Theological Implications Of Mirror-Reading

It's impossible to be completely neutral when it comes to theology, but I attempt, on this site, to be as theologically neutral as possible.  Mirror-reading focuses on the text and is more about exegesis than theology.  Certainly theology can be derived from mirror-reading, but I hope that by focusing on the text, I'll avoid unnecessary conflict or alienation of those who hold particular theological views.  I realize that this may be naive or even disillusion.  It may draw sub-par web traffic. Regardless, I'll do what I can to stick to mirror-reading without peddling theological views.

However, one of my frustrations is that sometimes I'll share a mirror-reading insight with someone, they'll agree with it and then will turn around and espouse a theological view that contradicts it.  I've been encouraged by others to share the theological implications of my mirror-readings, simply because they want to know, but for now, I'm go to try to avoid it.

Another reason why I don't like to draw theological lines in the sand with mirror-reading is because I can only draw a conclusion from the parts of Scripture that I feel I've mirror-read thoroughly.  I may conclude that one verse does not support a theological view, but what about the half-dozen other verses that support it?  I haven't mirror-read all of those yet, and so I'm reluctantly to take a hard stand on minor issues.  

If you really must know some of my theological views, you can check out some of my views on the RE2 podcast.

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: mckinney75402 cropped from original

When His Ways Are Not Higher Than Your Ways

When you don't understand part of the Bible, it may be a "mystery" but not for the reasons that you think.

A Mystery That Glorifies God Or A Lack Of Knowledge?

Don't be so quick to write off a Bible passage just because it's meaning is not clear.  I've seen many people come across a difficult verse and say, "God is just so mysterious, isn't He?"  Well, He is mysterious in many ways, but to chalk up a verse to mystery just because you don't understand it, cheats you of a deeper understanding, and perpetuates the idea that God put something in the Bible just to mess with our heads.

I get it.  When I first started reading the Bible as a serious student, I came across a couple of chapters in Daniel that I had no idea what they meant.  Daniel's use of metaphorical language made no sense to me, but a quick look down at the study notes in my Bible shed light on the matter, and I understood how events in history related to what Daniel said.  When I read about how women shouldn't have short hair in 1st Corinthians, I had no understanding of the cultural meaning of women with short hair during that time.  I said to God, "God! How was I supposed to know what that meant?  If I didn't have these Bible study notes, I would be clueless".  

At the time, I thought the Bible was a clear manual on how to live my life: Do this, Don't do this.  Sure, some of the books of the Bible were in narrative form, but I thought the "rules" would be clear in a Sunday School lesson kind of way.  However, the truth is that the Bible is a library of books, including different genres, and not all of it can be readily understood.  The examples I gave in Daniel and 1st Corinthians may even seem like obvious cases that needed further information, but in every verse that confuses us, we must ask ourselves "Is this a God designed mystery, or do I just not understand it?"  Don't assume that it's a Theo-esotaric passage that only God can understand and that baffle the rest of us. It's certainly possible but don't use it as an easy out.

3 Reasons Why You Might Not Understand The Bible.

1. Your hermeneutic is wrong

Your whole a approach to the Bible, the way you interpret it (your hermeneutic) may be wrong.  Are you trying to read your own theology into the Bible?  Are you trying to allegorize it?  Or are you trying to understand how the original readers would have understood it?  To learn more about the different ways of interpreting the Bible, be sure to check out this post.

2. You don't know the context.

You may not understand the Bible because you are missing information about it.  Youneed to know the context.  There are different types of contexts such as historical context, cultural context and literary context.  The examples I give above in Daniel and 1st Corinthians are good examples of why it's important to know the historical context.  

3. You only have half of the conversation

There is also situational context. The Biblical authors were responding to a particular situation when they wrote their texts.  If you don't know what those situations were, you won't get a full understanding of what the text means.  The problem is that the authors don't always tell us what the situations were that they were responding to.  However, we can use a technique called mirror-reading to reconstruct what that situation was.  If you don't know how to mirror-read, be sure to check out this post.


Austin Fischer: Cresting A New Wave of Arminianism?

 Austin Fischer

In what could be a growing movement away from Calvinism, Austin Fischer leads the way.

This is part of a series which I'm calling "Interesting Voices".  You can see the whole series here.  They run the spectrum from conservative to progressive, little known to well known.  They may or may not already be familiar with mirror-reading. I may or may not agree with them theologically, but regardless, I think they are interesting voices speaking to the Christian community today.  The purpose of the series is to both raise awareness of mirror-reading and to introduce you to these voices.

Austin is a Teaching Pastor at Vista Community Church in Belton/Temple, Texas and blogs over at Purple Theology.  A cross between Matthew McConaughey and Owen Wilson, his southern charm makes him pretty much instantly likable.  His book, "Young, Restless, and No Longer Reformed: Black Holes, Love, and a Journey In and Out of Calvinism", chronicles his journey and his reasons for leaving Calvinism.  The title is also a play off of Collin Hansen's book "Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists".

Fischer vs Piper

Not surprisingly, John Piper is not too happy about it.  John feels his and Jonathan Edward's views are misrepresented:

Austin then responds to Piper in a blog post in a "Dear John" open letter. He feels Piper misrepresents him. From the post:

I sat and watched the meticulous picture of God that Edwards and Piper painted. I loved so many of the strokes and colors. They finished painting, stepped back and said, “What a masterpiece! The manifold excellencies of the glory of God, displayed in the doctrines of grace.” I stepped back and said, “I really want to see that!…but I’m afraid I see a black hole instead.”

Austin offers a solid, simple and gracious response, although I wish he would have interacted with the Biblical text (by mirror-reading them, of course!) that John mentions. 

A Cold And Morally Ambiguous God?

Jonathan Merritt interviewed Austin:

All doctrines of hell are difficult, but the Calvinist doctrine presented me with a God so (seemingly) cold and morally ambiguous that I despaired of how I could know and relate to such a God. If the God who could die for sinners could also create sinners in order to damn them, then the universe was an incoherent place ruled by an enigmatic deity of arbitrary, raw power. It is certainly within God’s rights to do such a thing, but if it’s within God’s heart then we’re all in big trouble. That was my conclusion at least.

Most Calvinists I know would say that it doesn't matter what Austin "feels" or "thinks", it's only what the Bible says that counts.  That's not to say Austin doesn't have Biblical arguments, but I think most Calvinists would see Austin's foundational motivation to be moving in the direction of something like Josh Tongol's "love hermeneutic".

The Debates

Be sure to check out this debate that Austin participates in with Brian Zahnd, Daniel Montgomery and Timothy P. Jones:

Austin also debates James White on "Unbelievable?".  James is a formidable debater, and I would have no desire to debate him, but I think Austin holds his own.

Arminianism Waking Up?

Recently, Austin tweeted this:

I think it's interesting too, and I also think this is right on. From the article:

Calvinism and Arminianism waxes and wanes.

Arminianism is the default perspective of the Christian church.
When Calvinism waxes, it takes a while for Arminianism to respond.

In the mid 1980s, a Westminister Theological Journal lamented the waning of Calvinism. The article title played off the title of the folk song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Its title was “Where Have All the Tulips Gone?” At that time, it seemed that J.I. Packer and R.C. Sproul were the only Calvinists around, and a few minor players.

In the mid 1990s we saw a resurgence of Calvinism. It has taken about 10 years for Arminians to wake up. It’s a pendulum swing, I think.

The success of Austin's book could be a reflection of an overdue Arminian response.

Austin Fischer And Mirror-Reading

I listened to two sermons by Austin.  One on 1 John 4:1-2 and the other entitled "Jonah: Week 3".  You can listen to them here.

1 John 4:1-2

Austin does do some mirror-reading when he recreates some of the original situation when he talks about "those who have gone out from us".  He talks about how "Christ had come in the flesh", but mirror-reading would ask, why would someone say he didn't come in the flesh? Were there theological reasons for them to think that?  Are there reasons hinted at elsewhere in the text? 

Austin mentions that there are pages and pages of debate on what "in the flesh" means?  I haven't seen them.  I thought "in the flesh" simply meant that Christ came in human form, as opposed to spirit form.  I won't elaborate here but you can read this post at my abandoned Ephesians website.

