MS.ED

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Monster Magazines? In Church?

(Edited December 11, 2016)

“W hile Jesus was living in the Galilean hills, John, called ‘the Baptizer,’ was preaching  in the desert country of Judea. His message was simple and austere, like his desert  surroundings: ‘Change your life. God's kingdom is here.’ 



“John and his message were authorized by Isaiah's prophecy:

Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God's arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!

“John dressed in a camel-hair habit tied at the waist by a leather strap. He lived on a diet of locusts and wild field honey. People poured out of Jerusalem, Judea, and the Jordanian countryside to hear and see him in action. There at the Jordan River those who came to confess their sins were baptized into a changed life.”
—New Jerusalem Bible, Matthew 3: 1-6

Remember the story? What person, or child, who has ever been in church, could miss John the Baptist? There is even a scholarly debate about the translation of what he ate.  The Greek word for locusts, for example, according to thenazareneway.com, is akris, a word very similar to a Greek word for pancakes, egkris.

Thus, it has been suggested a scribe may have inadvertently used the wrong word as he transcribed texts that became the gospel of Matthew.  John, it turns out, might have actually eaten a pancake-like food, “manna.” The same food prepared in the same way that sustained Moses and the children of Israel during their years in the wilderness (“Gottnotes,” 2010).

Of course, there is much more to the story, but probably not for the average child.  Who knew of manna?  Few know what manna is even today — even scholars are not sure.  It looks like bdellium, apparently, an aromatic gum-like myrrh, according to Numbers 11:7.  Whatever it was, however, it was ground into flour and made into pancakes.

But without any understanding or research, the ascetics living in the desert during the time of Jesus simply ate bugs with honey — just like John the Baptist....  Or did they?  Did John the Baptist even eat bugs and honey?

Critical thinking is important, but teaching critical thinking is often swept under the rug.  The odds are at least one child, during the course of modern history, has asked the question about bugs and John’s reason for eating them. The history shared in the YouTube video above reveals God's plan, but not the doubt about bugs.  Nor is the history easily found about eating manna during hard times.

Areporter once took monster magazines to Sunday school (three, as remembered) — perhaps it was an attempt to explore the monster-like notion that John ate bugs.  Or perhaps he was just being a boy.  But if a boy, or even an adult, takes monster magazines to church, who cares? The question should be: How are monster magazines relevant to studying the Bible?

"Because John the Baptist ate bugs!"

In the annals of history, what John the Baptist did highlights our understanding of self.  John the Baptist practiced asceticism, a life many have sought in an effort to rid themselves of ego (to use modern vernacular), and become open to God and Christ.  Many brethren have sought wisdom there, and some may have even eaten locust.

But the debate continues.  According to some, John the Baptist was a vegetarian, and thus his eating traditional ascetic food creates a problem, not because he was eating bugs, but because he could not eat flesh.

Children are stuck; adults complacent.  John baptized Jesus.  Something weird happened in John’s diet, but it was long ago and far away and who cares?

And what about those monster magazines in church?

Yes, there were monsters in the Bible (Goliath comes to mind), but John the Baptist was not a crazy monster person. He was an ascetic, a spiritual seeker, a man seeking the truth.  A message that stills captivates children and adults looking for depth of knowledge today (hopefully).

The real question is how best to do this, and still be available to help stop monstrous acts in a growing world of challenging ideas and beliefs.

In our history there are reasons for everything we humans do, some good, some not so good.  And much like in the Bible, and even good magazine articles and newspaper reports, the best understanding is revealed through study, research and critical thinking.  It is the only way to temper stupidity.

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