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The Bible as Literature

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Each week, Dr. Richard Benton, Fr. Marc Boulos and guests discuss the content of the Bible as literature.

Each week, Dr. Richard Benton, Fr. Marc Boulos and guests discuss the content of the Bible as literature.
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Each week, Dr. Richard Benton, Fr. Marc Boulos and guests discuss the content of the Bible as literature.




There Are No Good Guys

When we hear a story of judgement in the Bible, our natural tendency is to try to identify the good guys vs. the bad guys so that we can make ourselves one of the good guys. In this sense, we’re no different than the slaves in the parable of the wheat and the tares. We want to be on the right side so that we can remove the ones whom we decide are on the wrong side. However, in the parable, the Lord and Master of his slaves prevents us from doing so in order to protect his wheat. As a result,...


Upon Ararat

Fr. Paul begins his discussion of Genesis 8 by emphasizing the Scriptural priority of the animals, differentiating between the creatures of the sea, the creatures of the ground and the birds of the air—the latter being of special importance. He also touches again briefly on the mention of Ararat, which, he explains, appears in the story as a clear indication of the Syrian desert. (Episode 92)


Roots Not Fruits

Whether dealing with cultural or historical themes, or emphasizing biblical languages, we talk a lot about historical context on the podcast. So let me be blunt, the popular notion that teachers should “make the Bible relevant today” or “make the Bible relatable,” is absolutely wrong. It’s not only wrong, it’s unforgivable, because when you engage in such nonsense, you shut your students out of the Kingdom. In order to understand what someone is saying, you need to learn their language and...


Out of Control

In today’s program, Fr. Paul explains how the scriptural God acts according to his own good pleasure, disrupting the expectations of the story’s addressees. Do the waters besiege the land? Does the land encroach upon the waters? Can anyone know how God will act or control what he will do? Of course not. All we can do is hear what comes next in the story. (Episode 91)


Ignorance and Blindness

In Matthew’s account of the parable of the sower, Jesus demonstrates the meaning of three critical Matthean teachings: 1) “Seek and ye shall find,” 2) “The eye is the lamp of the body,” and 3) “Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven.” The last warning baffles modern Christians for whom religion is a pursuit of happiness vis-à-vis emotional and psychological consolation. Matthew’s Gospel dynamites this illusion in it’s proclamation and application of Isaiah, where the...


Let Every Breath

This week, Fr. Paul continues his discussion of Genesis 7 highlighting the difference between soul and spirit in the original Hebrew. Even for English speakers familiar with the distinction between these terms, without a solid grounding in the actual text of Genesis, we are bound, Fr. Paul explains, to conflate their meaning. (Episode 90)


Seek and Ye Shall Find

Over the centuries, so much of Scripture has been taken out of context that it’s sometimes difficult to hear the obvious in the text. In the Gospel of Matthew, the characters in the story are themselves blind to the obvious meaning of Scripture for the very same reason. In the absence of study, repetition, and familiarity with the written teaching, the obvious becomes hidden to us in plain sight—the obvious appears to us to be a mystery. “Seek,” the Matthean Jesus warns us, “and ye shall...


Two by Two

In today’s program Fr. Paul begins his discussion of Genesis 7, reading the Hebrew text alongside the KJV and RSV versions of the English text. In doing so, he exposes the limits of translation and the gross over simplification—even disregard—for the author’s original work. (Episode 89)


The Seed Does What the Seed Does

Today’s program marks the 300th episode of the Bible as Literature. Years ago, Fr. Marc and Richard’s wife, Hollie, were going back and forth on a title for the education program at St. Elizabeth—eventually, they opted for “The Ephesus School”—a name inspired by a paper Fr. Paul had recently presented. With the Benton’s move to Minnesota, Fr. Marc had been thinking about ideas for a podcast, something like “The Priest and the Professor” and Hollie, always in earshot of Fr. Marc’s and...


