Who am I? The Original Rock

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My good friends Siôn, Sara and Peter have asked me to write a little bit about myself. I’m not very good at this stuff, my online dating profile is awful and nobody ever swipes right on Tinder but I’ll give it a go.
At heart I’m still a fisherman from that small lakeside town of Bethsaida. My father, Jonah, was also a fisherman as was my little brother Andrew. Andi and I argued a lot but he’s a good kid really. It was him that introduced me a carpenter called Joshua but more of that later.
Growing up in northern Palestine wasn’t easy; we didn’t have much but as kids but we played in the lake and learnt how to sail and fish from my father. The local snobs called us “Am Harez” (people of the land) but it wasn’t used in a nice way and the kids of the well to do used to make fun of us in the Synagogue schools. I was a mouthy guy even then and my ‘act first ask questions later’ attitude got me into a lot of trouble. Still we were better fighters than them and I never went home on the losing side of an argument. I can still hear my mother shouting at me, “Simon, you’ve been fighting again, wait until your father gets home!”
I went through the usual Bar Mitzvah and went to the Synagogue when I had to, I would much rather sit on my boat with my mates James and John (the sons of Zebedee) and catch a few fish and tell a few stories than listen to those boring Rabbis rabbit on. As we got older we got braver and we’d even sail to some far off places to see the ladies and it was on one such visit to Capernaum that I met my future wife. Not long after that trip I moved there to live with the mother in law but I never lost touch with my brother and friends.
Andi was always a dreamer – chasing after this preacher or the next and one day he came to me saying he’d found the Messiah. He’d been following that crackpot John the Baptiser but I had nothing else to do that day so I went with him to meet this “messiah” who turned out to be the son of a carpenter from Nazareth named Joshua or as you know him Jesus. He was actually an okay guy with some fun stories and a good sense of humour; not your usual dry, smelly prophet – he even knew a bit about fishing.
A few days later me and the boys were down by the lake when this Jesus guy walks up to us and asks us to follow him because he will make us ‘fishers of men’. Awful line I know but I was interested so me, Andi, James and John became some of the first followers of Jesus.
For a while it didn’t make much difference. We still went to work and occasionally we’d go and listen to Jesus talk but slowly, over the next few months, Jesus began to take up more and more of my time. 
The crowds grew, I’ll give him that, Jesus could preach, and every so often I’d lend him my boat and he’d stand in it and talk to the people on the shore. After these little speeches we’d do a little fishing and he’d tell us where to fish and we always got a big catch.
Things started to change for me when it got personal. Yes I’d seen Jesus ‘heal’ a few people but I’d never been convinced it wasn’t all a set up until my mother in law was sick. She had one of those fevers that could go either way. They would last for weeks and the sick would either slowly get better or we’d be burying them in a few days. Well she was lying in bed sick and Jesus came to the house. He was hungry so he healed her and she made him breakfast. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it, but I was there and it happened. (My mate Matthew wrote about it in his book – chapter 8 verses 14-17). From then on things changed for me and I got serious about what Jesus was saying.
That’s not to say I didn’t make an idiot of myself from time to time – the embarrassing story of the water walking (or more correctly the water sinking incident) stands out. I thought I could do it and I did manage to walk few steps but have you ever tried to walk on a stormy sea without sinking? Let me tell you I did better than you would. 
I saw many other signs and miracles, far too many to mention here but because of those I was the first one to admit that Jesus was the Messiah (and he told me not to tell anyone, work that out??) but I did more stupid things than good ones. I told Jesus not to wash my feet at that supper party he had and later that night when the officials came to arrest him I cut off some servants ear. Yes, I also betrayed him 3 times that night – but you face the might of the Roman authorities and try not to waver. I learnt my lesson, that night but more of that later too. I wasn’t really around for the crucifixion and I’m pleased I wasn’t but I was the first at the tomb that Sunday morning. I didn’t believe it that Jesus was alive but I was first there. I always could run faster than John.
In the days after Jesus came back he forgave me and I began to live up to the name he gave me – Peter. I like it – and I take it to mean the Rock – don’t listen to that silly doctor Luke who said it could mean crag or even pretty stone. Rubbish – it means ROCK, big, solid, unmoving Rock!!
After Jesus went back into Heaven people started to look to me as a ‘leader’ of this new movement called the Church and it wasn’t just the “Christians”. I was arrested twice by the Jewish authorities; God spoke to me and told me it was okay to eat bacon sandwiches (best thing ever) and that it was ok to talk to non jewish people too and my good friend Cornelius was the first of them to join us.
I won’t dwell on this but I was arrested and then freed by an angel, that’s a great story!
I’m heading to Rome now. Don’t think it will be a very eventful trip but if it is I’ll let you all know.
See you soon, 
SP.


Who Am I? Noah!

WHO AM I?

I’m Noah!