To be fair Austin does recognize "in the flesh" to be referring to the incarnation, but he also makes a comparison of our typical view of a 6'6" blue-eyed, barrel-chested Christ and the 5'3" middle easterner that He actually was, and then refers to the barrel-chested Christ view as being antichrist .  However, even if you believe in the barrel-chested Christ view, you still could believe He came in the flesh and is therefore, not antichrist.  To define antichrist the way Austin does really gets away from what antichrist meant to the original readers, because they certainly wouldn't have thought of him as a blue-eyed Christ.  


Austin does a fine job summarizing Jonah and making points about how everyone is special to God, and how we should extend grace to others.  However, he does not mirror-read Jonah.  That's not surprising since most people don't mirror-read narratives, but I maintain that narratives can be mirror-read and Jonah is no exception. 

Instead of asking why did Jonah do such and such, we should be asking why did the author of Jonah write such and such to the original readers.  In other words, what was the situation that the author of Jonah was responding to, and how did the story of Jonah relate to it?  Unfortunately, my own mirror-reading of Jonah crashed and burned, but the principle of mirror-reading still holds.

Questions For Austin Fischer

I’ve listed a couple of open questions to Austin below. I welcome a response from Austin, whether as a guest post, a response on his own blog or simply in the comments below.

1. What are your thoughts on mirror-reading?
2. Did you want to respond to anything that I've written above?

Questions For My Readers

What do you think of Austin? Do you side with Calvinism or Arminianism or something else? Who else do you think is an "interesting voice"?



Titus And The "Biblical" Case That God's A Liar

False teachers were telling the early Church that the gentiles couldn't be God's people.  He had declared that He was against them. If God were to include the gentiles in the Church now, then God would be a liar...and they had the Scriptures to prove it.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings, and although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading Titus Gives Us A Greater Understanding

One of the Biblical text that the false teachers used to "prove" that God would not accept the gentiles was Isaiah 28:16:

Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone of a sure foundation... "

The context there is that God had declared to the leadership in Jerusalem at that time, that they should repent, or else God would destroy the city and exile them. The leadership in Jerusalem responded by trying to make alliances to avoid God’s judgment. However, God says that His word, what He has declared, is like a cornerstone and cannot be avoided.

The false teachers said that there was no salvation for the Gentiles on earth and God had declared it in the Scriptures. If He changed his mind now, that would make Him a liar.  Here's another verse in Isaiah that show that once God made up His mind, there was no turning it back.

Isaiah 14:26-27
This is the plan that is determined for the whole earth. This is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For Yahweh of Armies has planned, and who can stop it? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?

Since God had said that He would destroy the Gentile nations, He cannot change his mind and save them now.

How Paul Proved That God Was Not A Liar

When Paul writes Titus, he addresses the "Lying God" issue:

Titus 1:1-2
 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began

Paul alludes to the "cornerstone" in Isaiah to make the same point in Ephesians.

Ephesians 2:20
being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone;

The New Testament makes clear that the inclusion of the Gentiles was the plan from the very beginning and that God did not change His mind, thereby making Him not a liar.

Ephesians 1:4 (see also 1 Peter 1:20, John 17:24, and Revelation 13:8)
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love

Paul states later in Titus that God's grace is for all people...including the Gentiles:

Titus 2:11
 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Titus?  Was Paul trying prove that God was not a liar for the inclusion of the Gentiles?  What other situations do you think Titus was responding to?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Alan Cleaver cropped from original

Brandan Robertson: From Fundamentalist to Progressive to ?

Exploring theological views and engaging others on LGBT issues, Brandan Robertson forges ahead on his own spiritual journey.

This is part of a series which I'm calling "Interesting Voices".  You can see the whole series here.  They run the spectrum from conservative to progressive, little known to well known.  They may or may not already be familiar with mirror-reading. I may or may not agree with them theologically, but regardless, I think they are interesting voices speaking to the Christian community today.  The purpose of the series is to both raise awareness of mirror-reading and to introduce you to these voices.

I first heard of Brandan when I was doing research for my RE2 podcast and came across some of his videos.  At the time, he was attending Moody Bible Institute.  For a full description of Brandan, go here.  I'll just give you the short version.  Bradan is a progressive Christian who considers himself an evangelical regardless of what others might think.  He writes for a number of different online publications, and he's been featured on a number of different shows.  He's a part of a number of different organizations, with perhaps most of his exposure coming from his work with Evangelicals for Marriage Equality.  He's an outspoken voice on LBGT issues.


After becoming a Christian, Brandon started out as the fundamentalist variety while being a part of an independent baptist church.  I too, grew up in an independent baptist church, so I can appreciate his journey out of that type of Christianity.  The photo is from his fundy days

His fundamentalist ways started to tone down while at Moody.  He interviewed a number of different Christian leaders while hosting a radio show at Moody.  Here's a video of him interviewing David Platt:

With exposure to other Christian thinkers, he started to rethink a lot of doctrines, not surprisingly, Penal Substitution was one of them:


Brandon eventually moved to a Progressive Christianity.  He also now identifies as queer - someone who's sexuality is "fluid".  He landed a contract to write a book called "Nomad" but then lost it because of his stance on LBGT issues.  The resulting publicity that resulted from the controversy was probably a blessing in disguise. picked up on the story and published a piece on it.  You can read Brandan's thoughts on the ordeal here and here.

Here's a very well done video featuring Brandan:

After starting Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, there was a backlash from the conservative side of Evangelicalism.  Brandon responds:

Our mission is straightforward: Evangelicals for Marriage Equality exists to cultivate a new conversation on the issue of civil marriage equality, so that evangelicals understand that it's possible to be a faithful Christian and a supporter of same-sex marriage. It is because of our commitment to follow Jesus that we feel compelled to speak out for the equal treatment under the law for all people, whether or not they share our convictions.
What we didn't do in our statement is argue in favor changing the sacramental definition of marriage in the Church. So it's curious that some of our fiercest critics attributed that viewpoint to us.


 Another criticism comes from Dr. Albert Mohler, the distinguished President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He argued in his morning podcast that there is no distinction between "the church's moral understanding of homosexuality" and "the government's recognition of marriage". (Walker makes a similar point in his op-ed, describing the man-woman relationship as "the basic social unit of civilization.")
 But this attempt to brand the Christian definition of marriage as the prevailing definition used by the federal government is problematic. Marriage as recognized by the government represents a set of benefits and privileges that it makes little sense to offer to some couples but not others. Hospital visitation rights, for instance, or funeral planning -- these are benefits that share no particular gender or orientation distinction. The same could be said for tax treatment by the IRS.

You can read the whole thing here.

In the video below, Brandan takes on Kevin Boling and Evan Lenow.  Again, Brandan is arguing for legal same-sex marriage and is not pushing a theological argument. Both sides of the debate were frustrated by the talking past each other and talking in circles.  Brandan gets a little hot under the collar but keeps his composure.  Each side is coming from a different paradigm, so communication is understandably difficult. The debate occurred before the SCOTUS decision, so some of what I write below should be taken in the past tense.

Brandan promotes the idea that marriage defined by the government should be theologically neutral.  However, Boling and Lenow don't see morality and legality as mutually exclusive.  The government's decision is going to be conducive to someone's morality, why not the Christian's?  

Brandan balks at the idea that we should Christianize the nation.  He thinks its not Christ-like, nor are Christians consistent when arguing that they should.  If they were, they would seek to make drunkenness, adultery and lying illegal.

Brandan maintains that the government is not in the sacrament business.  But they kind of are.  Most Christians consider marriage to be a sacrament, the government regulates marriages, ergo, the government is in the sacrament business.  Therefore, Christians feel like they need to push for their definition of marriage. Telling a conservative Christian that the government can take a theologically neutral stance on marriage is like saying the government could take a theologically neutral stance on baptism or the Lord's supper.  It does not compute.  If the government were to give benefits to those who were baptized or took the Lord's supper, then we would have the same issue with those sacraments.  Therein lies the crux of the matter.  What we need is a "third way" when dealing with marriage and the government.  If government wasn't involved in marriage, this wouldn't be as much of an issue. Actually, Brandan would prefer that the government not be involved in marriage at all, but they are, so he's seeking to change change it's definition of it - to what he feels is a theological neutral one.