Birds, Kings, and Shepherds

This week, Fr. Paul wraps up his discussion of Genesis 6, giving Richard and Fr. Marc an opportunity to ask questions. As always, Richard opened Q&A with an insightful discussion of the original Hebrew, which lead to an excellent overview of kings, shepherds, and functionality in the Bible. (Episode 88)


A New Tribe

In a culture that places family first, the Lord’s ambivalence toward his mother and his brothers in the Gospel of Matthew is confusing, if not utterly scandalous. Why would Jesus ignore his close relatives and leave them standing outside? The answer presented in the text is straightforward: the disciples are the Lord’s true relatives, because it is the Father’s teaching—not human blood ties—that serves as the organizing principle for the tribe of Jesus. This new definition of family reflects...


It’s an “Ark” Not an “Ark”

This week Fr. Paul highlights the connection between Genesis 6 and the story of Moses in Exodus. As always, this connection is impossible to discern in English—but this time there’s a twist. The English word “ark” in Genesis 6 sounds deceptively like the word “ark” in Exodus 25. In fact, they are totally unrelated; and as you’ll soon discover, the the real connection to Exodus in the original Hebrew is far more interesting. (Episode 87)



The ability to read biblical signs—which comes from hearing, reciting, and doing the commandments of Scripture—protects us from being fooled by false prophets. Is something a righteous act? What’s the difference between an exorcism performed by Jesus and one conducted by a son of the Pharisees? In the Gospel of Matthew, the answer to this question is twofold: 1) do you recognize the commandment of God at work in the action, and, 2) what outcome did the action produce? You will know a tree by...


Why Do You Call Me Lord?

In today's episode we discuss why faith is better translated as trust. We also highlight how faith is not an intellectual concept, but a deep trust that is rooted in the firm belief in God's promises and His coming Kingdom. With respect to the argument of "faith vs. works," the audience will be encouraged to re-frame their thinking of salvation as an inheritance: something that can never be earned, but can be lost. Finally, Fr Aaron shared a saying from Fr Paul Tarazi that we all would do...


The Nephilim

Drawing, as always, on the original Hebrew and his knowledge of Arabic, Fr. Paul explains the folly of the Nephilim who assume their own mightiness, but are, in Fr. Paul’s words, “unto fallenness.” English versions of the Bible refer to the Nephilim as “men of renown,” but this translation ignores the writer’s use of the technical phrase, ha shem, “the name,” which pertains to the biblical God, who is himself referred to as “the name” in Leviticus. (Episode 86)


Read the Signs

When human beings seek a sign from the Lord, the problem is two-fold. First, we think of a sign as proof, making our trust in God’s wisdom conditional. Second, because we do not trust this wisdom, the signs we desire in the world become a reflection of our own vanity. Remember, this is the Gospel of Matthew. The eye is the lamp of the body. If the light in your eye is idolatry, you will find amazement in wickedness and scoff at righteousness; but if the lamp of your eye is filled with the...


Third Time’s Not a Charm

After its use of the word ‘adam’ in chapter 5, the text of Genesis returns to the words ‘ha adam’ in chapter 6, referring to humanity in its entirety. This shift, Fr. Paul explains, also points to God’s provision of a third chance for human beings. By now, everyone who tunes in to this podcast knows that in Scripture, the third time is not a charm. (Episode 85)


You Know a Tree by It’s Fruit

We human beings do not take responsibility for what we teach. We speak careless words motivated by self-interest and look the other way when our words—directly or indirectly—cause suffering in the world. It feels good to pretend that we are puzzled by gun violence in the United States, but we all know the truth. If we want to understand American violence, we need only look in the mirror: the teachings we feed our children are utterly corrupt and produce morally repugnant outcomes. In...


Be Patient and Submit

Noting that biblical names appear and reappear purposefully in Genesis, this week, Fr. Paul emphasizes the importance of having patience with the scriptural God who operates on his own time table. (Episode 84)


The Ultimate Sin

Scripture is written to supplant human words and thwart human agency, so that its wisdom might govern the affairs of men in the place of human self-interest. When we sit at home, when we go out, when we lie down to sleep and when we wake up, we are commanded to recite God’s instruction in the place of empty human words. But what happens when vain talk consumes our thoughts? What happens when we are no longer able to hear, let alone recite God’s wisdom? Richard and Fr. Marc discuss the...