Spiritual Journey of a Christian Transman

Writings of a Christian Who Happens to Be a Transman

The Divine Trinity

Posted by christiantransman on July 30, 2012

I believe that the Bible teaches the Trinity.

Regarding the Scripture references, probably, the most clear one is 1 John 5:7: “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.” However, there is a serious textual problem with the second part of this verse (“the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one”). Only several late manuscripts include this part. All the other Greek manuscripts, including all the early ones, do not contain it. Because of this reason, most scholars do not consider it to be a part of the original Greek text. It is not included into the modern editions of Greek New Testament (Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (GNT), UBS (United Bible Societies) GNT, and even The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text which mainly follows Textus Receptus (TR) that contains this phrase). Most modern translations of the New Testament do not have it either.

Another Scriptural reference is Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Here, “the name” is singular and is “of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It is important that the word “the name” is singular, not plural, that is, it is not “the name of the Father, the name of the Son, and the name of the Holy Spirit.” Here, there is only one name of the one God, and this name is “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” This indicates that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one.

However, if we take only Matthew 28:19, it may lead us to modalism (the belief that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three stages or moduses of God and they do not exist simultaneously). Matthew 3:16-17 denies this view: “16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”” Jesus, the Son, was standing on the earth, the Spirit of God descended upon Him, and the Father was speaking from the heavens.

Another way to see that the Bible teaches about the Trinity is to consider several verses together and use some logic. 1) The Bible says that there is only one God (Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:4-6). 2) The Bible also says that: a) the Father is God (John 6:27; 1 Pet. 1:2), b) the Son is God (John 1:1; Rom. 9:5), c) the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4). So, on the one hand, there is only one God. On the other hand, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. The logical conclusion is the doctrine of the Trinity.

Of course, the New Testament speaks about the Trinity much more clear than the Old Testament, though the Old Testament has some hints. Many scholars consider the plural number of the Hebrew word for God (Elohim) and the words “Us” and “Our” in Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8 as an indication of the Trinity. However, many consider that these are cases of majestic plural (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majestic_plural). In the Quran, Allah often speaks “We” when referring to Himself. Such cases are much more numerous than in the Old Testament, but no Muslim has ever thought that they indicate the Trinity. All the Muslims agree that such cases are majestic plural. Hebrew and Arabic are both Semitic and have many things in common. However, majestic plural was used not only in Semitic languages. Kings of some countries used the form “we” instead of “I”, speaking about themselves. In many languages, there is a custom to use the pronoun in the plural form of the 2nd person or of the 3rd person, addressing to one person. In English, it became so usual that the original singular form of the 2nd person was practically lost: originally, “you” was the plural form and “thou” was the singular form, but now “thou” is practically not used. This custom also has to do with majestic plural. So, majestic plural is quite common in many languages and cultures, and it is not a wonder if it was in the Old Testament.

However, there are some verses in the Old Testament that seem to indicate that there are more than One Person in the Godhead. For example, Psalm 45:6-7: “6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. 7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” Psalm 110:1: “The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”” Zechariah 3:2: “And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”” Isaiah 48:16: “”Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; From the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God and His Spirit Have sent Me.””

Anyway, the Old Testament has only some hints regarding the Trinity. The New Testament is quite clear regarding the Trinity.

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God’s Name (Part 3)

Posted by christiantransman on July 30, 2012

In the Old Testament, there is one more form of God’s name which has several variations.

Deuteronomy 32:39: “Now see that I, even I, am He, And there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.” “I, even I, am He” in Hebrew is ‘ani ‘ani hu. ‘ani means “I”, hu means “he.” So, ‘ani ‘ani hu literally, it means: “I, I – He.” In Septuagint, it is translated “ego eimi”, that is, “I am.

