Thinking Out Loud

June 16, 2020

The Tomb of the Prophets

This was originally supposed to appear on Saturday at our devotional blog, Christianity 201, but due to a glitch in scheduling, it didn’t go out until I discovered the problem yesterday evening. Again, while I don’t want Thinking Out Loud to simply become a mirror site for C201, I put a lot of work in to this one, and furthermore it was a rare request, in this case from my oldest son. So you get to read it here today.

NIV.Luke.11v47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them.

Throughout scripture we find definite definite support for landmarks and memorials. We’ve covered this theme here at least three times previously:

So why do those who built tombs for the prophets show up among the list of “woes” proclaimed by Jesus? Is it suddenly wrong to remember those who have gone before? There must be something else going on.

The IVP Bible Commentary notes that:

The second woe for the scribes is for their support of the slaying of the prophets. Now this woe contains irony: “you build the tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them.” They built these tombs, no doubt, to show how they honored the prophets. But Jesus argues that in fact it shows their support for killing these divine agents! By building the tombs, he says, you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did. Here is one of Jesus’ fundamental critiques of the leadership: they have been disobedient as their ancestors were…

The Wikipedia reference for “tomb of the prophets” states,

The Tomb of the Prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi… is an ancient burial site located on the upper western slope of the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. According to a medieval Jewish tradition also adopted by Christians, the catacomb is believed to be the burial place of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, the last three Hebrew Bible prophets who are believed to have lived during the 6th-5th centuries BC. Archaeologists have dated the three earliest burial chambers to the 1st century BC, thus contradicting the tradition.

Is that what’s referenced here?

As with all adventures in Biblical archeology, the journey is (pardon the pun) rather rocky. One article I read suggested that Haggai was buried near the tomb of the prophets. I think this is an example of a situation where we can get mired in the details — ‘Is this the right city?’ ‘Were they from the same family? ‘Was that the first cup or the third cup?’ — and miss what the passage is there to teach us. We shouldn’t get too caught up in what the Bible does teach us, especially when referenced to a 21st Century online encyclopedia in which many people (including me) have editing privileges.

Matthew’s version of this, in chapter 23, verses 29-32 is more detailed, but for greater context (and since it also mentions tombs) I’ve picked it up here starting two verses earlier:

NIV.Matthew.23v27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

On this Matthew passage, the website quotes John Gill,

Now our Lord must not be understood as blaming them for barely building the tombs of the prophets, and garnishing the sepulchres of the righteous, which they might have done without blame. But because they did all this, that they might be thought to be very innocent and holy men, and far from being guilty of the crimes their forefathers were; when they were of the very selfsame blood thirsty, persecuting spirit; and did, and would do the same things to the prophets and apostles of the New Testament, their fathers had done to the prophets of the Old.

What can we apply from this? The Wycliffe Bible Commentary has an interesting take:

The martyrs of one generation become the heroes of the next. It was easier for the children to build monuments to the prophets than for their fathers to obey them.

And perhaps the tombs were to ‘seal in’ those prophets as The Eerdman’s Bible Commentary suggests:

Although they built elaborate tombs for the prophets, they were really at one with their ancestors who had killed them by making sure they would stay dead. God in His wisdom had foreseen what they would do; their attitude to the prophets and apostles of the church would simply be the culmination of a long history of persecution of his messengers and judgment would follow. (emphasis added)

The International Bible Commentary echoes this,

The only prophets they honor are dead prophets.

This is the constant challenge of scripture and Christian teaching. If certain things are true — in their case it was the words of the prophets — then it may mean that I am going to need to make adjustments to my life.

I love how Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God Study Bible indicated these types of passages using a wrench as a symbol to represent adjustment. (The Bible is based on the author’s “7 Realities of Experiencing God” of which #6 is, “You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.”)

The Life Application Study Bible confirms this, noting in reference to Jesus that even as he is speaking, they are in fact doing the exact same thing. They are choosing not to answer the call for adjustment, response,

God’s prophets have been persecuted and murdered throughout history. But this generation was rejecting more than a human prophet — they were rejecting God himself.

There is always the danger of ourselves doing the same thing: Covering over a situation where our ancestors were complicit in something we would rather forget by appearing to be taking the opposite side. It appears noble, but not when we recognize that motivation is itself incorrect, and not until we realize that the heart attitudes are common to us today and require repentance.


