by Bil Aulenbach

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Biblical interpretation

Jesus Loved Picnics

Jesus must have loved picnics. The Gospels recount two humongous picnics hosted by Rabbi Jesus.

The Gospels call them feedings instead of picnics, but that’s just semantics. Both picnics and feedings happen outside on the ground despite challenging weather and insects.

Mark’s descriptions of the two picnics are long winded (6:30–44 and 8:1–10).… Read more >

Was Jesus Trilingual?

Jesus is one of the best-known names on earth, though we don’t know much about him other than he was Jewish, he was born in Galilee, he was an itinerant preacher who was crucified as a criminal, and his message changed the course of civilization. When trying to figure out who the real Jesus was, one often has to compare information from the Gospels and history and then draw conclusions.… Read more >

Do You Really Want To?

John 5:1–18 recounts the story of Jesus healing a man at the pool of Bethesda.” I reviewed it the other day, and suddenly a light bulb turned on in my mind.

Don’t forget: Not one story in the Gospel of John is literally true. John is full of figurative truths, metaphors, and gross exaggerations but light on details, which leads to much speculation.… Read more >

Happy Baloney Day—January 6

Happy what? Baloney Day? January 6?

January 6 is really the feast day of the Epiphany, when the church celebrates the Magi bringing gifts to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem.

This story is found in the Gospel of Matthew 2:1–12. It first appeared nine decades after Jesus was born. This tale was never intended to give accurate information about the birth of Jesus.… Read more >

“Congratulations, You Poor!” Huh?

I have never been poor—short on money, yes. I barely scraped by in college. After college, I enlisted in the Marine Corps, hoping to be selected for the Officers Candidate School. As a private, I made $73 a month, or $2.39 a day.

After I was ordained, I worked in the mission field for $2,400 a year with a house, a car, and medical insurance included.… Read more >

Church Ladies

I subscribe to the Monastic Way, a monthly newsletter published by Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun from Erie, Pennsylvania. Sister Joan is progressive, a writes prolifically, supports prison ministries, and travels around the world making the good news good and women relevant.

The July 2018 issue of the Monastic Way was about Mary of Magdala.… Read more >

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 >

Jesus and Fig Trees

Did you ever read something in the Bible and wonder what you just read? So, you read it again. It still makes no sense. You try again. Nothing.

Here’s an example from Matthew 21:18–19. Jesus arrived in Jerusalem and was hungry. He saw a fig tree, but he went to it, he found no fruit, only leaves.… 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 >