November 23, 2017

Author Archive | Mark Shea


Mark Shea: Jesus wasn’t ethnocentric, but the first Christians were

Last time, we began to focus on the central claim my reader makes concerning Jesus and the Canaanite Woman, that his ethnocentrism as a first century Jew prompts him to treat her insultingly. To recap, he says: In this Gospel story, the prepaschal Jesus insults a Canaanite woman requesting healing for her daughter by inferring […]

Mark Shea: There are no borders for Christ

Over the past few weeks, we have been considering some of the complexities of approaching the text of the gospels and trying to get at the words of Jesus, not only in their original context, but as the Evangelists use them in order to teach their respective audiences. I have agreed with my reader on […]

PHOTO: Patrick Fore

‘Aha, your Scriptures don’t match up – your beliefs are bogus’

Last time, we noted that some gospel passages contain identical sayings of Jesus, suggesting that these easy-to-remember nuggets are probably being handed down verbatim from Jesus himself by the community of eyewitnesses who remember him. In contrast, we can also see real variations in the testimony of the gospels both in terms of what different […]


Mark Shea: The Gospel as per your Uncle Bill

Last time in this space, we looked at the problem of making overly-confident claims about the minutiae of day-to-day life of peasants in the first century Holy Land. To be sure, no article of faith is at stake in quibbling about what a Canaanite peasant woman may have thought about dogs. I’m willing to concede […]


Mark Shea: Going to the dogs

Last time we focused on the contention that the story of Jesus and the Canaanite Woman could be legitimately read as Jesus learning from the Canaanite Woman as long as it does not involve the contention that he was learning to repent his sin of racism or ethnocentrism. Because Jesus is “like us in all […]


Mark Shea: Could Jesus Learn Things?

Last time in this space we looked at Matthew’s account of Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite Woman (Matthew 15:21-28). I noted that there is a common reading abroad these days, centering on the claim that, in one way or another, it is Jesus, not his disciples, who is the learner in this story. The “within […]


Mark Shea: Jesus and the Canaanite Woman – Introduction to a Study

A reading from the gospel according to Matthew: And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” But he did […]


Mark Shea: Jesus founded a Church, not a club

So last week, Lady Gaga posted a picture of herself praying the Rosary and accompanied it with an explanation of why her health troubles had forced her to cancel her tour. Unlike, say, Madonna’s use of sacred imagery to shock and subvert the point of sacred imagery, this was simply an image of her at […]

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Baku, Azerbaijan, to Rome on 2 October. Photo: CNS/Paul Haring

Mark Shea: The pope’s eyes glow red in the dark – honest!

I have a congenital allergy. I am allergic to conspiracy theories. Oh, to be sure, they are great fun as premises for yarns, tales, and stories. I’m working on a novel right now that is a wildly crazy tale which, in real life, would be dismissed as a conspiracy theory in a heartbeat. Give me […]

Most people believe that there are consequences that follow from their own actions. Why not hell? PHOTO: Justin Luebke

Mark Shea: What in Hell are Christians Talking About?

As we saw previously in this space, I was having a conversation with some genial Lefty skeptics about Hell that was sparked by John Shelby Spong’s claim that the Church invented Hell to control people with fear. Since they were laboring under the assumption that it was just crowd control for people dumb enough to […]

From a 15th-century Doom painted above the chancel screen at North Leigh's parish church. A bishop and a queen rank among the damned. PHOTO: Fr Lawrence Lew OP

Mark Shea: The Hell you say, part II

Last time in this space I told the tale of my conversation with an amiable Lefty who took for granted the claim that Hell was invented by the Church to control people with fear. As that conversation wound down, we could agree that morally serious people believed that actions had consequences. I concluded by pointing […]


Mark Shea: A Hell of an argument

So recently retired Episcopalian cleric John Shelby Spong was in the news offering the absolutely predictable opinion that Hell was “invented by the Church to control people with fear“. This is, after all, the guy who says that Paul was a repressed homosexual, that Mary was a victim of rape, and that the Resurrection is […]