Our founding fathers set up this nation so that each citizen is a sovereign.  We should think of America as an alliance of over 350 million itty bitty kingdoms, and the purpose of the government is to protect the persons and property of those kingdoms, nothing more.  Going back to Brandan's point about drunkenness, adultery and lying: The government does take a stance on those issues when is comes to protecting the persons and property of others.  Those in power always want a democracy mob rule, but those not in power always want the minority protecting republic.  If most conservative Christians were honest, they would want to Christianize the nation, but since the SCOTUS decision they are finally starting to see the wisdom of getting the government out of the marriage business.   It cuts both ways though, Progressive Christians want to Christianize the nation as well when is comes to helping the poor and access to free health-care.  You will love your neighbor whether you want to or not.

I believe before any discussion of the morality or legality of same-sex marriage can be had, a discussion needs to be had on the morality of whether each citizen can be a sovereign individual.  Sadly, I think most Americans would say that there can't be and will continually try to enforce their values onto others.  I recently listened to the "Should you impose your values on others?" episode on this podcast. On my RE2 podcast, we discussed Al Mohler's difficulties with libertarian ideas.  Also, Ben Lewis has a nice article on the Kim Davis fiasco over at The Great Fiction.

Boling and Lenow try to get to Brandan's rational basis for his government definition of marriage, but they usually frame it in terms of polygamy or incest.  This puts Brandan on the defensive, and he sees it as a straw-man and/or slippery slope argument.  Boling and Lenow's point though, is not whether polygamy or incest would happen, but rather if they could be justified by using Brandan's rational framework.  Brandan would say that it would not, but we don't get many details as to why.

Brandan gives aspects of his rational framework, but Boling and Lenow don't really pick up on it or pursue it.  Incestuous marriages are "unhealthy" because of the genetic effects on offspring. But what if they don't have kid's, does that make it okay? Bestiality is "obviously" wrong.  Well, it wasn't that long ago that homosexuality was "obviously" wrong.  What's the basis? Brandan also argues that we should change the definition of marriage because the current definition harms people and causes them pain.  Is the government expected to stop all harm and pain that can be experienced? My point is not to disagree with Brandan necessarily, but I would have liked to have seen his rational framework explored a bit more.  His hermeneutical approach to the Bible may give us additional insight.

Duo Experiencia Et Communitas

Both experience and community (if my Latin is right) is what Brandon promotes in understanding the Bible.  He is correct in noting that Protestants tend to get nervous whenever someone speaks of experience as their basis for understanding truth.  TGC recently released a video on Sola Experiencia.  But Brandan sees the Scriptures as evolving.  He says the Old Testament view of God is not the same as the New Testament, and there are other differences as well.  Brandan looks to experience instead of the propositional statements of the Bible, but he calls for the tempering of ones experience with community.  One may feel God is telling them one thing, and another person feels God is telling them another, but it is within community that things like that can be sorted out.  I'd like to hear some real world examples of that.  Also, what if God is telling one community one thing and another community another thing.  How do you sort that out? You can listen to Brandon talk about his thoughts on the Bible here.

Here's another debate on homosexuality, although it's not much of a debate.  Brandan is much more focused here and stays tight on his talking points.  He's reluctant to engage Dr. Michael Brown in debate, and I can't say that I blame him after watching Dr. Brown steamroll Matthew Vines (word of advice: don't using the Socratic method when debating Dr. Brown)


Brandan has been criticized for calling himself an Evangelical but he defends the designation repeatedly

But no one get’s to decided who is in and who is out based on theology or politics. Instead, evangelical is an ethos. A style of Christianity. Any theological system or political affiliation can fit within its borders. Because being an evangelical is less about a theology or worldview and more about how we chose to live those things out.

You can read the whole thing here.

What's next?

In a recent article regarding The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, I felt Brandan's anger saturated his writing.  Nothing major, it was subtle, in the subtext, but still, he is usually so gracious, even with those he disagrees with.  Read for yourself.  My thoughts were confirmed in a recent tweet:

Brandon responded to the ACBC conference by launching the Imago Dei Summit.  You can check it out here.

Brandan appears to be a big fan of Rob Bell.  He's has numerous videos of his interviews with him.  This seems to have exposed to him to Oprah, and he seems to have an affinity for her work.  I also noticed some tweets about Deepak Chopra on Brandan's twitter.  I wonder if he will start to move away from Christianity and embrace more of a spiritual or New Thought way of thinking (kind of like Joshua Tongol).  His Project Awaken site seems to be moving in that direction.  If not, then I'll be interested in seeing how he integrates it with his Christianity. His theological views over that past few years have been, well, fluid.  Not that having changing views is bad, we all grow and evolve (hopefully), but Brandan hasn't shown any signs of settling into a theological framework anytime soon. I'm curious to see what's next for him, and how far he'll taking the boundaries of being an evangelical.

Brandan Robertson And Mirror-Reading

Brandan's not really one to do detailed exegesis in his speaking or writing.  There are a few verses that I might encourage him to mirror-read: I think work can be done to have a better understanding of the situational context of Romans 1 and not just the historical context.  I think mirror-reading Genesis would show that it has less to do with same-sex marriage than most think. Ultimately though, it doesn't matter to Brandan what those verses really mean, and they could be jettisoned if his experience and community allowed it. However, I'd rather have him jettison a verse after mirror-reading it and having a full understanding rather than doing so because of a misunderstanding of the text.

Questions For Brandan Robertson

I’ve listed a couple of open questions to Brandan below. I welcome a response from Brandan, whether as a guest post, a response on his own blog or simply in the comments below.

1. What are your thoughts on mirror-reading?
2. Do you want to respond to anything that I've written above?

Questions For My Readers

What do you think of Brandan? Do you agree with his take on things? Who else do you think is an "interesting voice"?

Obadiah: Would Edom Avoid God's Judgement?


After the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, the kingdom of Edom was sitting pretty.  They had remained unscathed during a very tumultuous time.  Would they continue in prosperity and avoid God's wrath?

Mirror-Reading Obadiah Gives Us A Better Understanding

As the shortest book in the Bible, Obadiah doesn't give us much material to work with.  Weighing in at only 21 verses, we can only gain some basic information from mirror-reading. 

When the Babylonians had conquered Jerusalem, the Edomites had taken advantage of the situation, scavenging on the remains of the southern kingdom of Judah. The Jews started to wonder if the kingdom of Edom was just too strong for God to deal with or perhaps felt He had to reason to punish the Edomites.  The kingdom of Edom had 4 great strengths:  allies, well fortified cities, wealth and wisdom. Obadiah responds by showing how these strengths are no match for God, and to let the Jewish people know that Edom wouldn't fly under the radar forever.

How Obadiah Showed That Edom Would Get What They Had Coming To Them.

Edomite cities were naturally well fortified because of the rocky terrain in which they inhabited.  But these fortifications would be no match for God:

Obadiah 3-4
The pride of your heart has deceived you,
    you who live in the clefts of the rock,
    in your lofty dwelling,
who say in your heart,
    “Who will bring me down to the ground?”
Though you soar aloft like the eagle,
    though your nest is set among the stars,
    from there I will bring you down,

declares the Lord.

Next, Obadiah explained that God would destroy them so completely that they would have no wealth left:

Obadiah 5-6
If thieves came to you,
    if plunderers came by night—
    how you have been destroyed!—
    would they not steal only enough for themselves?
If grape gatherers came to you,
    would they not leave gleanings?
How Esau has been pillaged,
    his treasures sought out!

And the allies of the Edomites would turn against them:

Obadiah 7
All your allies have driven you to your border;
    those at peace with you have deceived you;
they have prevailed against you;
    those who eat your bread have set a trap beneath you—
    you have no understanding.

Finally, God would rid them of their wisdom:

Obadiah 8-9
Will I not on that day, declares the Lord,
    destroy the wise men out of Edom,
    and understanding out of Mount Esau?
And your mighty men shall be dismayed, O Teman,
    so that every man from Mount Esau will be cut off by slaughter.