In Isaiah, this form and other very similar forms are used several times. In Isaiah 41:4; 43:10, 13; 46:4; 48:12; 52:6, it is ‘ani hu (“I [am] he”). In Isaiah 43:25; 51:12, it is ‘anokhi ‘anokhi hu. ‘anokhi is another form of “I.” So, this phrase means the same as ‘ani ‘ani hu in Deuteronomy 32:39. In Isaiah 42:8; 45:18, 19, it is ‘ani YHWH (“I [am] YHWH”). In Isaiah 42:12, it is ‘ani ‘el (“I [am] God”). In Septuagint, ‘ani hu and ‘anokhi ‘anokhi hu are translated as “ego eimi” (“I am”). In Isaiah 52:6, it is translated “ego eimi autos.” It is an emphatic form. It means “I am that very One.” In Septuagint, ‘ani YHWH and ‘ani ‘el are translated in various ways, but the construction “ego eimi” is always there.

In the Gospel of John, the phrase “ego eimi” is often used in a special way. There are several statements which begin with “ego eimi”: John 6:35: “I am the bread of life.” John 8:12: “I am the light of the world.” John 10:7: “I am the door of the sheep.” John 10:11, 14: “I am the good shepherd.” John 11:25: “I am the resurrection and the life.” John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 15:1: “I am the true vine.”

According to the Greek grammar, the usual form of “I am” was “eimi.” This was the verbal form of 1st person singular. Since it clearly indicated the person and the number, it was not necessary to put “ego” in front of “eimi.” Thus, “ego eimi” was an emphatic form with the meaning “it is I who am.” Also, it was the same construction that was used in Septuagint in Deuteronomy 32:39 and Isaiah for God’s name.

In several verses in the Gospel of John, “ego eimi” is used in the absolute form: John 8:24, 8:28, 8:58, 13:19, 18:5, 18:6, and 18:8. In these verses, Jesus used God’s name for Himself in a more clear way.

Some scholars say that the origin of “ego eimi” in John is the expression ‘ehyeh ‘asher ‘ehyeh (“I am who I am”) in Exodus 3:14. Other say that it is the expressions ‘ani hu (“I [am] He”), ‘ani ‘ani hu (“I, I [am] He”), and ‘anokhi ‘anokhi hu (“I, I [am] He”) in Deuteronomy 32:39 and Isaiah because these expressions are translated as “ego eimi” (“I am”) in Septuagint while the expression ‘ehyeh ‘asher ‘ehyeh (“I am who I am”) in Exodus 3:14 is translated “ego eimi ho on” (“I am the existing one”) there.

In any case, YHWH, ‘ehyeh, ‘ani hu, ‘ani ‘ani hu, and ‘anokhi ‘anokhi hu in Hebrew and “ho on” and “ego eimi” in Greek are closely related and are variations of the Divine name.

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God’s Name (Part 2)

Posted by christiantransman on July 30, 2012

It is interesting to compare the Hebrew text of Exodus 3:14-15 with its translation in Septuagint. In Septuagint, in v. 14, ‘ehyeh ‘asher ‘ehyeh (I am who I am) is translated “ego eimi ho on” (“I am the existing one”). “On” is the participle from the verb “eimi” (“to be”). Then, ‘ehyeh (I am) is translated as “ho on” (“the existing one”). So, v. 14 translated from Septuagint is: “And God said to Moses, “I am the Existing One.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘The Existing One has sent me to you.'”” In v. 15, YHWH is translated as “Kurios” (Lord). Thus, Septuagint actually gives translation for the word ‘Adonai. So, the tradition to render God’s name as Lord comes from Septuagint.

In fact, it is also interesting that Septuagint substitutes the form of 1st person singular (“I am”) with the substantival participle (“the existing one”). It is often believed that Hebrew is more dynamic while Greek is more static, and it may be a case here.

On the other hand, Greek is quite rich in verbal tenses while Hebrew is very poor in them. In Hebrew, there are only Perfect and Imperfect. Many scholars consider them to be verbal tenses, though many scholars say that they are rather verbal aspects than verbal tenses. Perfect mostly indicates an action that took place in the past and was finished or completed. Imperfect indicates an action in the present or in the future. There are debates among the scholars whether the uncompleted or unfinished action in the past is expressed by Perfect or Imperfect. It seems that it may be either way. “I am” is the form of Imperfect. So, it may mean “I am” or “I will be” or “I was.” Thus, the Greek substantival participle “the existing one” may be a good match to this. Both the Hebrew and the Greek forms may express the idea of ever-existing, eternal God.

