SABBATH The fourth of the ten commandments
required a day of rest (Hebrew sabbat) once a week "Remember the
sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor (do your work).
But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do
any work - you, your son, or your daughter, your male or female slave,
your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns" (Exodus 20:8-10).
But there was no universal day of the week to begin counting. Muslims rest
on Friday, and Jews begin Friday evening. Seventh Day Adventists still
keep Saturday as their sabbath. But people on shift work obviously can't
keep to their own nation's day of rest. The reason given for a day of rest
is that even God keeps to a rhythm of creative activity and relaxation.
"For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that
is them, and rested the seventh day," which in Genesis 1 obviously does
not refer to our human 24 hour days - the Lord has his own time scale.
The Pharisees made a "hedge" of 39 acts which were prohibited on the sabbath,
and they even condemned Jesus for healing on that day (Mark 3:1-6).
A Celtic warrior boasted that he used to kill an enemy every day of the
week, but when he became a Christian he killed two on Saturday so as not
to profane the sabbath ! (see SUNDAY Observance).
Jesus' answer was that the sabbath was made for humankind (ordinary men
and women), and not humans for the sabbath (Mark 2:27).
SABELLIANISM We know very little
of Sabellius, except that he taught (perhaps about 23O AD) in Rome that
the one eternal God is only one Person but experienced in a succession
of modes or operations. There is no difficulty in saying that we sometimes
experience God as Father, and often as God the Son by our side, and in
another ways as God the Holy Spirit working within us. But the Church's
doctrine of the TRINITY
declares that each of these manifestations is by a distinct eternal Person
in the loving family oneness of the eternal God. Sabellius model was decisively
rejected at the Council of Constantinople (381).
SACRIFICE See CROSS,
SACRIFICE Thanksgiving In addition
to the meat sacrifices offered by the Aaronic priests (Leviticus 1:1-17,
and 3:1-7:10), there was a cereal offering (2:1-16) which could
be offered as a sacrifice of thanksgiving (7:11-13). Already in
the psalms the LORD expresses his feelings about ANIMAL
SACRIFICE. "Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of
goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving" and "Those who bring thanksgiving
as a sacrifice honor me" (Psalm 50:13-14, 23). And the prophets
joined in with "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat
of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or
of goats" (Isaiah 1:11, Jeremiah 6:20). The LORD delights in our
expressions of thanksgiving (Psalm 69:30, 95:2, 100:4, 116:17, 147:7).
the last supper Jesus showed his disciples how to use the bread and wine
of an ordinary meal to express our THANKSGIVING.
We are to eat and drink with thankful hearts in remembrance of him and
the good news of the covenant he has made with us (Matthew 26:26-28,
Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:14-17, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The early Christians
called this COMMUNION
service the Eucharist (Greek eucharisteo
meaning to be thankful,
SADDAM HUSSEIN Born in 1937, his
father was killed by bandits, and his mother remarried a man who tormented
and beat Saddam. He was jailed (1964) for two years for opposing the government,
but Saddam Hussein came to power (1968) when the Bath party took over the
government. He fought a terrible war against Iran (1980-88) and attacked
Kuwait (1990) which resulted in the Gulf War (1991). As total dictator
(since 1982) any opponents were jailed, tortured and shot. He had the husbands
of his three daughters liquidated (1996). His official wife is Sajjida,
but three other wives are reported. His oldest son, Ujjay, is dangerous
and erratic. Qusay, the second son is his heir. Some claim that Saddam
loves Cuban Cigars, Johnny Walker Scotch, and Portuguese Rose wine. If
that is true, he would not be a strict MUSLIM,
But over two years he gave his blood for the writing of a copy of the QUR'AN,
which is deposited in the holy of holies of the huge Mother of All battles
MOSQUES). The Saddam Hussein Mosque will be five times as large
when it is completed (2015). Saddam Hussein admires Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562
BC) who took the Jews of Jerusalem into exile and built the hanging gardens
of Babylon (one of the seven wonders of the world). He also looks back
to Harun al-Rashid (Caliph 786-809 AD) and his son Mamun (Caliph 813-33)
the glittering focus of world civilization. Another hero is Saladin who
recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders (1187).
