Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives. The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version. At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture. To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.
Questions & Observations
Q. (John 19:38): John is the only account that says Joseph was a secret disciple. Doesn’t this make 13? And, we had talked earlier about the common number 12 — 12 tribes and 12 disciples. But, I guess since Judas died, that would make it 12 again.
A. Joseph is a secret follower, but not one of the 12 (now 11- it will be 12 again soon).
Q. (Mark 16:1): Rob, I think we have talked before about the Sabbath being on Saturday and not Sunday. I think you said it was because Jesus arose on Sunday, like it says in Mark 16:9. But, why would this change the day we worship God, if He commanded it to be on Saturday? Also, I looked it up online and the only thing I could see is that the Catholics changed it in their doctrine, 1,000 years before a Protestant denomination arose.
A. Oh it’s a much earlier change than that. The early Church came to see EVERY Sunday (the first day of the week, corresponding to the first day of Creation) as a new Easter, a reminder of Jesus’ victory over death. One of the arguments that we will see unfold in the midst of new converts to Christianity — primarily Gentiles — is the question of whether you needed to be a Jew first in order to become a Christian. Ultimately, the leaders decide that you do not, and that because of Christ’s sacrifice, they are no longer under the requirements of the Law (something Paul will discuss extensively), including the Sabbath requirement. That is why the transition from Saturday to Sunday took place: the most important day of the Christian week was no longer Saturday, but Sunday — it symbolizes the new beginning that Christians see taking place in Jesus.
There are some Christians who feel that the Church should still honor the Sabbath as defined in the Law: they are known as Seventh-Day Adventists, and one of the central differences between them and other denominations is their strict rule about worship on Saturday, not Sunday. Personally, I see the value OF a Sabbath- we certainly benefit from a day of rest to focus on God and family, but in Christ, we have a new found freedom that says we can decide when that day of rest is, and that it is not REQUIRED to be Saturday (or even Sunday).
Q. (Mark 16:1-8): What is the purpose of the spices? I would assume to honor and respect the person and also help with the smell of rotting flesh?
A. Yes and yes. It was part of the Jewish burial ritual to honor the dead in such a way, and kind of like our modern embalming process: it was to help deal with the stench, which ironically, Jesus did not wind up needing.
Q. (Matthew 28:1): Matthew says there is an earthquake, but the others gospels don’t. I would think that this is just a difference in the story being passed along since the disciples weren’t eyewitnesses.
A. The people who are likely telling this story to the different authors are very likely remembering different details — Matthew was also the only one who mentioned the dead bodies walking around. Note what is being said here, however: the other Gospels don’t say, “And there definitely was NOT an earthquake”. Try not to assume a negative, especially when dealing with eyewitness reports as you suggest.
Q. (Mark 16:9-20): Why are there two lengths of Mark — a shorter version that ends with v. 16:8 and a longer that ends with 16:20?
A. The earliest manuscripts we have — which are assumed to be the most reliable to the original writing — end at verse 8, with the women not telling anyone what they had seen. There are a few theories about why: one is that the original ending of Mark was lost —scrolls such as the ones the Gospels were originally written on tended to lose the beginning and the end of the story. Another possibility is that verse 8 WAS the original ending, and Mark meant it to be a pointed statement along the lines of “how could you possibly keep a story like that to yourself as it says the women did, and the women clearly DID end up telling people, etc.” Anyway, regardless of the reason, later Church writers appeared to edit the ending of Mark to include the verses you see (and a few more tomorrow); these verses tend to relate to the resurrection stories told in the other Gospels, so they appear to be later additions rather then necessarily genuine stories. For my reading of Mark, I view it that for whatever reason, Mark’s true ending is 16:8, either because that’s where Mark intended to edit it, or because it has been lost to history.
Q. I guess Mary is a common name back then? I know Maria is popular in Spanish cultures.
A. Mary (Miriam in Hebrew to be technical, meaning “beloved”) was a common name on Jesus’ day. It was the name of Moses’ sister and a prophetess in the Exodus story; Miriam was one of the most respected female characters of the OT (along with Deborah, Hannah, and Rachel), so it is little wonder that many girls were given this birth name. As to the use of the name today (that would be Mary in English, Maria in Spanish, Marie in French and German, etc.), that has to do with Jesus’ mother, the Virgin or Blessed Mary, who is one of the central figures of the Roman Catholic world, which of course dominated the religious landscape of Western Europe for 1500 years. That’s why the name was so common then, and is still common today.