Prof Jon Ray says:

Mesopotamia is basically desert — made habitable by irrigation. So when you look up into the sky at night there the stars are very bright. And with no TV, movies or Internet that is about all you had to look at during night-time way back then.

And the most striking thing you notice about the stars is that their position in the sky is very fixed — EXCEPT for just five pesky stars that move about. I don’t know the Babylonian names for them but we call them Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn — which are the Roman names for them (more or less). They are of course planets, not stars. But the Babylonians didn’t know that so they thought it was obvious that they must be gods. Who else could move about among the stars? So we clearly have five gods there.

But there are two OTHER moving objects in the sky — the Sun and the moon — with the sun obviously being the big chief. So if there are 7 gods (5+2), to be on the safe side each one had to have day devoted to him/her. One could not risk offending a god. So the 7 days of the week were named after the seven movable objects that the ancient Iraqis could see in the sky!

And because the sun was clearly the big guy he had to have the FIRST day of the week named after him and have that day especially sacred. And we perpetuate that to this day. We still see Sunday as special.

I particularly liked the Professor’s., description of looking into the ancient Babylonian sky for moving objects and calling that “movies.” What else would these ancients have had for entertainment in the total blackness of night without city lights, and not a lot of oil to spare for candle use either.

Prof. Ray, may I call him Jon? Thank you. Jon has the ability, as do all good teachers, to contexualize events so that those of us who are trying to learn begin to get a more robust picture of who we are in relation to the Bible and history in general.

Recently I was eating with some friends from a nearby Church, when a theological discussion arose over TV, movies, and the Internet. They observed these were evil and should be avoided at all cost. I made the comment that this was not so.

I commented on the new movie Amazing Grace. I pointed out it’s message of abolition and the fortitude of two men Wilberforce and Pitt the Younger, without whom we would still own humans as do the non-Western Muslims of today.

I further observed that the Internet was an outstanding, efficient means of communication for which I had not seen the equal in my life-time. Of course, movies are trash for the most part, Television numbs, physically as well as mentally, but the Internet provides most of human history or will when Google is finished digitizing the planet’s libraries. I also noted that men living today are indeed fortunate for as Jon noted above,  our entertainment would be gazing into the vast, dark, night sky.

I challenge you to name me an ancient Persian Prince who would not have sacrificed at least 10 children to Moloch  for access to You Tube? Amadinajad does this everyday even though he doesn’t need to, he calls it Sharia law. He uses other reasons for stonings and beheadings but face it, they are sacrifices to his God.  He will use the same rationalization when he nukes the United States.

I was astonished at my friend’s reactions to my observation. Two theologians among my friends seemed to have never given a thought to the origins of the men who wrote the book (Bible) they so studiously claim to revere, nor to the context within which those writers lived. It seemed to me at the time they believed the Bible was written yesterday with movies, TV, and the Internet as the backdrop for the thinking of Moses, King David, and Luke. They were astonished that I would propose that way back when, there were forms of entertainment that we moderns never think about.

For instance, we know from scripture they had at least one form of LasVegas or the Roman soldiers would not have been shooting craps to see who got our Saviors belongings at the Cross. And, of course they probably never ask themselves the origins our word Circus. Why am I writing about this? This is why.

I had to teach as a substitute for Sunday School adults yesterday in my Home Church. I got a similar reaction when I taught on prayer using the verses in 1Kings 19:11-12 to explain that one need not be alone in a cave to pray.

In this story Elijah was apparently near a volcanic eruption when he heard “the still small voice.”  I used this as an example that even in the midst of turmoil and busy-ness we have the ability to remember and commune with God. We can hear the “still small voice,” if we form the habit of listening for it. Too many of us ignore that voice to our detriment and too many sermons are preached about being alone, in a quiet place, off in a closet, out in the woods, listening to waterfalls, meditating,  and on and on, blah, blah. Most of what I hear on the subject is post-Modern gobble-de-gook, and not scriptural.

One gentleman, in the class,  who has been a “religious person” for at 15 years I am aware of, insisted that we must go into our “closet” to pray because Jesus said so. Mentally I exploded.

