 'groomsmen', who--in ancient as well as modern times!--weren't exactly known for fasting. Indeed, in rabbinic tradition, both the bridegroom and the sons of the bridechamber were not obligated to perform ordinary religious duties during the seven-day Jewish wedding, including fasting.

Third and finally--and most importantly for us--Jesus is also implicitly identifying the day of his passion and death as his wedding day. He does this by speaking about the coming time "when the bridegroom is taken away from them" and how they will fast on that day (cf. Mark 2:20). 

The Jewish Bridechamber and Jesus' 'Wedding Day'
On one level this is a reference to the ancient Jewish night of consummation, when the bridegroom would leave his family and friends and enter into the "bridechamber" (Hebrew huppah) in order to be united to his bride, not to come out again until morning (see Psalm 19:4-5; Tobit 6:15-17). On a deeper level, the day that Jesus the Bridegroom is "taken away" is of course the day of his passion an death. As New Testament scholar Craig Keener puts it: "Jesus is the groom of God's people in the coming messianic banquet... The 'taking' of the bridegroom, of course, is a veiled reference to the impending crucifixion.' (Keener, Matthew, p. 300). In other words, Jesus' 'wedding day' is the day of his death. (And this isn't just a pretty metaphor. As I show in the chapter on the Crucifixion in the book, there are several striking parallels between Jesus' crucifixion and an ancient Jewish wedding day.)

Remembering the Day our Bridegroom was "Taken Away"
What does any of this have to do with fasting on Fridays in Lent, and on Good Friday above all? From a biblical perspective: the reason we fast  is because Friday is the day our Bridegroom was 'taken away' from us, and we don't ever want to forget it. In fulfillment of Jesus' words--"then they will fast"--we deny ourselves and remember the passion of the Bridegroom God of Israel, who loved us so much that he not only became man, but mounted the wood of the cross in order to save humanity from sin and be united to us in love. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI:

"In [Jesus] in an unexpected way, God and man become one, become a 'marriage', though this marriage--as Jesus subsequently points out--passes through the Cross, through the 'taking away' of the bridegroom. (Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth, 1, p. 252)

From this perspective, our Friday fasting and penances should not just be acts of self-denial, but sacrifices given out of love, just as the Bridegroom Messiah sacrificed himself out of love for us. We fast in memory of the one who 'loved us and gave himself for us' (cf. Galatians 2:20).

The Divine Love Story
Although many a man throughout history has compared his wedding day to his funeral; Jesus of Nazareth is the only man who ever compared his funeral to his wedding day. That is because he was no ordinary man; he was the Bridegroom God of Israel come in the flesh in to save his Bride. And his life and death on the Cross were nothing less than the center of the divine love story that is the real meaning of human history. Why else does the Bible begin with the wedding of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2-3) and end with the Wedding of Christ in the Church in the Book of Revelation (Rev 19-22)?!

 On every Friday during Lent--especially Good Friday--may his disciples remember his words about the passion--"they will fast on that day." In this way, we will truly prepare ourselves for the great Feast of Easter, when we will celebrate the Resurrection of the Bridegroom who gives himself to his Bride in every Eucharist as a foretaste of heaven--of the eternal "Wedding Supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:7).

Have a blessed Lent! 


Monday, March 10, 2014

Did Jabba the Hut meet St. Martha?

At St. Martha's in Murrieta leading a parish mission (see the previous post). It's a beautiful parish and a wonderful, thriving Catholic community.

The church is very beautiful. Lots of great art.

I have to highlight one piece though. Chris Mueller, the youth minister, calls this, "St. Martha in Carbonite".

Very funny.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Parish Mission in Temecula, CA

This week I will be doing a parish mission at St. Martha's Catholic Church in Murrieta, CA. I will be speaking after the 7:30am morning mass as well as from 6:30pm-8:00pm. 

I am very excited about speaking at this parish, which is an amazing Catholic community. 

You do not need to attend each night for the talks to make sense (i.e., if you miss the first day, the talks on Tuesday and Wednesday won't make less sense). 

If you're interested in coming out, the address of the church is:

37200 Whitewood Rd, Murrieta, CA 92563

Hope to see some of your there! 

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Jesus the Bridegroom: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told--Now Available!

Hey everybody, my new book, Jesus the Bridegroom: the Greatest Love Story Ever Told (Image Books) now available for pre-order! (It'll be in stores next week.) So if you liked Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist--or if you're like me and still trying to figure out what to read for Lent--then this book is for you.