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God’s Name (Part 1)

Posted by christiantransman on July 30, 2012

In many translations of the Old Testament, God’s name is translated as Lord or LORD, but in many, it is spelled as Jehovah. So, many Christians believe that Jehovah is God’s name in the Old Testament. However, it is not really so.

Jews took very literally God’s commandment in Exodus 20:7: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” They stopped using God’s name at all. Each time when they read the Old Testament verses that contained God’s name (spelled as YHWH in Hebrew), they substituted it with Adonai. The word “Adonai” is often translated as “Lord”, but more literally it means “my Lords.” This is probably majestic plural as well as in the case of Elohim (literally, “Gods”).

Until the Middle Ages, Jews did not use special symbols for vowels and spelled only consonants. In the Middle Ages, Hebrew scholars called Masoretes designed three systems of vocalization: Tiberian, Palestinian, and Babylonian. The Tiberian system became most popular for the Hebrew Old Testament and is used until now, though the Babylonian system is used in Talmud in Aramaic.

The Masoretes not only added vowels, but also corrected errors in the text. However, instead of correcting the existing consonants in the text, they just added the correct vowels and sometimes gave notes on the correct spelling. This method is called Qere (“read”) and Ketiv (“written”): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qere_and_Ketiv

God’s name is one of the cases of Qere and Ketiv. Jews read God’s name (YHWH) as Adonai or, more correctly, ‘Adonai where is a glottal sound, it was pronounced like Arabic hamza, but usually is not pronounced now. So, the Masoretes added the vowels from ‘Adonai to YHWH in order to indicate that it should be pronounced as Adonai. However, they made one change which was necessary according to Hebrew grammar. In the word ‘Adonai, the first “a” is very short. This sound may appear only after glottal consonants. After all the other consonants, it becomes very short “e.” So, they changed the first “a” into “e.” The “i” in the end is actually “y” (a consonant, not a vowel). So, it was not marked as a vowel.

The result of addition of the vowels from ‘Adonai to YHWH was “Yehowah.” When European scholars began to study the Hebrew Old Testament, they read this word as it was spelled, that is, Yehowah. This is where Jehovah comes from. However, it is not the original God’s name in Hebrew, and Jews did not pronounce God’s name this way.

Some people believe that God’s name is Yahweh. However, it is actually only a scientific guess. It is based on Exodus 3. In v. 13 Moses asks God about His name. V. 14 is God’s reply: “And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”” In Hebrew, “I AM’ is ‘ehyeh. It is the form of 1st person singular from the verb “hayah” (to be, to become). This verb also may have another form, “hawah.” V. 15 is continuation of God’s reply to Moses: “Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: `The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.'” The word translated as “Lord” here is YHWH. Since in v. 14 God used the form of 1st person singular from the verb “hayah”, it is reasonable to suggest that in v. 15 He used the form of 3rd person singular from the same verb “hayah/hawah” and that YHWH is this form. In Hebrew, all the verbal forms have special vowels. So, scholars added the vowels for 3rd person singular to YHWH. The result was “Yahweh.” However, it is only a guess. Nobody knows how God’s name was originally pronounced in Hebrew.

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Study of Psalms (Part 5)

Posted by christiantransman on July 27, 2012

Example of studying a Psalm:
Psalm 1

Author: unknown.
Subject: psalm of wisdom.
Feeling: considerations about life of righteous and unrighteous people.

Structure:
1. Righteous people are blessed: vv. 1-3
2. Unrighteous people are cursed: vv. 4-5
3. The Lord knows the righteous and the unrighteous: v. 6

Analysis of parallelism (in this part, I use NIV):
“1 a) Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
b) or stand in the way that sinners take
c) or sit in the company of mockers”
Lines a, b, c are synonymic parallelism. They express the same thought: blessed is the person who does not follow the way of wicked.

“2 d) but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
e) and who meditates on his law day and night.”
Lines d, e are synonymic parallelism. Their thought: the righteous person delights in the law of God and meditates on it.

Verses 1 and 2 are antonymic parallelism: the blessed person does not live like a sinner, but considers the law of God.

“3 f) That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
g) which yields its fruit in season
h) and whose leaf does not wither—
i) whatever they do prospers.”
Lines f and g are synthetic parallelism. Line g develops the thought of line f. Lines g and h are synonymic. Line i gives an explanation.