Obadiah also let the Jewish people know that God had good reason to bring destruction on Edom:

Obadiah 10-15
Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob,
    shame shall cover you,
    and you shall be cut off forever.
 On the day that you stood aloof,
    on the day that strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
    and cast lots for Jerusalem,
    you were like one of them.
But do not gloat over the day of your brother
    in the day of his misfortune;
do not rejoice over the people of Judah
    in the day of their ruin;
do not boast
    in the day of distress.
Do not enter the gate of my people
    in the day of their calamity;
do not gloat over his disaster
    in the day of his calamity;
do not loot his wealth
    in the day of his calamity.
Do not stand at the crossroads
    to cut off his fugitives;
do not hand over his survivors
    in the day of distress.
For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations.
As you have done, it shall be done to you;
    your deeds shall return on your own head.

In the end, the Jewish people would be restored and will rule over the kingdom of Edom:

Obadiah 21
Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion
    to rule Mount Esau,
    and the kingdom shall be the Lord's.
Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: cropped from original

Why Is John Different Than The Rest Of The Gospels?

You can see the similarities shared among the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke below:

On the other hand, only about 8% of the gospel of John parallels the other Gospels.  While the laity tend to favor John, scholars often give it a hard time for being so different.

I recently watched this video over at the Huffington Post with Peter Kreeft, Philip Jenkins, Peter Lillback and Reza Aslan.  Aslan is one of the scholars that sees John as being different because the story of Jesus evolved, and the author was crafting the story to support the theological views of the time.

Mirror-reading takes a different approach.  The Gospel narratives are not simply a recording of events but a response to the situations the authors were facing at the time.  It's not like Matthew, Mark, Luke or John sat down one day and said, "I think I'll write down all the things I know or believe about Jesus."  They all should be viewed as half of a conversation.  The Gospel of John was simply responding to a different set of circumstances than the other Gospels were.  That shouldn't necessitate that we view John with suspicion, or that his narrative is any less credible.   You can watch my video on mirror-reading narratives, or check out any of the narratives on the Books of the Bible page.

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Alecmconroy cropped from original

Matt Whitman: Serving Up The Bible In Savory 10 Minute Bites

 Matt Whitman

Both fun and educational, Matt Whitman creates some super great YouTube videos that everyone should check out.

This is part of a series which I'm calling "Interesting Voices".  You can see the whole series here.  They run the spectrum from conservative to progressive, little known to well known.  They may or may not already be familiar with mirror-reading. I may or may not agree with them theologically, but regardless, I think they are interesting voices speaking to the Christian community today.  The purpose of the series is to both raise awareness of mirror-reading and to introduce you to these voices.

Matt Whitman pastors at Lander Evangelical Free Church (who's website could use some freshening up).  Beyond his pastoral duties, he develops a number of different videos on the Ten Minute Bible Hour, including 10 minute(ish) videos that tackle chunks of Scripture. He does a great job of keeping them interesting and engaging. He posts his videos and writes over at Theology Mix. Matt also has a great sense of humor and it definitely shows in his creative endeavors.  Check out his hilarious Christmas card:

Below is a video of Matt explaining what exactly the Ten Minute Bible Hour is and what he hopes to achieve:

I'm really glad that Matt has decided to focus on "what the text says, what the author whas going for and how the original audience would have received it."  I think mirror-reading would greatly assist Matt in achieving that desire (more on that later).

I caught a glimpse of Matt's character on twitter a while back when he tweeted this:

That, my friends, is a classy move.  Unless it was his plan all along, in which case, it would be devilishly clever, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that perhaps, one day, he'll follow me back on twitter again.

Who's the Main Character of the Bible?

Although I completely agree that the Bible is not a story where I am (or you are) the main character, I think it may be misleading to call the Bible a story.  I may be nitpicking here, but the Bible is a library of different genres. Some of them aren’t stories at all.  Some of them are narratives, but the purpose of the narratives is not to tell a good story.  If you read a narrative in the Bible and expect it to be like a story in a movie, you’ll be disappointed, and it will likely inhibit your understanding.  Have you ever watched a movie that uses the Bible as a script?  They’re incredibly boring. Robert McKee's "Story" explains many of the different aspects of a story: a protagonist that has an object of desire, forces of antagonism, character development, climax, resolution.  Many of these aspects are lacking in the Biblical narratives.   That’s because they weren’t written to be good stories. They were written as a response to a specific situation, and their main purpose was to correct false teachings. We are missing half of the “real story” that’s behind the books of the Bible, but we can reconstruct the other half through mirror-reading the narratives.

I’m not saying that Matt necessarily disagrees with all of that, but I just wanted to clarify.  I should also mention that I agree that all of the books of the Bible are part of an overarching narrative throughout history, it’s just that all the books themselves should not be considered "stories", because they just don't live up to our modern concept of what a story is.

Mirror-Reading And Matt Whitman

Matt is working his way through the Book of Acts.  Below is a playlist of his videos on Acts:

Matt does a great job on trying to focus on what the text would have meant to the original reader.  He uses historical context to bring insight to the text.  However, with mirror-reading, one can gain the “situational context” needed to bring even further understanding.  Matt gets into that a little bit by explaining the author’s motivation: Some amazing things happened before and after Christ, and people wanted to know if it was true.  What were the circumstances? Who were the witnesses?  The original reader wanted the whole story.  However, the original reader already had half of the story, leaving us with only half of the story.  Again, mirror-reading attempts to reconstruct the other half.  

Matt calls the Book of Acts a “theology book” at one point.  That’s dangerously close to calling it a theological dissertation, and calling it that assumes that we have all the data.  For reasons already explained, we do not have all the data.  It does, of course, have theological themes within it, but I think calling it a theology book can skew one's approach to the Bible.

I like Matt’s approach when the Bible talks about Jesus eating and that he was actually resurrected in bodily form.  I usually hear something like, “Hey, Jesus is my kind of guy! He’s always eating!”.  Although amusing, that explanation misses the point of the text and Matt does a good job of bringing that to light.

Other places are lacking though.  As much as I appreciate his libertarian views when it comes to explaining why early Church members sold all their possessions, there was no exploration as to why that was an issue to the original readers.  Luke is not just being descriptive in his writing, but corrective.  What was happening in the church of the original reader that needed to be corrected by Luke’s story about selling all possessions?  

Another place that could have explored mirror-reading more is the story of the death of Ananias and his wife.  Again, Luke is corrective, not just descriptive.  What was Luke trying to correct by telling the story of Ananias?

Unfortunately, I haven’t mirror-read Acts, so I don’t have all the answers.  However, Matt my find this post of some interest.

I also want to mention that Matt does a good job of finding parallels between Luke and Acts.  So much so that it got me thinking if they were part of a chiasmus.  This one may be of interest:

A Galilee, Luke 4:14-9:50
     B Journey to Jerusalem (through Samaria and Judea), Luke 9:51-19:40
           C Jerusalem, Luke 19:41-24:49
              D Ascension, Luke 24:50-51
              D' Ascension, Acts 1:1-11
           C' Jerusalem, Acts 1:12-8:1a
     B' Judea and Samaria, Acts 8:1b-11:18
A' To the end of the earth, Acts 11:19-28:31

There are others that are also proposed in this Word Doc.

Questions For Matt Whitman

I’ve listed a couple of open questions to Matt below. I welcome a response from Matt, whether as a guest post, a response on his own blog or simply in the comments below.

1. What are your thoughts on mirror-reading?
2. Did you want to respond to anything that I've written above?

Questions For My Readers

What do you think of Matt? Do you agree with his take on things? Who else do you think is an “interesting voice”?


Everybody Mirror-Reads

There are those that say that we should avoid mirror-reading the Bible, but the truth is, virtually everybody does it to some extent.

People Mirror-Read Because It Works

@@Not everyone is aware that they mirror-read when they read the Bible@@.  Most people don't know what mirror-reading is (hopefully this website can help change that!), but they naturally and subconsciously mirror-read.  Granted, they don't mirror-read as often as they should, but almost everyone mirror-reads certain passages that "obviously" should be mirror-read.  