February 10, 2019

From the Twitterverse

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:30 am

My social media worlds don’t necessarily overlap much, but my WordPress world and my Twitter world are closer. Even so, you may not have seen these (and a few retweets) …

June 13, 2016

Broadcast Rights for the Second Coming

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:26 am

There’s a church near where I live which likes to be in charge of everything. In any inter-faith council or area ministerial association, someone needs to be in charge. People from one particular church like to be that person.

The sense I get is that if something is taking place, they want to arbiters of it; they want to broker it. So they occasionally throw their weight and their money around in order to stay at the center of things.

I’m reminded of a movie I watched — and if you know the title, please leave a comment — where a television executive has discovered religion and inquires how he might secure exclusive broadcast rights for the second coming of Christ. I suppose the Bible does say — twice actually, in Luke 21 and Revelation 1 — that every eye will see him. Is that accomplished through the supernatural nature of his return or does some human technology play a part?

I feel that way when I encounter some (but not all) of the people from this church. When the second coming happens, at least in our part of the world, they want to be in charge of it.

Two summers ago I heard some teaching that attempted to cast the Pharisees in a positive light. The idea was that they were keeping tabs on Jesus because if he was the Messiah; if he was truly the promised one; they needed to be the first to know. And many of the four signs were starting to line up. The healing of a man born blind. The healing of a leper. The demon deliverance of a man who was mute. The raising of the dead of a man who had been buried more than three days.

Again the language is the same. They wanted to be the arbiters of the Messiah’s identity. They wanted to broker the ushering in of a new era in Judaism. Their intentions may have been honorable, but despite a lifetime of study, they missed out when it came to Jesus. Him? Joseph and Mary’s son? We don’t think so.

Then they took it to a whole different level when they tried to shut his ministry down completely. Why? Because they were caught in his cross-hairs. He identified their religious spirit. He noted that they often acted for personal gain. To this day, to call someone a Pharisee, is to use the term pejoratively.

So why use the term at all today?

Because the Pharisaical spirit is alive and well in our culture, which brings us full circle to where I started. Some people feel the need to be in charge; to be in control; and they are very swift to dismiss anyone who doesn’t fit their picture of how things should look; how structures and systems should operate.

The verse in Mark [last link] above reminded me of a line from this Keith Green song. Not on topic at all, but hey…



January 13, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Oh, Oh, The places you’ll go!   This week we open with some lighter fare, and then move something more “think-provoking:”

  • Perry Noble asks the musical question, “What if the Pharisees Had Twittered?”   Read the tweets here.
  • Got 65 minutes?  Apparently, Mark Driscoll finds the Bible rather funny.   Personally, I was taught a little more reverence for scripture than this.
  • From the humorous to the ridiculous:  First came pet blessings, now comes the blessing of laptops and cell phones.
  • Mike Wittmer has 15 Signs That Your Sermon Isn’t Going Well — you may disagree on #13 — as he Monday Morning Quarterbacks at the blog Don’t Stop Believing.
  • At last!  A webpage that tells you the religious affiliation of every known superhero.
  • Blog of the week:  Can you handle another Atlanta blogger?  Tom calls his blog More Than Useless.
  • When it comes to church buildings, conferences, leadership and missions, Tim Stevens looks at the changes that have taken place in one decade here (part one) and here (part two).
  • The Christian Ranter notes that technology is currently taking us backward, not forward, in this piece, Devolution and Idiocracy.
  • Dean Lusk, inspired by Francis Chan’s church’s 100% giveaway of their Christmas Sunday offering, ponders what might be the reaction if he proposed this at his own church.   At the blog ‘egbdf’ check out Our Bottom Line.
  • Our YouTube non-embed of the week is from Craig Groeschel and gives us a whole new (disturbing) perspective of Church Online.
  • Next on the list was going to be a link to the Top 50 Bible Blogs that I assure you, you’ve never heard of, but the BiblioBlogTop50 blog on wordpress is now invitation only.   A secret blog about mystery blogs.  Wish I’d done a screenshot when I was in yesterday.   Anyone know a magic password? Update: And suddenly it was working again.
  • Shouldn’t news anchors be somewhat impartial?   It took a lot of courage for Brit Hume to suggest on Fox News that Tiger Woods would experience more forgiveness in a Christian context than his Buddhist faith offers.   But was it a wise move?
  • Cathleen Falsani thinks that — next to the whole prosperity gospel thing — the use of Jesus as a marketing tool is The (Second) Worst Religious Idea of the Decade; as she states here at Sojourners.
  • Trevin Wax reviews a new IVP title that focuses on a very specific subsection of the baptism debate, the baptism of infants.   Does the book get the job done?   Check out his thoughts on Baptism: Three Views.
  • Today’s cartoon is a 2005 classic from Reverend Fun