SADDUCEES Whereas the Pharisees
came mainly from the middle class, the Sadducees came from the families
of the high priests. Allied with the Herodians and the Roman government,
they became rich and very powerful. They laid more stress on the five books
of Moses than the later additions to the Torah. As opposed to the
Pharisees who believed in a future resurrection, the Sadducees "say that
there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit" (Acts 23:8). The
two groups were continually at loggerheads, but they made an unholy alliance
to have Jesus crucified (Matthew 16:1, Mark 3:6) . After
the resurrection many of the priests, who would have been Sadducees, came
to faith (Acts 6:7). But it seems that the Sadducees as a religious
grouping were decimated when the priesthood and temple were destroyed by
the Romans in the fall of Jerusalem (AD 70). Jesus warned the church about
the danger of Pharisee teaching (LEGALISM)
on the one hand and the Sadducee mentality that rejects miracle and the
work of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 16:6, 11-12).
SAILING the Wind of the Spirit
A sailor is not someone who knows the theory of how the wind changes, or
the dynamics of hull pressure in the water. What counts is actually taking
the tiller and sailing a boat. Jesus knew that the great Rabbi Nicodemus
was an expert in theological theory, but he was like a man sitting in a
boat with no experience of letting the wind move him (John 3:5-8).
The Hebrew word for Spirit is the same as the word for WIND
(ruakh). And the way the Spirit works is as unpredictable as the
light breezes and strong gales on a lake. "The wind blows where it chooses,
and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or
where it goes" (John 3:8). A sailor knows she cannot change the
water or the rocks and shoals of the lake. Nor can she force the wind to
increase or decrease, or to change direction. Our sailing parable suggests
that there is no point in complaining about what we cannot change, but
we are free to set the sails of our life to let the wind of the Spirit
move us in the direction we want to go. When the wind is contrary we will
have to take a tack to one side, and come back on another, to make slower
progress. We may have to wait for the wind when we are becalmed, or sit
quietly in harbor during a storm. But the New Testament assures us that
the Wind of God can give us the wisdom and inspiration to do all that is
important for us to be perfected in the love of God (Romans 8:1-39).
SAINT BARTHOLOMEW'S DAY For the
massacre (23-24 August 1572) see
SALADIN (1138-93) In the first
of the CRUSADES
(1095) Jerusalem was taken (1099), and thousands of Muslims were massacred.
Godfrey of Bouillon was made king of the new Frankish state of Jerusalem.
To celebrate this he organized another massacre of Muslims in Haifa. Salah
al-Din, known as Saladin, had been a Muslim theologian, but he found himself
appointed as the Vizier of Egypt (1168). He gave up drinking wine and all
the amusements which rulers normally enjoyed, and vowed to retake Jerusalem
from the Franks. Two years later he was proclaimed the Sultan of Egypt
and Syria (1171). He finally felt ready to declare a jihad (holy
war) against the Franks (1187). He took Tiberias, and a Crusader counter
attack was decimated on the hills of Hittin above the Lake of Galilee.
Acre and Nablus surrendered to him, and all other cities to the north.
After 88 years of Christian occupation, when Saladin recaptured Jerusalem
(1187) he was generous in victory, and Christian life and property were
protected. But a third Crusade (1189-92) was quickly mounted to take back
the city. Richard I , King of England (1189-99), took Acre (1191) and butchered
the entire garrison with their wives and children. The Crusaders managed
to hold the coastal area, but did not regain Jerusalem (it was taken briefly
in the sixth crusade in 1229 and finally lost in 1244). . Saladin died
aged 55, greatly lamented as the restorer of Muslim honor against the invading
infidels from Europe. Naturally he was viewed as a role model by SADDAM
SALAMIS When Paul and Barnabas
sailed from ANTIOCH
in Syria "they sailed to CYPRUS,
and they landed at the port of Salamis at the eastern end of the island
As they would do again and again in other journeys "they proclaimed the
word of God in the
SYNAGOGUE of the Jews"
religion and ideology offers a way of being saved from what is wrong with
us or our world (SIN). Original BUDDHISM
sought salvation from the desire that bound one to the interminable wheel
was based on salvation from the grip of class differences. One form of
Christian Theology offers salvation from ORIGINAL
SIN. An analysis of some ways of salvation is given in God
of Many Names
chapters 2 to 4. The model
of salvation presented on this website is salvation
from all that prevents us being perfected in the love of God.
SAMARIA The building of the city
(1 Kings 16:24), and its importance as the capital of Samaria is
mentioned again and again in the Old Testament (1 Kings 22:39).
The city was taken by the Assyrians (722 BC), the people exiled and other
people settled there (2 Kings 17:24-28). As a result the Jews of
Jerusalem despised them and had no dealing with them (though Jesus ignored
this prejudice, John 4:9, see SAMARITAN).
The city was taken over and rebuilt (named Sebaste, modern Sebatiye,
9 km (5.6 miles) north-west of Nablus ) by the Romans (57 BC) and became
part of the kingdom of Herod the Great. After the Day of Pentecost PHILIP
the Evangelist preached and baptized converts there, and the apostles
Peter and John came down (35 miles, 56 km as the crow flies) from Jerusalem
to constitute them as a church of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:5-25).