3 Bible Passages That Most People Mirror-Read

The Gentile/Jew Conflict in Romans

Paul goes on at great length to reconcile the Jew and the Gentiles in the Roman church.  Large chunks of his epistle are devoted to tackling the false teachings that were driving a wedge between the two ethnic groups.  He not only appears to be trying to integrate the Gentiles with the Jews, but also the Jews with the Gentiles. He discusses the Law, circumcision and Abraham and uses Old Testament Scriptures, metaphor and logical arguments, all in an effort to show that Jew and Gentile are the same in Christ:

Romans 10:12
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.

The False Teachers in Galatia

Galatians is one of the most polemic books in the Bible, and for this reason, is often the subject of discussion when it comes to mirror-reading.  Paul makes remarks in his letter to the Galatians that directly discuss the false teachers in that church. He has harsh words for those false teachers in Galatia:

Galatians 5:12
I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

Divisions in Corinth

Paul states explicitly in the first chapter of 1st Corinthians, that there were divisions in the Church based on who they followed (e.g. Paul, Apollos, Jesus), but we can also piece together other types of divisions that had occurred based on what he says about the Lord's supper, spiritual gifts, and food sacrificed to idols.  He employs the word "one" throughout the letter as a way of countering the divisions.

1 Corinthians 12:12
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

What do you think?

The passages above are areas that most people feel comfortable mirror-reading, but I think we can mirror-read much more, in greater detail, for greater understanding.  With a better methodology of mirror-reading, we can limit the risk of wild speculations.  It is the purpose of this site to explore and develop such a methodology.  What do you think?  What other areas of the Bible are you comfortable mirror-reading?


Joshua Tongol: Not Afraid To Question Religious Beliefs

 Joshua Tongol

Continuously questioning deeply held doctrines and tipping over sacred cows, Joshua Tongol challenges himself and others.

This is part of a series which I'm calling "Interesting Voices".  You can see the whole series here.  They run the spectrum from conservative to progressive, little known to well known.  They may or may not already be familiar with mirror-reading. I may or may not agree with them theologically, but regardless, I think they are interesting voices speaking to the Christian community today.  The purpose of the series is to both raise awareness of mirror-reading and to introduce you to these voices.

I first heard of Joshua while he was at Biola University.  He was the vanguard of a movement of healing and revival on the campus there at the time.  Since I had recently attended Biola and had also recently discovered the Charismatic side of Christianity, I had an immediate affinity for Joshua. 

Some may be uncomfortably with his in inclusion in my "Interesting Voices" series because of how far he's drifted from evangelical or even orthodox Christianity.  If he is a Christian, he would define it differently than most.  In fact, that's one of the points of frustration for those that seek to debate Joshua.  His paradigms are so different than most, one needs to define almost every theological term when talking with him and then you may even have to define the terms that define the those terms!  I may not agree with Joshua theological, but I decided to include him in this series because I think his journey is interesting, and because I'm not afraid of those who aren't afraid to ask questions.  I hope you aren't afraid either.

I've embedded quite a few videos below, which I don't normally do, but since much of what Joshua does is video based, I thought it would be appropriate to include a selection of videos and let Joshua speak for himself.

After graduating from Biola University and Talbot School of Theology, Joshua moved to the Philippines to be a missionary.   He has gained a following from his work in the Philippines and from his numerous videos and sermon jams.  You can watch him speak about his background below, but I'll just say that he's shifted from Pentecostal, to a cessationist/apologist, to a charismatic Christian, to radical grace, to law of attraction, to, well, I'm not sure where exactly he's at now.  He may not be either. And so his journey continues.  The videos below chronicle some of that journey.


Here is one of his first videos and he speaks about how he was healed from back pain as well as GERD:

You can also watch Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4. His story was also featured on 700 Club Asia.

After he experienced healing, Joshua had a passion for others to be healed.  Here's one of the first videos that records one of those healings:

Check out this other leg growing out

Another healing that happened during an encounter at the mall:

Radical Grace

Joshua eventually embraced what is sometimes referred to as the radical grace movement.  Here's a sermon jam where Joshua talks about radical grace:

Some of his other messages on radical grace include:

Superabounding Grace Sermon Jam
The Grace Revelation Sermon Jam
The "Dangerous" Grace Message

Questioning Doctrines

Joshua went on to question other doctrines.  Penal substitutionary atonement is often one of the first to be questioned.  That is also the case with Joshua:

Next, Biblical inerrancy begins to falter for him:

Recently, Joshua interviewed Peter Enns on "Why Defending the Bible Does More Harm Than Good":

Ultimately, radical grace isn't enough for him and he becomes a universalist

His first book "So You Thought You Knew: Letting Go of Religion" is the culmination of much of the questioning that he had been experiencing. Below is a chapter from the book:

Love Hermeneutic

Much of his theology is driven by what I call his "love hermeneutic".  Joshua determines what is right and wrong by whether it is loving or not.  And we know intuitively whether something is loving.

New Thought

Although he still embraces healing, he began to question the dynamics of it.

Eventually, he embraces New Thought and/or Law of Attraction.  This is something that I feel the Church as not really grappled with relative to it's growing popularity.  Joshua attempts to integrate it with his Christianity.  

Here are some video of Joshua talking about New Thought ideas:

How to Use Thoughts, Words, and Feelings to Create the Life You Want
The Power of THOUGHT & The Secret Laws of The Universe!

This marks a major shift in the ministry of Joshua as we see him move away from a Christ based message to a New Thought based message.  He soon produces his 2nd book "The Secret to Awesomeness"

Questioning Christianity

Recently, Joshua has really begun questioning Christianity altogether.

On his podcast, The Flipside, He's had some atheist or borderline atheist guests on recently:

Joshua Tongol and Mirror-Reading

It's difficult to pin Joshua down on a Bible verse.  If there is a verse in the Old Testament that doesn't support his position, then he'll say it's not valid because it's in the Old Testament, and we're no longer under the Old Covenant.  If there is a verse in one of the epistles that doesn't support his position, then it's not valid because we really should listen to only the words of Jesus (e.g. Red Letter Christianity).  If there is a verse that Jesus speaks that doesn't support his position, then it's not valid because Jesus spoke it before the New Covenant.  But ultimately, because of his "love hermenutic", he can invalidate a Bible verse simply because he intuitively knows it's wrong.

There's only one point that I'll tackle in regards to mirror-reading.  As mentioned above, Joshua excludes some words of Jesus from being relevant to us because spoke them before the New Covenant.  However, the Gospels are not just a historical record of the life of Jesus.  They were crafted to address issues in the Church AFTER the New Covenant was established.  If some words of Jesus were not relevant because he spoke them while the Old Covenant was in place, then why did the Gospel authors write to the Church about it?  If they wrote about it, it must have been relevant.  If you haven't already, be sure to check out my video on mirror-reading narratives.  It's one thing to disagree with a Bible verse, it's another to disagree with it because of a misunderstanding of why the Gospels were written. (Edit: My comments regarding Joshua's approach to the Bible are based on what he has previously articulated and do not represent his current views)

Questions For Joshua Tongol

I’ve listed a couple of open questions to Joshua below. I welcome a response from Joshua, whether as a guest post, a response on his own blog or simply in the comments below.

1. What are your thoughts on mirror-reading?
2. Do you want to respond to anything that I've written above?

Questions For My Readers

What do you think of Joshua? Do you agree with his take on things? Who else do you think is an "interesting voice"?





Haggai: Was The Temple Proof That God Was No Longer With Them?

Things hadn't gone well for the Jews who had returned from the Babylonian exile and had begun rebuilding the Temple.  They began to wonder if God was no longer with them, but Haggai let's them know the real reasons why rebuilding the Temple had been such a struggle.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings and, although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading The Book Of Haggai Gives Us A Greater Understanding

The Temple stood partially built, but enthusiasm began to wane as obstacles arose.  Perhaps God was no longer with them.  They had, after all, broken His covenant before the exile, and a new covenant had not been formed.  Perhaps He was no longer their God. If He was still their God, wouldn't He make the new Temple more glorious than the 1st?  It didn't appear that way.  Also, when they had returned to the land to rebuild the Temple, a famine had come upon them.  Surely that was not a good sign.  Maybe they should worship some of the pagan fertility gods.