“4 j) Not so the wicked!
k) They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
5 l) Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
m) nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.”
Verses 4 and 5 are antonymic to verses 1-3. Lines k and l are synthetic. Line l develops the thought of line k (gives conclusion). Lines l and m are synonymic.

“6 n) For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
o) but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.”
Verse 6 gives conclusion. It is synthetic parallelism. Lines n and o are anthonymic.

So, we can see that the main thought of this psalm is the blessedness of the righteous and the destruction of the wicked.

Analysis of figures of speech
“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither” (v. 3a)
This is comparison. The end of this verse explains the meaning of comparison: “whatever they do prospers” (v. 3b)

“They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.” (v. 4b)
This is another comparison. It is explained in v. 6b: “the way of the wicked leads to destruction.”

“Who meditates on his law day and night.” (v. 2b)
This is hyperbola. Obviously, no one is able to meditate of God’s law the whole days and nights. However, this hyperbola indicates how much attention the righteous person pays to God’s word.

Example of application (here, I use GNB/TEV)
How to become a righteous person (vv. 1-2):
1. Do not imitate sinners (v. 1)
a) “reject the advice of evil people”
b) “do not follow the example of sinners”
c) “do not join those who have no use for God”
2. Cleave to the Word of God (v. )
a) “find joy in obeying the Law of the Lord”
b) “study it day and night”

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Study of Psalms (Part 4)

Posted by christiantransman on July 27, 2012

There are also other groups of psalms according to their contents, for example:
1. Messianic psalms (for example, Psalms 22, 110).
2. Psalms of wisdom: psalms that praise wisdom and teach wisdom (for example, Psalms 1, 119).
3. Psalms of trust: psalms that express trust and faith in God (for example, Psalms 10, 16, 23, 27).
4. Psalms of repentance: psalms that express repentance in sins (for example, Psalms 32, 38, 51).
5. Psalms of curse: psalms where psalmist asks God to curse his enemies (for example, Psalms 3, 5, 7, 9).
There are also other groups and some psalms may belong to more than one group. These groups do not have definite structure and may have elements of psalms of groaning and psalms of thanksgiving and praise.

Groups of psalms according to their feelings
Another classification of psalms is according to the feelings their authors express:
1. Psalms that express feeling of pain caused by sin (for example, Psalms 32, 38, 51).
2. Psalms that express sufferings because of sinners’ attacks (for example, Psalms 3, 5, 6, 7).
3. Psalms that express considerations about life of righteous and unrighteous people (for example, Psalms 1, 2, 15).
4. Psalms that express considerations about God’s nature (for example, Psalms 50, 63, 89).
5. Psalms that express recollection of God’s works (for example, Psalms 4, 8, 9).

Interpreting psalms, try to find out the subject and feelings of the psalm.

Some lessons from Psalms
There are three main things we can learn from Psalms:
1. Psalms can be used as examples and patterns of prayers. Psalms may help us to express our thoughts and feelings to God when we feel that we lack our own words.
2. Psalms teach us to be sincere and open to God and to rely on Him.
3. Psalms teach us to remember and consider what God has done for us.

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Study of Psalms (Part 3)

Posted by christiantransman on July 27, 2012

Structure of psalms (continuation)

Psalms of thanksgiving and praise: joy and thanks to God for something He has done or praise to God for who He is. There are psalms of individual thanksgiving and praise and psalms of corporate thanksgiving and praise. They have the following structure:
1. Encouragement to praise God or expression of praising Him
2. Description of God’s deeds
3. Conclusion (it may be a prayer, praise, or encouragement to praise God)

Example: Psalm 149 (corporate thanksgiving and praise)
1. Encouragement to praise God
“1 Praise the LORD.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
2 Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
3 Let them praise his name with dancing
and make music to him with timbrel and harp.” (vv. 1-3)

2. Description of God’s deeds
“4 For the LORD takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with victory.” (v. 4)

