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The Topless Prophet (part one)

Stop! Keep your head on!

So John's friends plead when he speaks against the sexual sin of those in power. Matthew 14 records his words and their consequences: 

‘It’s contrary to God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife!’

His rebuke rings out over the hot, desert sands of time, upsetting the ease of everyone who has become laid back and tolerant over such matters.

Was John Right?

We might start by asking if John should be a bit nicer. After all, it’s being said that when the queen heard John’s 'cruel' words, she went back into her castle to cry, indulge in chocolate ice cream, and garner social media sympathy points. (Which was good because her tweets hadn’t been getting nearly as many likes as they used to.)

But a much wiser question would be: Can we be confident that John was right in giving that rebuke?

John’s rebuke against the sexual sin of Herod is based on a law in the much-maligned book of Leviticus. It's stated in chapter 18 and then repeated slightly differently in chapter 20. And though Scripture directs us to usually give rebukes in private, Herod was a public figure who was sinning publicly and unapologetically – therefore a public rebuke was appropriate. It’s the same for leaders today. (1 Tim 5.20)

Is the Bible Understandable?

Have you ever worked with children? One of the things that mine do, when I ask them about something they’re uncomfortable with, is to pretend they don’t understand what I’m saying.

Me: Naomi, did you clean your room like I asked you to?
Naomi: Room? Which room? Our house has lots of rooms?


Me: Ransom, did you hit your little brother?
Ransom: Brother?
Me: Yes, your little brother Elijah.
Ransom: What do you mean by ‘hit’?

We are big children and we do this with the words of our Heavenly Father when he says something we aren’t comfortable with. Here in the 21st Century Anglo-Saxon world, we’ve become masters of this art. If John lived in our day and issued his rebuke, the crowd around him would give him feedback along these lines:

John: It is not lawful for you to marry or sleep with your brother’s wife!
Us: John, are you sure that’s relevant? There are far worse sins happening.
Us: Moses is no longer the ruler of Israel John, we’re in Greco-Roman times now. We know things the ancients didn’t.
Us: Don’t judge John. Focus on your own sin.
Us: But John, that rule is taken from Leviticus – and that book has some weird stuff in it.
Us: John, you should stick with your message about sharing our clothing with the poor. That bit went down well in the media.
Us: Moses was speaking only in the context of pagan worship. 
Us: But God is love, and if Herod and Herodias really love each other, why do you want to keep them apart?
Us: Moses wrote that in Hebrew 1,500 years ago. We speak Aramaic. You need to understand the word for ‘brother’ meant something different in the original dialect.


When the serpent got Eve to sin, he first fed into the idea that God’s Word was unclear and confusing. ‘Did God really say…?’ he whispered.

By contrast, the people of God looked back on Scripture and said things like:

‘The unfolding of your words give light; it gives understanding to the simple.’ -Ps 119
‘From childhood, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and useful.’ -2 Tim. 3

It’s blasphemy to excuse our laziness in the careful study of Scripture by blaming God for not being clear enough.

Bible Degrees

John was arrested and then made topless in the worst possible way. All he had done was convey what Scripture had always said, but a new generation had ignored. John was faithful - he cared little for being clever. He didn't have a degree from an outstanding University. He was schooled by God in the desert. 

My degree is in Theology and my MA in Biblical Interpretation. You know what that means?

Not much.

When I was 17 I could understand 90% of the passages I do now with the basic help of a Bible dictionary or historical/cultural commentary. These are things any literate Christian can obtain and use. And those aren't even necessary for most passages. All the formal education has helped me do is to better explain why some of the new, creative, and contortionist interpretations – the ones that get the passage to say something other than what they obviously mean – are in error.

Like whisky, the truth is best presented spirited and straight - even when done gently. It’s deception that usually gets confusing and needs lots of commentaries. 
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bkIf you want to read about spiritual, non-sexual, Male-Female friendship then please check out Forbidden Friendships - available on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle in the USA and the UK.


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