Even if they did rebuild the Temple, it would be vulnerable to attack, since the walls of Jerusalem had yet to be rebuilt.  No sense filling it with gold and silver if it would just get looted by surrounding enemies.  Could they really trust a God that wasn't able to defeat the Babylonian army anyway?  Perhaps He wasn't the strong war God that they were looking for.  

3 Ways That Haggai Showed How God Was Still with Them

Haggai responds to all of the criticisms that were being leveled against God and His Temple.  First, he reassures them that God was still there God.  His covenant with them still stood even though they had broken it.

Haggai 1:13
Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord's message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.”
Haggai 2:4
Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts,
Haggai 2:5
according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.

Second, Haggai let's them know the real reason why there had been a famine.  It was not because they had moved back into the land, but that they had delayed rebuilding the Temple. 

Haggai 1:9-10
You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce.

Haggai points out that the famine ended as soon as they started to rebuild it.

Haggai 2:19 (see also 2:15 and 2:18)
Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”

Finally Haggai addresses the issue of whether God was strong when it came to military matters:

Haggai 2:22
and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother.

Haggai also refers to God as "Lord of hosts" (see 1:9, 2:4, 2:8, 2:9, 2:11, and 2:18) which is another way of saying "Lord of armies". There would also be no need to fear any looting of the gold and silver that might be in the Temple as God lays claim to it.

Haggai 2:8
The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts.

He also reassured them that He was with them by saying that the new Temple would be glorious, even more so than the first one:

Haggai 2:9
The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’”

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Haggai?  Was Haggai trying to reassure the Jews in this way?  What other situations do you think Haggai was responding to?



Preston Sprinkle: Graceful Critic, Committed To The Text

Challenging both sides on issues, Preston Sprinkle keeps his focus on the Biblical text.

This is part of a series which I'm calling "Interesting Voices".  You can see the whole series here.  They run the spectrum from conservative to progressive, little known to well known.  They may or may not already be familiar with mirror-reading. I may or may not agree with them theologically, but regardless, I think they are interesting voices speaking to the Christian community today.  The purpose of the series is to both raise awareness of mirror-reading and to introduce you to these voices.

Preston is the Vice President for the Eternity Bible College Boise extension. I think it's great that Eternity is committed to keeping their students debt free. He also blogs at Theology In The Raw.

Views On Hell

I first heard of Preston when I was talking to Chris Date from Rethinking Hell.  Chris mentioned that even though Preston was a traditionalist in regards to hell, he had given conditionalism a fair shake.  Preston wrote a book with Francis Chan on hell.  He recounts a conversation with Francis:

 So I called Francis (he was living in SF at the time) and asked him about his assumptions regarding hell—details about hell that that he saw clearly in the text. Among those assumptions was ECT, or everlasting conscious torment. I slowly gulped and gathering my thoughts and said, “What if I told you that the duration of hell wasn’t that clear? What if I could show you some good, biblical arguments in favor of annihilation?” After summarizing a few of the strongest arguments in favor of annihilation, Francis—being the Biblicist that he is—responded, “Really? Wow. Hmm…I’ve never noticed that before. Well, if the text isn’t as clear as we thought, then we can only go as far as the text demands. We’re not allowed to go beyond the text.”

Francis gains my respect for making a comment like that.  Preston has written a series of posts on hell and annihilation. Also, check out Chris Date's interviews with Preston:

Cutting Through Preconceptions

Preston brings his open-mindedness to all of his research.  He tries to stay as objective as possible, not reading his own theology into the text.  I think he does a great job.  Here are a few blog posts of his that show his dedication to cut through people's preconceptions and focus them on the Biblical text:

Who Was Mary Magdalene?
The Esther You Never Knew
Angels Don’t Have Wings

He carries that dedication into his radio show called "What Does The Bible Really Say?" (Now called "Theology in the Raw"). You can listen here or here:

Gracious Interactions

As I've followed Preston on twitter, I've noticed his interactions with people are some of the most gracious I've seen, even with people he disagrees with.  We all get a little too snarky sometimes but we don't always apologize.  I respect Preston for his Christ-like manner in which he engages people.  Some time ago, he had a misstep with one of his blog posts.  He followed up with an apology:

First, the tone of my last blog was self-righteous and egotistical. I assumed I knew way more than I do, especially when it comes to matters of intersectionality, race, oppression, and sexuality. I’ve been in dialogue with several people (off-line, Skype, phone conversations, FB exchanges, etc.) about these matters, and the one thing I’ve learned is that I have so much to learn! The tone of my last blog came off like I really understood the nature of systemic injustice and racism, and now, after talking to several people who have experienced such injustice and racism first-hand, I’ve learned that I need to close my mouth more often and listen. I’ve aired my ignorance online and it’s super embarrassing. Most of all, it’s hurt some people and I’m truly sorry for the pain that my arrogance has caused.

As much as he probably doesn't want me to rehash the incident, I think it says a lot about his character, and I respect him for it.  You can read the rest here.

Homosexuality And Christianity

Preston has immersed himself in the issue of homosexuality and Christianity and has produced a book on the topic.  He levels a critique at Ken Wilson's third way:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

He also has a great series of debates with Jeff Cook on homosexuality.

Here's a video promoting Preston's book:

Tackling Both Sides

He's not afraid of taking on both sides of the debate and takes on Kevin DeYoung in a few posts:

Kevin DeYoung’s New Book on Homosexuality: A Critical Review (Part 1)
Kevin DeYoung’s New Book on Homosexuality: A Critical Review (Part 2)

40 Questions minus 1 for Those Who Have 40 Questions

He also tackles John Piper on Romans 7, and I think he's right on:

Does Romans 7 Describe a Believer or Unbeliever?
A Response to John Piper on Romans 7


Preston's next book will deal with discipleship. He's been blogging about it in preparation for the book:

There’s some disagreement on what it means to be a disciple. The most common definition seems to be: “becoming more like Jesus.” Sounds like a pretty good definition, right? Well, sort of. But it all depends on what we think it means to be “like Jesus.”

That reminds me of the day I took off my WWJD bracelet because the Bible was challenging my preconceptions of what I thought Jesus would do. Be sure to follow along as Preston blogs about discipleship here.

Theology In The Raw

He also has a great series explaining "The New Perspective On Paul".  I think I understand the New Perspective better from reading his posts than I did after talking with N.T. Wright! 

Preston desires to interact with "theological, cultural, biblical, and political issues with scholarly bite but in layman's language." I say, well done, sir!

Mirror-Reading And Preston Sprinkle

I listened to quite a few episodes of Preston’s radio show mentioned above.  He does an episode on each book of the Bible, so I’ll do a quick critique of some of those.  Some of my issues with him may simply be semantics, but I will still mention them.

1 Corinthians

Preston does a pretty good job mirror-reading by talking about the divisions that were taking place in the Corinthian church, such as the issues with the Lord’s supper.  He also uses the analogy of “hearing half of the phone conversation”.  That’s always a good sign, and I was happy to hear him say that.


With Ephesians, he says that it’s different because it was written to a broad audience, and therefore, is not responding to anything.  It may be that it was intended for a broad audience, but that doesn’t mean Paul wasn’t responding to anything.  For example, John Piper’s book on Justification was intended for a broad audience but it is, in large part, a response to N.T. Wright’s views on the matter.  You can read some of my thoughts on Ephesians here.


Preston doesn’t take a hard stance on whether we should take Jonah as literal or as a parable.  I’m fine with that, but either way, I think it’s a parallel.  The question is, parallel to what?  I haven’t figured that out yet, but Preston does make the mistake of not mirror-reading a narrative.


With Nahum, Preston says that it’s not about Israel.  Well, that’s true, but I was getting nervous until he said the author wanted Israel to know about Nineveh.  So, yes, Nahum is not about Israel because it talks about Nineveh, but it kind of is about Israel because it’s purpose is to address issues in Israel.  You can read some of my thoughts on Nahum here.