3. Conclusion: new encouragement to praise God
“5 Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
and sing for joy on their beds.
6 May the praise of God be in their mouths
and a double-edged sword in their hands,
7 to inflict vengeance on the nations
and punishment on the peoples,
8 to bind their kings with fetters,
their nobles with shackles of iron,
9 to carry out the sentence written against them—
this is the glory of all his faithful people.
Praise the LORD.” (vv. 5-9)

Example: Psalm 116 (individual thanksgiving and praise)
1. Expression of joy
“I love the LORD” (v. 1a)

2. Description of God’s deeds
“for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“LORD, save me!”
5 The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
6 The LORD protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
7 Return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
8 For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
10 I trusted in the LORD when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted”;
11 in my alarm I said,
“Everyone is a liar.”” (vv. 1b-11)

3. Conclusion: decision to praise God
“12 What shall I return to the LORD
for all his goodness to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his faithful servants.
16 Truly I am your servant, LORD;
I serve you just as my mother did;
you have freed me from my chains.
17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the LORD—
in your midst, Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD.” (vv. 12-17)

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Study of Psalms (Part 2)

Posted by christiantransman on July 27, 2012

Structure of psalms
Psalms within each category often have similar structure.

Psalms of groaning: complains to God in difficult times. There are psalms of individual groaning and psalms of corporate groaning. They usually have the following structure:
1. Calling to God
2. Lamentation: description of the sorrow
3. Expressing trust in God and reminder about previous God’s acts
4. Request
5. Praising God or promise to praise Him (in some psalms)
These elements may go in a different order and may be repeated.

Example: Psalm 74 (corporate groaning)
1. Calling to God
“O God” (v. 1a)

2. Lamentation: description of the sorrow
“why have you rejected us forever?
Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?
2 Remember the nation you purchased long ago,
the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed—
Mount Zion, where you dwelt.
3 Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins,
all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary.
4 Your foes roared in the place where you met with us;
they set up their standards as signs.
5 They behaved like men wielding axes
to cut through a thicket of trees.
6 They smashed all the carved paneling
with their axes and hatchets.
7 They burned your sanctuary to the ground;
they defiled the dwelling place of your Name.
8 They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!”
They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land.
9 We are given no signs from God;
no prophets are left,
and none of us knows how long this will be.
10 How long will the enemy mock you, God?
Will the foe revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!” (vv. 1b-11)

3. Expressing trust in God and reminder about previous God’s acts
“12 But God is my King from long ago;
he brings salvation on the earth.
13 It was you who split open the sea by your power;
you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.
14 It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.
15 It was you who opened up springs and streams;
you dried up the ever-flowing rivers.
16 The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.
17 It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter.” (vv. 12-17)

4. Request
“18 Remember how the enemy has mocked you, LORD,
how foolish people have reviled your name.
19 Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts;
do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever.
20 Have regard for your covenant,
because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land.
21 Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace;
may the poor and needy praise your name.
22 Rise up, O God, and defend your cause;
remember how fools mock you all day long.
23 Do not ignore the clamor of your adversaries,
the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually.” (vv. 18-23)

5. Praising God or promise to praise Him
“may the poor and needy praise your name.” (v. 21b)

Example: Psalm 22 (individual groaning)
1. Calling to God
“My God, my God” (v. 1a)

2. Lamentation: description of the sorrow
“why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.” (vv. 1b-2)

3. Expressing trust in God and reminder about previous God’s acts
“3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.” (vv. 3-5)

4. Lamentation: description of the sorrow (continuation)
“6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8 “He trusts in the LORD,” they say,
“let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”” (vv. 6-8)

5. Expressing trust in God and reminder about previous God’s acts (continuation)
“9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” (vv. 9-10)

6. Request
“11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.” (v. 11)

7. Lamentation: description of the sorrow (continuation)
“12 Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.” (vv. 12-18)

8. Request (continuation)
“19 But you, LORD, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.” (vv. 19-21)

9. Promise to praise God
“22 I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the LORD will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.
29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!” (vv. 22-31)

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Study of Psalms (Part 1)

Posted by christiantransman on July 27, 2012

Many Christians like Psalms because many psalms are prayers and they express the authors’ feelings. In fact, studying psalms may help us in our prayer life.