In this one, we go back to the Old Testament and ancient Jewish tradition to try and unlock the mystery of Jesus' identity and his passion--not just as Teacher, or Prophet, or Messiah, but as the Bridegroom of Jewish expectation. I'm really thrilled that this is finally coming out; it covers some of my favorite passages in the Bible--the Wedding at Cana, the Woman at the Well, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the book of Revelation, Paul's controversial "Wives Be Submissive" teaching in Ephesians 5, and even that mysterious Song of Songs! The heart of the book is the chapter on the Passion of Christ. Hope you enjoy.





Here’s the table of contents, a brief description from the publisher, and a couple of kind words from friends.

INTRODUCTION

1. The Divine Love Story
The Wedding at Mount Sinai
Sin as Spiritual Adultery
The New Covenant and the Forgiven Bride
The Song of Songs

2. Jesus the Bridegroom
The Riddle of John the Baptist
The Wedding at Cana
The Last Supper

3. The Woman at the Well
The Samaritan Woman
The Gift of the Living Water
The Piercing of Jesus’ Side

4. The Crucifixion
Jesus’ Wedding Day
What Was the Crucifixion Like?
The Passion of the Messiah

5. The End of Time
The Bridegroom Comes Back
The Wedding Supper of the Lamb
No Marriage in the Resurrection?

6. The Bridal Mysteries
Baptism
The Eucharist
Marriage
Virginity

7. Beside the Well with Jesus

In Jesus the Bridegroom, Brant Pitre once again taps into the wells of Jewish Scripture and tradition, and unlocks the secrets of what is arguably the most well-known symbol of the Christian faith: the cross of Christ. In this thrilling exploration, Pitre shows how the suffering and death of Jesus was far more than an ancient Roman execution. Instead, the Passion of Christ was the fulfillment of ancient Jewish prophecies of a wedding, when the God of the universe would unite himself to humankind in an everlasting nuptial covenant.

To be sure, most Christians are familiar with the apostle Paul's teaching that Christ is the "Bridegroom" and the Church is the "Bride." But what does this really mean? And what would ever possess Paul to compare the death of Christ to the love of a husband for his wife? If you would have been at the Crucifixion, with Jesus hanging there dying, is that how you would have described it? How could a first-century Jew like Paul, who knew how brutal Roman crucifixions were, have ever compared the execution of Jesus to a wedding? And what does Paul mean when he refers to it as the “great mystery” (mysterion mega) (Ephesians 5:32)?

As Pitre shows, the key to unlocking this mystery can be found by going back to Jewish Scripture and tradition and seeing the entire history of salvation, from Genesis to Revelation, from Mount Sinai to Mount Calvary, as a divine love story between Creator and creature, between God and Israel, between Christ and his bride—a story that comes to its climax on the wood of a Roman cross.

In the pages of Jesus the Bridegroom, dozens of familiar passages in the Bible—the Exodus, the Song of Songs, the Wedding at Cana, the Woman at the Well, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and even the Second Coming at the End of Time—are suddenly transformed before our eyes. Indeed, when seen in the light of Jewish Scripture and tradition, the life of Christ is nothing less than the greatest love story ever told.



"This book will change you. It is an invitation to the Messiah's wedding feast--and a foretaste of heaven. It will change the way you experience the sacraments, personal prayer, Scripture study, and marriage. Most of all, it will deepen your love for Christ." -Scott Hahn, author of The Lamb's Supper and Signs of Life.

“With his customary combination of deep erudition and clarity of expression, Brant Pitre sheds light on a central theme of the New Testament: Jesus as the incarnation of the God who wants to marry his people. In the course of elaborating this motif, Pitre offers wonderfully fresh readings of the Wedding Feast of Cana, the Woman at the Well, the Last Supper, and the Crucifixion. His interpretation of the Passion as the consummation of the spousal relationship between Jesus and his people is simply stunning. This is a book that will appeal to both the scholar and the ordinary believer, indeed to anyone interested in understanding Jesus Christ more profoundly.” -Father Robert Barron, founder of Word on Fire and author of Catholicism

Monday, March 03, 2014

Overcoming Temptation: 1st Sunday of Lent

The Readings for this Sunday are exceptionally rich, so we will have to limit ourselves to following just a few themes




1. The First Reading is the account of the Fall, in which Eve, followed by Adam, gives in to temptation by eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.



Reading 1 Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7


Sunday, March 02, 2014

Happy Ash Wednesday!

 
Happy Lent, everyone!  Let's indulge in a little commentary on the Readings for Ash Wednesday: