by Bil Aulenbach

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Biblical interpretation

Overreaching

Sometimes when we read parables in the New Testament, we overreach by looking too deeply for something that is not there or making complex allegories (stories with hidden meanings) out of simple tales.

I’ll use the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) as an example. It starts with the words “For the kingdom of heaven is like .… Read more >

Jesus the Handyman

The thrust of my ministry since the late 1980s has figuring out who the historical Jesus was. This is not easy because the New Testament mostly records the writers’ biases, not historical facts. Consequently, I’m constantly looking for information about what life was like back in Jesus’s time so I can place him into that context.… Read more >

Another Black Eye for Jesus

On June 14, 2018, Jeff Sessions, Attorney General of the United States, quoted Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities,” to justify his inhuman policy of tearing children away from their parents as they flee poverty and violence for a new life here.

The current administration’s policy seems to be this: Don’t come here.… Read more >

Adultery and Jesus

This past winter, I designed a new course entitled Learning the Art of Midrash (biblical interpretation) Using the Gospel of John. I’m a recent convert to the power of that Gospel (previously it never made much sense to me), and I wanted to use the many stories in John (none of which are literally true) to teach people how to use midrash to dig into a story and find the underlying truth often hidden in the details.… Read more >

John the Anti-Semite?

For years, I refused to read any of John’s writings. I thought the Gospel of John was a bunch of mumbo jumbo and the Book of Revelation was full of craziness. Thanks to the Reverend Ken Wyant’s Bible study at Irvine United Congregational Church, I changed my opinion about the Gospel of John—but I still want to ban Revelation.… Read more >

King David the Louse

King David has long been one of my Biblical heroes—or so I thought. The story of David versus Goliath is a powerful metaphor for facing life’s challenges. The little guy takes on the big and the powerful—and wins.

I always envisioned the great King David as the prototype for who and what the Messiah should be: a powerful leader, admired by all, who would lead the chosen people to achieve the highest standards.… Read more >

Hole or No Hole?

In a previous blog post entitled “Mother Teresa and Doubting Thomas,” my editor included a painting by Caravaggio of Doubting Thomas sticking his fingers deep into the chest wound of the “resurrected” Jesus (also shown here). When my editor first showed me the picture, I thought that it seemed a little morbid, but when I looked again, I saw an opportunity for a blog post.… Read more >

The Jesus Family Rift

Has your family ever had a rift that prevented members from loving each other? As a retired psychotherapist, I am always surprised at how many families have had or still have interfamily conflicts. Family rifts are more common than one might think. Fact is, it seems to be the rare family that doesn’t have conflict in its history.… Read more >

From Glad to Mad—in the Blink of an Eye

Our weekly Bible study group is currently reading the Gospel of Luke, written around the turn of the first century CE. Luke is religious history (accuracy isn’t important) about the pre-Jesus, told through the metaphor of resurrection. Our group has studied Jesus’s birth, his youth, and his baptism, and now we’re studying his early ministry.… Read more >