Many psalms have headings that include information about the author and sometimes about his circumstances. This information gives a background of the psalm. It is good to use concordance to find more information about the author in other books of the Bible and about his circumstances. For example, the context of Psalm 51 is 2 Samuel, chapters 11 and 12.

There are various types of psalms. There are psalms of praises, psalms of petitions, psalms of repentance, psalms of teaching, messianic psalms, and other types. Actually, there are different classifications of psalms. Psalms within each category may have similar structure. For example, in psalms of petition, authors usually describe their situations and ask God to help, but they also express their faith in God’s help and thank God for His help in the past or for His former acts for His people. So, even when psalmists complain to God at their difficulties, they still praise Him.

Psalms is a book of poetry. Hebrew poetry was very different from the Western poetry. There are practically no rhymes and rhythms there. The main difference between Hebrew poetry and Hebrew prose is that in Hebrew poetry there is parallelism. Parallelism means that two (or sometimes more) lines express the same thought and they are in parallel. In order to see parallelism, it is more convenient to use modern Bible translation that marks poetic passages of the Bible, such as New International Version (NIV).

Parallelism
There are various kinds of parallelism. The three of them are the main kinds:

1. Synonymic parallelism: the second line in its meaning is equivalent or very similar to the first line.
Example: Psalm 51:2
“Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.”

2. Antithetic parallelism: the second line is a contrast to the first line.
Example: Psalm 1:6
“For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.”

3. Synthetic parallelism: the second line develops the thought of the first line.
Example: Psalm 3:8
“From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.”

In interpretation of Biblical poetry, it is good to remember that two lines of the parallel structure render one thought.

Also, in the biblical poetry, there are many figures of speech such as metaphors, hyperbolas and so on. They are used in the biblical prose as well, but in the biblical poetry, they are used more often.

Figures of speech
Here are some figures of speech used in the Bible:

1. Metaphor: the use of a word in a figurative meaning on the basis of the similarity of two objects or phenomena in some way.
Example: Psalm 3:3: “But you, LORD, are a shield around me.”

2. Comparison: one object is compared to the other on the basis of their common attributes. The difference between comparison and metaphor is that in comparison two things are obviously compared (joined by the words “as” or “like”), in metaphor comparison is implied.
Example: Psalm 2:9: “You will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

3. Metonymy: the name of one object is used instead of the name of the other object on the basis of their outward or inner connection.
Examples:
1) Psalm 126:1: “When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion.”
2) Psalm 100:1: “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.”
Here the connection is between the place and the people in this place.

4. Personification: attributes of living beings are ascribed to inanimate objects.
Example: Psalm 114:3
“The sea saw it and fled;
Jordan turned back.”

5. Hyperbola: exaggeration of the size, power, meaning, and so on, of an object or phenomenon in order to emphasize that.
Example: Psalm 104:25: “There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number —
living things both large and small.”
“Creatures beyond number” is hyperbola.

6. Litotes: emphatic understatement. Litotes is antonymous to hyperbola.
Example: Psalm 105: “Do not touch my anointed ones;
do my prophets no harm.”
Here “touch” means “do harm”. It is understatement.

7. Synecdoche:
the name of the whole is used instead of the name of the part or vice versa. Sometimes, the plural number is used instead of the singular number or the singular number is used instead of the plural number.
Example: Psalm 76:3: “There He broke the arrows of the bow,
The shield and sword of battle.”
Here “shield” is used instead of “shields” and “sword” is used instead of “swords”.

8. Anthropomorphism: human attributes, feelings, actions, or parts of the body are ascribed to God.
Example: Psalm 8:3: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of your fingers”

There are some principles of interpretation of figures of speech in the Bible:
1. In the beginning, consider the text literally.
2. If the literal meaning is absurd or contradictory, consider that this is a figure of speech.
3. Try to find some hints to the meaning in the context. Every figure of speech in the Bible has only one meaning.

Psalms of cursing
Many people have a problem with so called cursing psalms (such as Psalm 59) because they seem to contradict Christian ethics. In such psalms the authors ask God to curse their enemies. However, we can learn something even from these psalms.

First, psalmists were absolutely open to God. Often we try to be more religious or more pious when we pray, but God knows our hearts better than we do. Nothing is hidden from Him. We cannot say something to God that He does not know. So, we can be frank and sincere when we pray. We can open to Him all our thoughts and everything which is in our hearts.