November 15, 2009

Reblogging 05/02/09: The Insanity of Fred Phelps

Filed under: issues, Religion — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm

In the last six months, there has been sufficient traffic generated to this blog using Fred Phelps as the keyword search for me to know the public is fascinated by this man’s portrayal of a Christian minister.   It is a mystery to me how the man who believes that the casualties of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 9/11 tragedy, etc. are God’s judgment against the United States has somehow managed to avoid having the wrath of God poured out upon himself.

It all came back to me yesterday when my son stumbled across this video where Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes interviewed Shirley Phelps Roper back in 2006.   If ever atheists wanted to make the case that Christians are all mindless idiots, Shirley provides enough ammunition for their argument.

Anyway, here’s where my thoughts were at six months ago, in case you missed the original post.


Funeral Protests

Living one country removed, until recently, I have been only superficially aware of the name Fred Phelps. This man, his Westboro Baptist Church, and his crusade just isn’t the sort of thing that makes the evening newscasts here. But when fellow Alltop blogger Jake Bouma had a link to the website I’m about to direct you to, something about it intrigued me.

For those who don’t know, Phelps is a media-grabbing activist protester who preaches a gospel of hate, but does so in the name of Christianity, the faith named after the person who preached a gospel of love.  His approximately 100-member church attracts an inordinate amount of media publicity for the picketing and protesting they do at a variety of religious and civic events.

The above-mentioned website is a paper presented by Nate Phelps, one of Fred’s sons, at — wait for it… — the American Atheists Convention. That shouldn’t come as a big surprise, should it? That being raised in the home of man who is considered an off-the-scale extremist by both Christians and non-Christians alike should cause his children to grow up anything close to ‘normal’ would be the greater surprise.

The paper takes the better part of a half hour to read, but you really should read this. It gives insight into the everyday life of one of America’s most famous religious extremists. And actually, at the end of the day, Nate does seems relatively ‘normal’ after all. At least now he does. I’m just sad that he has had to ditch everything he grew up with to get normal, but I hope he eventually finds his way to what would be — for him — the spiritual middle ground.

Here’s the direct link to Nate’s paper. Take the time to read this.

Personal to Nate: The internet being what it is, if it happens that you’re reading this, let me say on behalf of millions of Christians everywhere that I am so sorry that you had to grow up with this. I’m sorry that you missed out on a childhood and adolescence that could have been so much more beneficial.

I can’t agree with the philosophy you’re now embracing, but I can’t for one minute criticize the process that brought you there. The people you’re interacting with now and things you’re reading now must all seem like a breath of fresh air. I encourage you to continue reading and studying literature from a variety of faith perspectives. It’s too soon to say you’ve now got it all sorted.

Down the road, I hope you’ll admit that your Dad’s take on the Bible and Christ’s teachings wasn’t that different than the way the Pharisees and religious leaders in Jesus’ day often completely missed the point and misinterpreted the Law and Prophets. They were sincere, but they were sincerely wrong. And as a family, you paid a price for that error.

Despite that, as Christ followers we are compelled to love Fred; even if he himself has been less than charitable towards anyone else. And if we love Fred, we certainly love you. You have been hurt, wounded, broken; a true casualty of “religion.” But it is into our hurt, wounds and brokenness that I believe Christ longs to enter, to bring wholeness and healing.

November 2009 update:   Here’s one that may be more difficult for you to wrap your brain around.   What if, at the end of one of the Westboro Baptist protests at a gay/lesbian rally,  a gay person went up to the Westboro people to try to better understand their whole perspective, and that person just happened to be better versed on the big picture of scripture than the Westboro people were?    Well…that’s what you’ll find here at the blog Sinnerview, when you read A Conversation With The Lost.   [HT: Comment left at Girl in A Glass House blog.]

canadian fallsAdditional Update:  I no sooner had this posted than we got into a discussion about it over dinner.  It was then that I observed a fundamental difference between Canada, where the Phelps phenomonon would never happen, and the U.S.:

In the United States laws protecting freedom of religion trump any prohibitions against hate speech.  In Canada laws forbidding hate speech trump any protection of freedom of religion.

Blog at