SAMARITAN She was from a despised
mixed race with whom good Jews had no dealings. She was also a woman. Every
day devout males would say "Blessed be thou, O God, for not making me a
woman," and they would certainly not speak to a strange woman at a well.
In her story we also discover she was promiscuous, having lived with five
different men, and she was currently into adultery with a married man (John
4:7-18). She knew nothing of the love of God, or the gracious character
of the Messiah that she expected. To her astonishment, not only did the
Messiah come to talk to her, but she discovered that in his books no one
is too bad or beyond the pale. All she needed was the "spring of water
gushing up to eternal life," the Spirit that was free for the asking (John
4:7-24). He could take care of the hurts and mess of her life.
SAMOS During his third overseas
missionary journey, Paul's ship "touched at Samos" (anchored) for only
a day on the way from Assos to Miletus (Acts 20:15). The island
was the birthplace of Pythagoras (c.580-500 BC). It became part of the
Roman Province of ASIA
Minor and was made independent under Roman rule (17 BC). There
is a narrow strait (1.2 miles, 2 km) that separates Samos from the mainland
just 25 miles (40 km) south-west of Ephesus. So we can assume that a church
was planted there while Paul "argued daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.
This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews
and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord" (Acts 19:9-10).
SANCTUARY One modern term for "sanctuary"
goes back to the cities of refuge which were set aside to protect whose
who had accidentally killed someone (Numbers 35:6, 9-12). And there
are still cases of people finding "sanctuary" in a church building. There
are also animal sanctuaries where endangered species can find refuge. More
often we refer to a building set aside for the worship of God as a sanctuary.
In the Bible this goes back to the making of the movable tabernacle and
later the temple of Solomon. "Have them make me a sanctuary, so that I
may dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8, 1 Chronicles 22:19, 28:10).
But Jesus announced the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (Matthew
24:1-2), and there is no suggestion of building another temple at a
future date. Instead, each gathering of Christians becomes a temple of
the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 2:16, Ephesians 2:21, 1 Peter 2:5).
And these often met in homes - church buildings came much later. These
gatherings prepare us for worship in the temple of heaven (Revelation
7:15, 11:19) which is called "the temple of the tent of witness in
heaven" (Revelation 15:5). But that temple is not a physical building.
John "saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty
and the Lamb" (Revelation 21:22).
SANGHA see BUDDHISM,
SANHEDRIN In Jesus' day the Sanhedrin
(Greek sunedrion meaning seated together) consisted of the High
Priest as President and seventy members (based on Numbers 11:16-17,
24-27). These were an OLIGARCHY
of priests, theologians (scribes), and elders (probably drawn from the
Jerusalem synagogues). Under Rome they had been delegated power in legal
and religious matters, but they had no authority to carry out a death sentence
18:30-31). This was why they had to get Pilate the Roman Governor to
order Jesus' crucifixion . They could be convened by the governor's order
(Acts 22:30). The Sanhedrin trial of Jesus was seriously illegal.
There were no defense witnesses. The actual trial was during the night
before Caiaphas (Mark 14:53-64, Matthew 26:57) but they kept to
the letter of the law by confirming their decision at daybreak (Mark
15:1, Matthew 27:1). A death sentence could not be pronounced till
at least one day after the trial, but Jesus was put on the cross by mid-morning.
There was the same illegal haste in the stoning of Stephen (Acts 6:12,
7:57-60). The Sanhedrin President had authority over synagogues in
other cities (Acts 9:1-2). But where there were over 120 Jewish
men in a city, they could have a local Sanhedrin (as perhaps in Matthew
5:22, 10:17, 2 Corinthians 11:24).
SARACENS The Greeks called the
nomadic tribes of the Syrian and Arabian deserts sarakenoi, so in
their ignorance the Crusaders from Europe dismissed all Arabs as barbaric
Saracens who had occupied the Holy Land (see CRUSADES).
SARDIS The Apostle John wrote to
the seven churches of ASIA
Minor (Revelation 1:4). Sardis (Revelation 3:1) was
50 miles (80 km) as the crow flies north-west of Ephesus, but there is
no evidence that Paul visited there. But Luke recorded that, as a result
of teaching in the hall of Tyrannus for two years, "all the residents of
Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord" (Acts 19:10).
So Sardis was a daughter church planted by members of Paul's team or by
Christians of Ephesus traveling inland.