Overall, I think Preston does a pretty good job of mirror-reading. Better than most.  He doesn’t mirror-read in much detail but that’s typical, and one of the reasons this site exists is to develop ways to mirror-read in more detail, yet remain accurate.  Besides, his radio episodes aren’t that long, so he can’t really go into that much detail anyway.

Questions For Preston Sprinkle

I’ve listed a couple of open questions to Preston below. I welcome a response from Preston, whether as a guest post, a response on his own blog or simply in the comments below.

1. What are your thoughts on mirror-reading?
2. Do you want to respond to anything that I've written above?

Questions For My Readers

What do you think of Preston? Do you agree with his take on things? Who else do you think is an "interesting voice"?



Are There Hidden Prophecies In Ephesians?

Two prophetic words that lay hidden in Ephesians were part of the battleground between Paul and the false teachers.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings and, although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading Ephesians Gives Us A Better Understanding

False teachers in Ephesus were teaching that the apostles had laid a nice, foundational teaching, but they didn't know the whole story.  Prophetic words had been spoken by prophets in the Church, and the false teachers had been using them to support their teachings.  They said the apostles didn't have prophetic revelation like the prophets did.  Paul responds to the false teachers and quotes some of the prophetic words in order to correctly interpret them.

How Paul Corrects The False Teachers And Interprets The Prophetic Words

Paul uses the conjunction "and" to put the apostles and prophets on the same level.  Speaking of the Church, he points out that it had been built on the foundational teachings of the apostles and prophets.  The prophets were not adding to the foundation, and they both taught the same thing: Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:20
being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone;

Paul also points out that God not only gave revelation to the prophets, but to the apostles as well.

Ephesians 3:5
which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;

Paul specifically refers to himself as receiving revelation.

Ephesians 3:3
how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.

Does Paul Misquote the Bible?

In chapter 4, Paul writes a quote:

Ephesians 4:8
Therefore he says, “When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”

This sounds very close to Psalm 68:18 but is slightly off.  Some assume that Paul misquotes the Psalm.  Others argue that he was quoting a different version.  However, New Testament writers usually write something such as “According to the Scriptures” or “According to the Prophet Isaiah” when quoting the Old Testament.  We don't find that in 4:8.  Since the context points to issues with the prophetic, I believe Paul is quoting one of the prophets in the Church at that time.

The false teachers were saying that someone other than Christ had ascended on high, and that someone other than Christ had given gifts.  Paul responds:

Ephesians 4:9-10
(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Again, he puts apostles and prophets on the same level but also expands the list to other offices:

Ephesians 4:11-12
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

We find another prophetic word in chapter 5:

Ephesians 5:14b
Therefore he says, “Awake, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

The false teachers in Ephesus were misinterpreting the prophetic word by saying that Christ would only be their Lord after they died - Lord of the dead, so to speak.  New Testament writers respond to this elsewhere by calling Christ, Lord of the living and the dead.  

Paul spins the prophetic word in different direction by saying:

Ephesians 5:13-14
 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Paul may have been responding to the "Lord of the dead" aspect in chapter 2, by saying that they were already dead:

Ephesians 2:1
You were made alive when you were dead in transgressions and sins,
Ephesians 2:5
even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by favor you have been saved)

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Ephesians?  Are the quotes that Paul writes really prophetic words?  What other situations do you think Paul was responding to in Ephesians?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Vladimer Shioshvili derivative of original

Romans: Should Jews Be Included In The Church?

Paul had spent most of his Christian career trying to convince others that the Gentiles should be included in the Church.  By the time he writes Romans, the tables had started to turn.

Mirror-Reading Romans Gives Us A Greater Understanding

Far away from the land of Judea and in the epicenter of a Gentile empire, the Roman Gentile Christians began to see the Jews as inferior.  False teachers were saying that in order to accept the Gentiles, God had rejected the Jews.  Salvation was no longer available to them because they had rejected Christ.  Paul responds against this false teaching his letter to the Romans.

How Paul Proved That Jews Could Be Part Of The Church

Paul wastes no time addressing the issue and states in the first chapter that salvation is available to the Jews.

Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Even though they had rejected Him, God still makes salvation available to the Jews.

Romans 3:1-4a
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means!

Paul makes clear that he wants the Jews to be saved and then lists their qualities in relation to God:

Romans 9:3-5
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.  They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Paul plainly states that he wants them to be saved

Romans 10:1
Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.

God has not rejected the Jews

Romans 11:1-2a
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

Even though Paul was sent to the Gentiles, he hoped that one of the byproducts of his ministry would be to make the Jews jealous and provoke them to be saved. He continues that even though the Jews had been broken off from the people of God, God could still bring them back in. And that the Gentiles should not be arrogant about their position with God because God could break them off too.

Romans 11:13-24
Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

The Jews were not the enemies of the Gentiles and should be included in the Church through Christ.

Romans 11:28
As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Romans?  @@Was Paul trying to counter the idea that Jews couldn't be part of the Church?@@  What other situations do you think Paul was responding to in Romans?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Moyan Brenn cropped from original

Was Nahum's Prophecy Trying To Boost Jerusalem's Economy?

After the failed siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians, the Jews still feared their return, and Jerusalem suffered because of it.  Nahum's prophecy would potentially give the economy in Jerusalem a boost.

Mirror-Reading The Book of Nahum Gives Us A Greater Understanding

The Assyrian army had conquered the northern kingdom of Israel (Did you know that?).  The southern kingdom was next on the chopping block, but after suffering losses foretold by the prophet Isaiah, they withdrew to the Assyrian capital, Nineveh.  However, the Jews were nervous about them returning.  The Assyrians had regained their footing and went on to conquer Thebes, a well fortified Egyptian city. Was Jerusalem next?

The Jews were supposed to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year to celebrate their feasts and pay their tithes.  This would have been a huge boost to the Jerusalem economy as the pilgrims would have been required to spend money while there.  However, a looming invasion would make any pilgrim hesitant of making the journey.  No Jew wanted to find themselves in the middle of a conflict or trapped inside the walls of Jerusalem if the Assyrian army arrived.   The pilgrimages made everyone vulnerable. and no one wanted to get caught with their pants down, so to speak.

How Nahum's Prophecy Tried To Boost The Economy In Jerusalem

Nahum's primary objective was to convince the Jews that the Assyrians would not invade again so that they'll feel comfortable making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Nahum makes it clear:

Nahum 1:9
What do you plot against the Lord?
    He will make a complete end;
    trouble will not rise up a second time.
Nahum 1:15 (LEB)
Look! On the mountains!
    The feet of the one who brings good tidings,
        the one who proclaims peace!
Celebrate a festival, O Judah,
    Fulfill your vows!
For he will not invade you again;

    the wicked one is cut off completely!”

Nahum predicts the destruction of Nineveh, but in the mind of many at that time, it may have seemed unlikely.  Nineveh was well fortified, not only with walls, but with water too.  It sat on the banks of the Tigris river, and it also had canals on the other side that could act as moats.  On the side with no canals, they could simply flood with water.  There was also a river that ran through the city that would provide it with fresh drinking water if it came under siege.  All of this water provided a formidable defense that would not make life easy for an would-be invader.

Fortress Nineveh

Nahum responds by pointing out that the Egyptian city of Thebes was well fortified and had a natural water defense also, yet the Assyrians were still able to conquer it.  If Thebes could be conquered, so could Nineveh.

Nahum 3:8
Are you better than Thebes
    that sat by the Nile,
with water around her,
    her rampart a sea,
    and water her wall?

Nahum projects God's power over water early in his prophecy:

Nahum 1:4
He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
    he dries up all the rivers;

Bashan and Carmel wither;
    the bloom of Lebanon withers.

The aftermath of Nineveh's destruction is described as lacking water:

Nahum 2:8
Nineveh is like a pool
    whose waters run away.
“Halt! Halt!” they cry,
    but none turns back.

However, most fascinating is the method of how Nineveh would be conquered:

Nahum 1:8
But with an overflowing flood
he will make a complete end of the adversaries,
    and will pursue his enemies into darkness.

