Most Americans -- whether people of faith or not -- can recite some version of the opening sentence in the book of Genesis:
But it helps to remember that when we read the Bible we are reading a translation from the original Hebrew and Greek (in the case of the New Testament), with a little Aramaic thrown in.
So when we first run across the word "God," it might be interesting to see what word was used in the original Hebrew. A blogger over at Patheos.com did that recently in this devotional and he takes note of the fact that the Hebrew word from which we get God, Elohim, is plural.
And yet we are aware that the people of Israel were known for being insistent monotheists at a time when much of the population around them was polytheistic. So why the plural word Elohim, meaning gods?
As the Patheos blogger, Mark D. Roberts, writes, "As you can imagine, scholars offer differing explanations for this phenomenon." And he lists a few. But then he adds this good insight:
"No matter which of these explanations you prefer, what I find fascinating about the singular/plural puzzle in Genesis 1:1 is the idea that God, even from the first verse of the Bible, can be known but not fully known. God is always more than we can completely understand. God, even as he makes himself known to us, resists being put in a box."
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TOPEKA'S ROLE IN PENTECOSTALISM
Over this past weekend, I wrote here about the origins of the Assemblies of God denomination and, more broadly, Pentecostalism. What I failed to note -- something one of you pointed out to me -- was the way in which nearby (to Kansas City) Topeka, Kan., figures into Pentecostal history. As this item points out, "The first 'Pentecostals' in the modern sense appeared on the scene in 1901 in the city of Topeka, Kansas, in a Bible school conducted by Charles Fox Parham, a holiness teacher and former Methodist pastor." In modern times, Topeka has become notoriously associated with a different kind of religion -- the radical anti-gay movement of the late Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church. But the less I hear and write about those folks, the happier I am.