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Cultural commentary Archives

Generally speaking, fasting was never intended to be used as a badge of honor or as a mark of super-spirituality. It is almost always associated with sorrow for sin and an expression of humility before God alone. In spite of […]

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If Jesus’ description of flamboyant, hypocritical praying sounds like grand theatre, that’s because it probably was. “And when you pray,” Jesus said in Matthew 6:5, “do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues […]

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Why was Jesus so adamant about mentioning “the right cheek” when he gave his command for followers to “turn the other cheek”? The answer lies in the social norms of that time in ancient Israel. In Western society today, one […]

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In ancient Israel, an oath was both a ritual act and a binding promise. Oaths were invoked in court cases to (supposedly) ensure that witnesses would tell the truth. They were also given as proof of an unbreakable pledge of […]

Jesus’ New Testament teachings on the topic of adultery could be considered by his hearers as rabbinical commentary on Old Testament law—specifically on the seventh commandment found in Exodus 20:14. As such, at this point in his Sermon on the […]

In the modern practice of the Christian faith, we often live as though the New Testament has abolished the Old Testament, and therefore the Old Testament can be ignored. That was not Jesus’ view. “Not the smallest letter, not the […]

Jesus began his public ministry in Galilee by “teaching in their synagogues” and healing people there (Matthew 4:23). According to the tradition at the time, a synagogue could form wherever there were 10 adult men, so chances are good that […]

Jesus’ choice of his first disciples was surprising, to say the least. For starters, in that time, religious students chose their mentors, not vice versa. As the famous Rabbi Gamaliel instructed, “Find a teacher and lose your ignorance,” and that […]

It is significant that John the Baptist called the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers,” which basically meant he viewed them as poisonous children of snakes. In the ancient world this was an especially contemptuous insult because of a […]

One unexpected aspect of Matthew’s genealogy is the deliberate identification of four women (in addition to Mary) in Jesus’ family tree. In the intensely patriarchal Jewish society of Jesus’ time, it was it unusual for any woman to be heralded […]

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