One ancient account describes Nineveh being conquered because the Tigris river overflowed and flooded the city, causing the walls to falter.  The very thing that was supposed to make Nineveh formidable was actually it's downfall. Nahum describes it this way:

Nahum 2:6
The river gates are opened;
    the palace melts away;

So overall, Nahum makes a solid case that the Assyrians are not a threat and hopes the Jews will make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and inject the city with much needed capital.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Nahum?  Was Nahum addressing a financial need of Jerusalem?  What other situations do you think Nahum was responding to?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Portable Antiquities Scheme cropped from original

Mirror-Reading Parallel And Apocalyptic Books

I had a post ready to go for the Book of Jonah, but on review, I decided it wasn't a very probable mirror-reading.  It had already been one of the more difficult books I've tried to mirror-read, and it remains stubbornly so.  Whether it's fictional or not is almost irrelevant when it comes to mirror-reading.  Either way, I believe it's a parallel to a situation in Israel at the time it was written.  The question is, what is the situation that it was parallel to?  The internal evidence points in a few different directions and, as of right now, I don't feel I have a good enough grasp of the Old Testament in order to navigate those waters (no pun intended).

What makes parallel books like Jonah and perhaps Job, difficult is that there is an extra layer that you have to go through in order to mirror-read them. It's like the "charms" screen on Microsoft Windows.  It's just a screen you have to go through in order to get to the desktop.  Likewise, with Jonah, one must figure out what it is parallel to before figuring out the situational context.  

I haven't mirror-read any apocalyptic books of the Bible yet, and I'm not keen on trying at this time either.  The symbolic nature of them acts as an extra layer that I would have to go through in order to mirror-read them. I would take a stab at one in the New Testament but the only one in the NT is Revelation, which has more chapters than what I feel like tackling right now.

So, although I'm disappointed that my mirror-reading of Jonah was shattered, I enjoyed discovering the additional insight of how parallels and apocalyptic books relate to mirror-reading.

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Bill Harrison derivative of original

Gospel of Mark: Was Jesus A Rogue Son?

Jesus out of control? A conflict between the Father and the Son? Who's idea was it to save the world anyway? Mark addresses the situation in his Gospel.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings, and although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading the Gospel Of Mark Gives Us A Greater Understanding

False teachers were arguing that, yes, Jesus did provide salvation for the Gentiles, but that was not God's plan.  Jesus was not loved by God and God disapproved of him.  Jesus was a son that had gone rogue, and saving the Gentiles was not God the Father's will. Mark responds to this false teaching in the Gospel of Mark.

How Mark Proved That Jesus Had Not Gone Rogue

Mark points out twice that Jesus is not just God the Father's son, but His beloved son.  There was no schism between the two, and God the Father was pleased with Jesus.

Mark 1:11
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark 9:7
And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

Secondly, when it came to the whole idea of dying on the cross for the sins of the world (including the Gentiles), Mark is sure to point out that it was, in fact, God the Father's will.

Mark 14:36
And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Gospel of Mark?  @@Was Mark trying counter the idea that there was a schism between the Father and the Son?@@  What other situations do you think Mark was responding to?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Mindaugas Danys cropped from original

Acts, Galatians and Mirror-Reading

Phillip J. Long has a nice post on mirror-reading over at Reading Acts. He suggests that Acts could be useful when mirror-reading Galatians. I absolutely agree. There are some concerns about Luke's theological agenda as a writer but as long as mirror-reading to discover the false teachings is primary, I don't think it's an issue, but rather an asset. I've discussed supporting texts for mirror-reading before in my video, Supporting Texts for Mirror-Reading A Book of the Bible

Ecclesiastes: Trying To Achieve The Perfect Life?

There was an ancient philosophy that taught how to achieve the perfect life.  The "Teacher" in Ecclesiastes responds to this philosophy.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings and, although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading The Book Of Ecclesiastes Gives Us A Greater Understanding

From the numerous references to youth and how to deal with the king, we can infer that the Book of Ecclesiastes was aimed at young courtiers who interacted with the king on occasion.  These courtiers had embraced, or were at least exploring, a philosophy that held that one could achieve a perfect life, perhaps even avoiding death.  This was achieved by going to extremes, either of wisdom and righteousness or folly and wickedness.  The results of this philosophy had caused them to become greedy, envious and oppressive of the poor.  They also tended to be argumentative to achieve what they wanted, spewing words at the king and even at God. The "Teacher" in Ecclesiastes teaches to counter this philosophy.

Six Points That The "Teacher" Uses To Shut Down The So Called Perfect Life Philosophy

1. The Teacher already tried the philosophy and it didn't work

The "Teacher" also called "Preacher" in some Bible translations, or "Koheleth" in the Hebrew, was also a king.  If anyone was able to go to the extremes, it would be him.  The pursuit of wisdom was upheld and encouraged in the wisdom literature of the Bible, but folly is never shown as something to be pursued.  However, the Teacher pursues both extremes because the author of Ecclesiastes is not responding to Biblical wisdom teachings but the so called "perfect life philosophy". 

Ecclesiastes 1:16-17 (see also 2:9)
I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.

This gives rise to one of the most bizarre passages when compared to the rest of the Bible:

Ecclesiastes 7:16-18
Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.

"Don't be too righteous" sounds odd but makes more sense when one realizes that the Teacher is responding to a philosophy that was promoting extremes in order to achieve a perfect life.

So the young courtiers are encouraged to not bother pursuing the philosophy because the Teacher already pursued both extremes, and concludes that it is a "chasing after the wind"

Ecclesiastes 2:12
So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done.

2. God controls the good times and the bad times and they can't be changed

@@The Teacher explains that God sets the "times" and they can't be changed by extreme wisdom or folly@@.

Ecclesiastes 3:14-15
I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

What will be, will be and there is nothing the young courtiers could do about it.

Ecclesiastes 1:9
What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun.

The young courtiers had been trying to make their paths straight by eliminating all the bad times, but the Teacher responds:

Ecclesiastes 7:13 (see also 1:15)
Consider the work of God:
    who can make straight what he has made crooked?

But God ordains all the times, both good and bad:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:17
 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.

3. They can't know the future

Although there are plenty of examples of prophets of God foretelling the future, the young courtiers thought they could foretell the future with wisdom.  The Teacher said that's impossible.

Ecclesiastes 3:11
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
Ecclesiastes 6:12
For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?
Ecclesiastes 8:17
then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.
Ecclesiastes 7:14
In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.
Ecclesiastes 11:3-6
If the clouds are full of rain,
    they empty themselves on the earth,
and if a tree falls to the south or to the north,
    in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
He who observes the wind will not sow,
    and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
Ecclesiastes 9:11
Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.

Although all of the times were planned by God, they would not be able to figure out what the plan was, so that "time and chance" happened to them all.

4. Shut your mouth

The Teachers also addresses the issue of being argumentative in order to achieve their desires:

Ecclesiastes 5:2
Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.
Ecclesiastes 6:10
Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he.
Ecclesiastes 10:14
A fool multiplies words,
    though no man knows what is to be,
    and who can tell him what will be after him?
Ecclesiastes 6:11
The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man?

5. They will die eventually

All of their wisdom and folly would not be able to save them from death.  

Ecclesiastes 9:1-3
But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
Ecclesiastes 7:2
It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
    and the living will lay it to heart.
Ecclesiastes 8:8
No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.
Ecclesiastes 9:10
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

6. Enjoy life

After destroying the philosophy that the young courtiers were pursuing, the Teacher gives guidance on how they then should live:

Ecclesiastes 2:24
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,
Ecclesiastes 5:18
Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.
Ecclesiastes 5:19
Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.
Ecclesiastes 3:22
So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?
Ecclesiastes 8:15
And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.

Herding the Courtiers

@@The narrator of Ecclesiastes echoes the Teacher and warns the young courtiers not to go to extremes@@.

Ecclesiastes 12:11-12
The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd.  My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Goads and nails were used by shepherds to keep the sheep from straying.  Likewise, the narrator uses the terms to describe the words of the Teacher to keep the young courtiers from straying into extremes.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Ecclesiastes?  Was the Teacher addressing young courtiers trying to achieve the perfect life?  What other situations do you think Ecclesiastes was responding to?