What Are You Trying to Tell Me?

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write.

jewish paul

Image credit: Drake Dunaway – the Jewish Paul

He closed his Bible at the end of 2 Thessalonians 3:17 and pondered. Did Paul know that his letters, those that survived to be canonized anyway, would become binding instructions for all Christianity nearly two-thousand years into the future? Could his letters really be compared to the writing of the Prophets in the Old Testament, and especially the words of Jesus in the Gospels?

“It’s in the Bible and Pastor says that’s good enough, but is it really? It’s not like Jesus was dictating the letters to Paul. There are some parts of the epistles he said were his own judgment and not of the Spirit.”

He knew both the Jews and the Church believed Paul invented a new religion called Christianity that totally broke from everything that had been written in the first two-thirds of the Bible. If God wanted to write a “love letter” to humanity, why was it a letter that’s so hard to understand, and with so many contradictions?

If God wrote a “love letter” like so many mushy, feely people at his church keep telling him, why were there so many different interpretations?

“I know. Pastor said it was because of sin, but all of the questions I ask him, he has pat, one word or one sentence answers to. Isn’t God more complicated than that?”

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The Fifth Chapter of the Book of Jonah

jonah's kikayonNow it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was grieved.

And he prayed to the Lord and said, “Please, O Lord, was this not my contention while I was still on my land? For this reason I had hastened to flee to Tarshish, for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, with much kindness, and relenting of evil.

And now, O Lord, take now my soul from me, for my death is better than my life.” And the Lord said: Are you deeply grieved?

And Jonah had gone out of the city, and had stationed himself on the east of the city, and there he made himself a hut and sat under it in the shade until he would see what would happen in the city.

Now the Lord God appointed a kikayon, and it grew up over Jonah to be shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort, and Jonah was overjoyed with the kikayon.

Now God appointed a worm at the rise of dawn on the morrow, and the worm attacked the kikayon, and it withered.

Now it came to pass when the sun shone, that God appointed a stilling east wind, and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, and he fainted, and he begged to die, and he said, “My death is better than my life.”

And God said to Jonah; Are you very grieved about the kikayon? And he said, “I am very grieved even to death.”

And the Lord said: You took pity on the kikayon, for which you did not toil nor did you make it grow, which one night came into being and the next night perished.

Now should I not take pity on Nineveh, the great city, in which there are many more than one hundred twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and many beasts as well?

-from Jonah chapter 4

Chapter 5

And Jonah replied to the Lord, “Did the kikayon sin against you and against your people Israel as did the people of Nineveh? Their sin was very great and yet you forgave them and they live. What did the kikayon do to live one day and then die?”

And God said to Jonah; “Consider the words of my servant Job: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Are you greater than my servant Job who suffered severely at the hands of the Satan and yet did not lose his trust in Me?”

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