Second, several cursing psalms were written by David when he was persecuted by Saul and his allies. He asked God to curse Saul and his allies in Psalm 59. However, David had two opportunities to kill Saul, but he did not because he respected him as God’s anointed one. So, David cursed Saul in his prayers, but he was very merciful and respectful to him in person. It may look like a contradiction or hypocrisy, but probably it was neither. Sometimes, it is hard for us to get rid of bad feelings toward somebody. However, if we open our hearts to God and pour out these feelings to Him, He helps us to get rid of such feelings and fills us with His love and ability to forgive. This was probably David’s experience.

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Gay Muslims

Posted by christiantransman on July 23, 2012

In Gay Muslims movie, gay Muslims share their experiences of trying to reconcile their religion and sexual orientation. In my opinion, it is an interesting video because there is some similarities between experiences of LGBT Christians and LGBT Muslims.

Gay Muslims – Part 1

Gay Muslims – Part 2

Gay Muslims – Part 3

Gay Muslims – Part 4

Gay Muslims – Part 5

Gay Muslims – Part 6

 

Most Muslims believe that the Quran forbids homosexuality because it repeats the story of the Sodom and Homorrah several times, but it adds some details to this story which are not mentioned in the Bible and indicates that these people were homosexuals and this was the reason they were destroyed.

Quran 7:80-84:
80. And [We had sent] Lot when he said to his people, “Do you commit such immorality as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds [i.e., peoples]?
81. Indeed, you approach men with desire, instead of women. Rather, you are a transgressing people.”
82. But the answer of his people was only that they said, “Evict them from your city! Indeed, they are men who keep themselves pure.”
83. So We saved him and his family, except for his wife; she was of those who remained [with the evildoers].
84. And We rained upon them a rain [of stones]. Then see how was the end of the criminals.

Quran 26:160-173:
160. The people of Lot denied the messengers
161. When their brother Lot said to them, “Will you not fear Allah?
162. Indeed, I am to you a trustworthy messenger.
163. So fear Allah and obey me.
164. And I do not ask you for it any payment. My payment is only from the Lord of the worlds.
165. Do you approach males among the worlds
166. And leave what your Lord has created for you as mates? But you are a people transgressing. ”
167. They said, “If you do not desist, O Lot, you will surely be of those evicted.”
168. He said, “Indeed, I am, toward your deed, of those who detest [it].
169. My Lord, save me and my family from [the consequence of] what they do.”
170. So We saved him and his family, all,
171. Except an old woman among those who remained behind.
172. Then We destroyed the others.
173. And We rained upon them a rain [of stones], and evil was the rain of those who were warned.

Quran, 27:54-58:
54. And [mention] Lot, when he said to his people, “Do you commit immorality while you are seeing?
55. Do you indeed approach men with desire instead of women? Rather, you are a people behaving ignorantly.”
56. But the answer of his people was not except that they said, “Expel the family of Lot from your city. Indeed, they are people who keep themselves pure.”
57. So We saved him and his family, except for his wife; We destined her to be of those who remained behind.
58. And We rained upon them a rain [of stones], and evil was the rain of those who were warned.

As far as I know, these passages from the Quran are the main argument for most Muslim theologians to condemn homosexuality. However, they might have alternative interpretations. There are no other anti-LGBT passages in the Quran.

There are some gay Muslim groups who believe that they can be Muslims and gays at the same time and that Islam does not condemn them. Some Muslim leaders are against homophobia: http://www.guardian .co.uk/uk/ 2003/sep/ 26/religion. gayrights

So, it seems that in Islam there is also some diversity of opinions regarding homosexuality. Although most Muslims condemn homosexuality, there are some who do not.

 

LGBT Muslim Organizations

There are some support organizations for LGBT Muslims. It seems that the largest of them is Al-Fatiha:
http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Al-Fatiha_ Foundation
http://www.tegenwic ht.org/16_ imams/al_ fatiha_en. htm

Another organization is Imaan:
http://www.imaan. org.uk/

One more organization is Safra Project. It is focused on Muslim LBT women:
http://www.safrapro ject.org/

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