Good morning! Welcome to the final entry of Daily Bible for this year!
Good morning! Can you believe we’ve only got one more day, and we’ll have read through the entire Bible together in a year!? I’ll save a little extra gushiness for tomorrow, but I’m deeply grateful for the ways we have all dug deeper than we might have expected upon joining this effort (whenever we did throughout the last year). Truly, the community that has formed in the Facebook group has encouraged and carried me much further than I would have gone on my own. Your longsuffering faithfulness has been rewarded by the connections with one another, and I’m grateful for how this community has come alive beyond my wildest expectations. Thank you for your steadfastness in this effort!
Good morning! Today with Revelation 12-16 we near the end of the punishing scenes in this book. Some of the characters in these chapters are written with such specific detail that it’s possible—or at least tempting—to identify them as allegories of certain ancient forces. No “referee” exists to confirm which of these are on point and which are figments of imagination, so we’ll be most honest if we err on the side of ambiguity.
Good morning! As we continue today in Revelation 8-11, a seventh seal is opened in heaven, which unleashes a new round of seven—trumpets this time. There’s a great amount of detail in these chapters to describe the consequences of each trumpet’s sounding. There’s plenty to captivate a literal-minded interpreter, but I suggest not reading it as “fact” which is prophesied to take place. Rather, it expresses a worldview of the earth as under divine control, and its people as destined for destruction when they do not please God.
Good morning! As we continue reading Revelation today with chapters 4-7, we get another glimpse of heaven through John the Seer’s imagination. God’s throne room here echoes other descriptions from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel of such ornate, jeweled beauty and otherworldly creatures. I’m not sure what to make of the twenty-four elders around the central throne—might they represent the twelve tribes of Israel, plus an equal number from Christianity? The seven spirits before the throne are the same spirits mentioned yesterday, and the winged creatures full of eyes are a further-developed form of the cherubim and seraphim we first read about in the Hebrew Bible.
Good morning! I hope your Christmas went well, and that you’ve got some further plans for rest in this last week of the year. For our part in Daily Bible, today we start the final book of the Bible, the Revelation to John. Mystery, fear and dread surround the book of Revelation in our popular context. Certain scenes from it have been part of western culture for centuries, and though it’s a deeply influential book not many people explore beyond the lurid descriptions of fantastic beasts, worldwide calamities, and supernatural battles. Becoming closer friends with Revelation however (as with the entire Bible) can help us better discern what meaning there is in it—if any—for us today. As I read it, the main message of Revelation is that “hope springs eternal”. God always triumphs in the end, even against the most powerful and deadly opposition possible. Put another way and borrowing another phrase, the arc of faithful Christianity is long, but it bends toward deliverance.
Good morning! Merry Christmas!! I hope you and your loved ones are marking the day however feels best—with food, worship, family, and/or a long nap! I’m grateful you continue with Daily Bible even today. We have three quick little books for today’s section. 2 John, 3 John and Jude all come from late in the first century or early in the second one, at a time when Christians were organized enough to be sending letters and ambassadors through with some frequency, but also developed enough that dissenting voices cropped up within—not just beyond—Christian circles. All three of these letters are written to contest false teachings or bad behavior from other Christians.
Good morning! Merry Christmas Eve to those who are celebrating today and tonight! We finish up 1 John today with the second half, chapters 4-5. This first continues echoes of the argument about Jesus’ metaphysical identity which arose yesterday. Here the question is whether Jesus was real (in the flesh) or a spirit who only looked real. Christmas Eve seems an appropriate time to grapple with the question of Jesus as divine or human or (somehow, mysteriously) both. Throughout the first centuries of Christianity, different groups formed and broke away from the orthodox faith as they claimed Jesus wasn’t fully divine, or wasn’t fully human. The matter wasn’t “settled” and orthodoxy established until it was literally voted on by all-Christianity councils that formed the creeds in the 300s. This writer stakes the claim firmly to Jesus as God in the flesh, contending that anything else is from “the antichrist”.
Good morning! I think of 1 John as famous for its commands to show Christ-like love in tangible ways. While that does feature as an overall theme, when we read chapters 1-3 today we’ll see that other subjects come up prominently as well. 1 John shares significant imagery and themes with the gospel of John, which is why some presume that disciples of that John are the ones who wrote the letters of John. In addition to discussion about the Christian vocation to “abide in Christ”, and the Christian identity as “children of God”, 1 John 1-3 similarly uses a light/dark dichotomy to emphasize sinfulness and righteousness. Christ rescues from darkness, and love is the way to demonstrate one’s allegiance to “the light”.
Good morning! Today in 2 Peter we continue reading the words of an early church leader, trying to evoke the disciple Peter in writing to early Christian churches. Here the author refers specifically to the Transfiguration as confirming Christ’s glory, and mentions “our beloved brother Paul” whose letters are “hard to understand”. These references fail to convince me that this is genuinely Peter’s voice though, because the context and intent of this letter (like the first) emerges out of a time significantly later than that of the disciple himself. 2 Peter communicates the strong “us” versus “them” mentality which emerged in the decades after Christianity had taken hold, and seeks to allay doubts about Christ’s nonexistent triumphal return.