Reader Questions Answered

Did Jesus have a permanent home?
Does Mark 15:39 say Jesus was "the" Son of God or "a" Son of God?
Who are the gods David refers to in Psalms 138:1?
May I make abusive comments on YouTube?

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Did Jesus have a permanent home?

Reader Question: Mark 2:1-12 says that word got out that Jesus was "at home." Did he have a permanent home? Did he have something other than the temporary lodging used while he was traveling? How many times in the New Testament is Jesus' home mentioned (not speaking of heaven)? (7/31/2009)

Answer, or at least some observations: I love this question, because I wondered myself whether Jesus’ home is mentioned elsewhere, but I was too lazy to check.

The King James has “in the house” for Mark 2:1-12, and John Wesley said that it was Peter’s house, possibly because we know for sure that Peter had a house in Capernaum (Matthew 8:5, 14). Several modern translations have “at home,” so I looked to see if this is some kind of idiom. The Expositor’s Greek Testament says “ = ‘at home’ (in Peter’s house presumably).” The Interpreter’s Bible has both “at home” and “in the house.” Apparently it could be translated either way. For what it’s worth, “the” is not there in the Greek. (Here’s the problem: there is no “a” in Greek, only “the.” So “at home” could mean either “at home” or “at a home.”)

Mark 7:17 says Jesus entered “a house” (still no “the” in Greek) in Nazareth (see the parallel passage in Luke 4:16 ff). Now, this almost had to be his own house, don’t you think? Joseph was a carpenter with a wife and at least 7 children; he wasn’t living on the street. When Joseph died (almost universally taken to be prior to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry), the house would have passed to Jesus, as the oldest son. Even if on this occasion he wasn’t in the house he grew up in, Jesus was about 30 when he began his ministry - he had to be living somewhere; it’s not like he moved out of the house and into a dorm.

In Mark 9:28, Jesus is also in “a house,” but it’s not clear where, because he leaves there, passes through Galilee in vs. 30, and arrives in Capernaum in vs. 33.

Matthew, Luke, and John don’t talk about Jesus and houses that I can find.

All I can tell you is that the commentaries I looked at tonight seem to be united in saying (when they say at all) that Jesus was at Peter’s house. (One goes to far as to say that Jesus had no home other than Peter’s after he began his ministry.) I’m certain that I once read a commentary that says the house in Capernaum was his own home, but I couldn’t find it tonight. I’m not at all sure how they came to either conclusion, however, because when you look at the scripture, it doesn’t actually say.

This gives me the opportunity to tell you for the umpteenth time: Don’t take my word, or the preacher’s word, or anybody else’s word for what the Bible says. Read it for yourself! Because we may be telling you something as a fact that is ambiguous in the Bible, or we may just be telling you wrong, either because we are mistaken or because we are misspeaking. Or we may be giving you an exceedingly loose version of what a particular passage says, in order to make some point about the bigger picture. Read it for yourself.

Does Mark 15:39 say Jesus was “the” Son of God or “a” Son of God?

Reader Question: What is the significance in the different translations in the King James Version, which says "the son of God" in Mark 15:39, and the Bible in Basic English, which says, "a son of God"? (5/23/2020) Answer: This is a matter of (1) Greek grammar vs. English grammar, and (2) theological interpretation.

Greek does not have the article "a," only the article "the." In most, I'd say nearly all, cases, if "the" is present, the translator says, "the whatever. " (Except, of course, when Greek does and English doesn't, e.g., "the Jesus, the God, the Peter, the Jerusalem, etc.)

In English, most of the time if we don't say "the" whatever, we are forced by usage to say "a" whatever. For example, we can say, "The dog went into the store," implying that we know which dog, or "A dog went into the store," implying that it was some random dog. "Dog went into the store" implies that some person or animal named Dog went in. For this reason, if "the" is not present in Greek, normally translators insert "a" in English.

In Mark 15:39, "the" is not present before "Son of God." For technical grammatical reasons, it's possible that "the" is intended, and it's also possible that it's not intended. Translators thus have several options:

Who are the gods David refers to in Psalms 138:1?

Reader Question: In Psalms 138:1, who are these Gods? (11/2/19)
Answer: I would say that this is one of those places where your guess is almost as good as anybody's, except that the distinction between "gods" and "God" is critical.

First the Hebrew: Elohim is a plural form that can mean more than one little-g gods, i.e., (false) deities other than the true God; or it can mean the one true God. In the latter form it is a "plural of majesty," i.e., the greatest of whatever, therefore, the true God. You also see the plural of majesty in a few other cases, e.g., behemoth, the great and majestic beast (Job 40:15), as opposed to behemoth, which means cattle. In English we see a similar construction in the "editorial we" or "
royal we," as in, "By the Grace of God, We, Alexander I, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias ...."

However, in this particular verse, various translators apparently have several differenct ideas about what elohim might mean. Here’s what I found: At this late date, it’s impossible to know with certainty what David had in mind. Prior to the Exile, the Jews routinely worshiped a variety of gods in addition to the one true God. (See, for example, the cleanup King Josiah had to do in 2 Kings 23.) Presumably David recognized that many gods existed in the sense of being idols that people worshiped, even if they had no real life. Since David is one of the few pre-Exilic guys I would call monotheistic (along with Moses and the prophets), my inclination is to go with an intended meaning of "false gods," i.e., the assorted gods of the various surrounding pagan peoples.

May I make abusive comments on YouTube?

Imaginary Reader Question: If someone on YouTube says something about the Bible that I find offensive, even if I haven’t read the passage in question, is it okay for me to post an abusive, name-calling comment that reveals my ignorance and reflects badly on all Christians and Jews? (4/6/19)

Non-Imaginary Answer: No!

Imaginary Reader Follow-Up Question: What if I have read the passage in question, and the YouTube video is wrong and I’m right, then may I post an abusive, name-calling comment that reflects badly on all Christians and Jews?

Non-Imaginary Answer: No.

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