Since this was Sun-day school and the pagan gentleman in question is not the kind to desire wisdom, (which BTW is another Biblical command)  I didn’t bother pointing out that “closet” in the context Jesus used it, was a euphemism for “private” and not public prayer. I sinned then, in that I said to myself, “this guy wouldn’t know a deeper thought if it jumped up and bit him on the posterior – actually I thought the a-word.” (Forgive me LORD.)

What brought all this to mind was Dr. Ray’s excellent post about the paganism that is now almost an essential Church ritual for Easter and Christmas celebrations and observance. Of course my devout Baptist church does not have Easter Bunnies and colored Eggs adorning the Baptistery yet, but with the level of thought of most of our congregants I wonder how long it will be until we celebrate the Spring Equinox and Mother Gaia? At Christmas we always adorn our church lobby with the glory of colored lights, wreaths, and faux-pine trees. Easter however, is still limited to Lily’s everywhere, new clothes, white gloves, hats, and the rush to depart services so as to be first in line at Old Country Buffet. And, no they do not serve Lamb.  Just a ton of food for those who haven’t eaten for at least an hour.

Prof Ray also said in his 3/19/07 post about the S(eventh D(ay) A(dventist)’s:

I rather like a slogan I saw up today on the signboard of my local Seventh-day Adventist church:

There is no shortcut to anywhere worth going to.

I must say that I respect the way the SDAs keep the Sabbath. That most Christians regard the Day of the Sun as sacred is paganism, with no warrant in the Bible. But, as I have pointed out on my scripture blog, so much of modern Christianity is pagan with no warrant in the Bible — the celebration of Christmas and Easter included, of course. The only day that Christ instructed his followers to commemorate was the Passover (1 Corinthians 11:25).

April 3rd through April 20th, 2007 is just another grouping of days on the calendar in my denomination. Those are the Passover days this year. We don’t specifically celebrate Passover as we have been commanded. grated horseradish mixed with cooked beets and sugar (known as chrein in Yiddish); romaine lettuce; whole horseradish rootInstead we have a cursory “Lord’s Supper,” presentation periodically – as other Church events permit.  We consider we have fulfilled the spiritual requirements of the Savior’s command to remember Him. I should say some of us do this. Most in my Church are too busy to return on Sunday night for Communion or anything else: Unless of course a dinner is involved, then we get a pretty good turn out. I have to add here this our fault not Pastor’s. He would have us all emulate our Lord and His Bible more than any of us do; but we won’t allow it. We rag on Pastor at the least hint that he will tell us what we do may be wrong. Preaching to us about our sin is not the most popular subject in our Church. We, like most “pagans,” would rather hear something along the lines of a Joel Osteen sermon. Feel good about yourself. Don’t worry. Be happy. Christ has forgiven you. You don’t need to hear about “all that negative stuff’,” as Brother Joel would say.  

Perhaps I am reading more into scripture and Jon’s thought than I should but I seem to recall something about Jesus being the symbolic, substitutionary, Lamb of the Passover.  Therefore, if we are commanded to “take, eat, in remembrance of me,” (1Cor 11:25) isn’t it logical that Jesus wants us to remember His sacrifice in the context of His totality as both human and God. What’s the point of Him being named the Lamb of God if we are to remember only His sacrifice on the cross as our means to personal salvation and admission into “Christianity?” Jesus was first of all a Jew, He wasn’t a Christian. His death, burial and resurrection certainly has within it meaning beyond our comprehension and I insist we should at least try to understand some of that meaning.

Now before you go off on me, please understand this. I am not saying we Christian’s have to follow rules and regulations and do’s and don’t’s of the Judaic law. I am saying however, that perhaps we should at least re-examine our incestuous relationship with the pagan Christmas and Easter celebrations of our culture. Jesus spent a lifetime, eternity really, preparing for His sacrifice, entering  Jerusalem, submitting to His executioners, and consummating His Crucifixion and Resurrection on our behalf.

I have come to believe it only proper we should remember a lot more about His sacrifice than we do.

I’m just sayin’….