Noah was the tenth of the pre-Flood Patriarchs, something I didn’t even know was a thing!  But his great- great- great- great- great- great- great-grandfather was said to be ADAM, and all of the Antediluvian (pre-Flood) patriarchs were extremely long-lived.  Noah died 350 years after the flood, at the age of 950,[7] the last of the extremely long-lived Antediluvian patriarchs. The maximum human lifespan, as depicted by the Bible, gradually diminishes thereafter, from almost 1,000 years to the 120 years of Moses.  The idea of 120 doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore, but 950 seems figurative…

 Noah is honoured in all the Abrahamic traditions,  mentioned in the Quaran, Bible, Torah.  He’s seen as one of the most important prophets in Islam, and focuses more on his preaching than simply on the Deluge.  Speaking of that, the Flood story shows up all around the world, not just in Mesopotamia, or the Middle East, but India, China, Scandanavian countries, Maya in Mexico and Ojibwa in North America and the Aboriginal Tribes in Australia, although Noah’s Ark is the most well-knows of all of them.  It’s a very muddy morass to wade into, timing these mythologies with the scientific knowledge of ice ages and rising sea levels. 

Thomas Cole, The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge, 1829, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Katie Dean in memory of Minnibel S. and James Wallace Dean and museum purchase through the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program, 1983.40

I have to say that I chuckle at the idea of Noah being the first husbandman, who planted for the first time, because … well, who else was going to do it?  But the Bible does say that he planted a vineyard and commentators in the 4th and 5th centuries and forever afterwards say Noah was the first human to taste wine.  This, of course, contradicts the whole Biblical reason for the flood, drunkenness and lust and the evil of mankind, but again, the relationship of God to creation and God husbanding the whole over the individuals is an important lesson to think upon.  And Noah learned to partake of wine as a wise man, rather than as a ignorant one.

But we want to know about the Ark, right?   Well, I do, because all of the animals.  Some stories talk of the animals all sleeping. Ancient Aliens, a delightfully conspiracy minded program that began on the History Channel, talks about cryogenic sleep, or even a DNA bank of plants and animals.  It is wonderful fodder for curiosity and imagination, and if it was as big as described, COULD hold all of the plants and animals and insects and fish of the world (but would fish and sea mammals need to be there, or just the ones that eat land things?).  The structure of the Ark is similar to a Jewish Temple, so there is a question of metaphor to be considered.  Or is that allegory? Basically, it is a microcosm of the universe (as it was seen then): three internal divisions (heaven, earth and the underworld) being three decks, with the appropriate numerological characteristics. 

So many interesting currents to surf in this story.  Where would you go with it?  

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Who am I? Daniel!

WHO AM I?

Daniel was always one of my favourites because of the lions.  Which means I missed a lot of this story when I learned it.

Daniel was interesting LONG before the lions.  This little fact freaked me out a little bit…. ”Islamic literature names the father of Daniel  – Hizqil the Second.  He is also known as Ezekiel when Latinised.”  Daniel is mentioned in the book of Ezekiel, so his DAD might have been writing about him.  Some sources name King David as his father, others say that he never actually existed.

The history of Daniel says that he and a number of other noble Jewish youth were taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon, and while Islam and Christianity consider him a prophet, Judaism does not, but contends that he was the most distinguished member of the diaspora in Babylon.    But here is a twist I never knew: Daniel is given the Babylonian name Belteshazzar while his companions are given the Babylonian names Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego!   I like that story too!

Daniel interprets dreams, specifically the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar and Nebuchadnezzar does not like what he hears – the four kingdoms will be smashed, and oh, he does not like that at all. And it happens, the Medes and Persians do just that and Daniel is appointed to a high position there too!

Wikipedia gives me two more Daniel stories:

  1. The tale of Susanna tells how Daniel saves the reputation of a young Jewish married woman when two lecherous Jewish elders condemn her to death, supposedly for unchastity, but actually because she resisted their advances. Daniel’s clever cross-examination unmasks their evil and leads to their deaths. The story is unique in that the villains are Jews instead of heathens; it may have been written as a polemic by the Pharisees against the Saducees, who, according to their opponents, were abusing their control of the courts.
  2. Bel and the Dragon consists of two episodes. In the first Daniel exposes the deceptions of the heathen priests, who have been pretending that their idols eat and drink (in fact it is the priests who have been consuming the food set out for the false gods). In the second Daniel destroys a giant serpent that Cyrus believes to be a god; the Babylonians revolt, Cyrus imprisons Daniel without food, the prophet Habakkuk miraculously feeds him, and Cyrus repents.

There’s just so much there beyond the lions. There are beasts, fiery furnaces, madness and feasts, dragons and dreams, so many dreams.  It’s Darius, not Nebuchadnezzar, who brings in the lions. Nebuchadnezzar stuck with the fiery furnace. He is sent there when his enemies trick Darius into passing a law that says not to worship any other god or man for 30 days. Daniel continues to pray to God three times a day. Darius does not WANT to punish Daniel, but is obliged to follow his own law, so he’s HAPPY when Daniel is just there, hanging out with the lions in the morning, and not eaten.  Instead, the lions get a hearty meal of accusers, wives, and children.   And Darius acknowledges the True God. 

And true or false, fact or fiction, that is really who this man is, someone who brings the One God to us, sheltered no matter how far from home we are, cared for, taught and protected. 

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