SARGON of Agade (Akkad) The name
Sargon (Akkadian sarru-ken
meaning the King is legitimate) may be
another name for NIMROD
who came up from CUSH
and took over theSUMERIAN cities (Genesis
10:8-12). But Sargon of Agade (2371-2230 BC) is more likely to be the
son or grandson of Nimrod who claimed an empire from Telmun (Dilmun) to
Cyprus, but viewed himself as the rightful heir of the previous Sumerian
kings and used their language for many purposes.
SATAN The Old Testament Hebrew
term that was translated diabolos
in the Greek New Testament was
the adversary (as in
Job 1:6-12, 2:1-7, Zechariah 3:1-2). The Hebrew
and Greek terms are combined in "The great dragon was thrown down, that
ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the
whole world" (Revelation 12:9). Satan was defeated by Jesus on the
cross. As Paul said, God "has rescued us from the power of darkness and
transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption
(freedom), the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:13-14). But, as
noted under DEVIL,
Satan can still do his work by persuading us of lies about God, lies about
who we are, and lies about others (as in Luke 22:31-32). Often he
"disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14),
and those who work for him often sound very plausible. The obvious result
is being possessed by guilt, and making others feel guilty (see Living
Totally: Without Guilt). This suggests that satanic possession
occurs when a person first accepts and then is given over to the lies of
Satan (Luke 11:14-20). This is why delivering people from the lies
of Satan is as essential part of our good news.
SATANISM Being deceived by Satan's
lies is bad enough, and being possessed by a Satanic force is a terrible
condition. But Satanism is the deliberate worship of Satan instead of God
the Father. Instead of serving Jesus as Lord, Satanism demands the serving
of the Devil himself and promoting his interests. Instead of living by
the Holy Spirit of love, joy and peace, Satanism offers the unholy spirit
of attacking these and all that is true and good. A favorite method is
encouraging the OCCULT
to find guidance, and the use of black magic to harm others. In Philadelphia
the church was opposed by the "synagogue of Satan" who say they are Jews
and are not" (Revelation 3:9). In Thyatira the theologians of Satanism
taught "The deep things of Satan" (Revelation 2:24, see SATAN).
SAUDI ARABIA The name comes from
the Saud family, which goes back to the 15th. century. The family
became powerful when Muhammad ibn Saud allied himself with the WAHHABI
Sect of SUNNI ISLAM.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was proclaimed (1932) with Abd al-Aziz ibn
Saud as the first King. The first oil concession was given the next year
to the Standard Oil Company of California (reformed as Aramco in 1944).
As a result Saudi Arabia soon had a quarter of the oil reserves in the
world, and the Saudi became very rich and powerful. Though King Fahd (1982)
had tried to develop the country into a modern state, the Wahhabi mullahs
continued a powerful fundamentalist influence. No Christian churches were
allowed to meet, except in secret, the religious police required women
to be covered from head to toe on the streets, and any Arab who became
a Christian was publicly executed. Meanwhile the giving of alms (zakah)
was a requirement for every Muslim, and much of the millions of dollars
given for charity every year was channeled into building MOSQUES,
anti-American teaching, and fundamentalist organizations all over the world.
The planes that crashed into the Manhattan towers and the Pentagon on September
the 11th. 2001 were all flown by Saudi citizens. They belonged
to Al Quaida, which was brilliantly organized by Osama bin Laden,
a member of the Saudi royal family. And his main objective was the Wahhabi
demand for foreigners, especially Americans, to be removed from Arab lands.
SAVONAROLA, Girolamo (1452-98)
was an austere Dominican monk who moved to Forence (1482) where he preached
with great passion against immorality, luxury, vanity, and the corruption
of the clergy. He had a huge following, and by 1494 he controlled the city
by denouncing all who disagreed with his interpretation of the Bible. He
was forbidden to preach, and summoned to the Pope in Rome. When he refused,
he was excommunicated (1497) and hanged as a heretic. Jesus said "Give
to the emperor (the government) the things that are the emperor's, and
to God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21). And Savonarola
illustrates the danger of preachers of any religion controlling the political
process (see CALVIN,
ARABIA). State control of religion is equally obnoxious (e.g. MARXISM).
The United States and most modern countries are based on a sharp separation
of religion and state authority.
SCHWEITZER, Albert (1875-1965)
After qualifying as a physician, being a brilliant organ player, and then
becoming a theologian, at the age of 38 Schweitzer moved (1913)
to serve in a medical mission at Lambarene, Gabon, in Africa. This was
originally financed by organ recitals of Bach music, and his theological
writings which made him world famous. As a result he was given a Nobelprize.
Visitors flocked to visit his hospital, but when they found they had to
sit in a line of very public toilet holes over a stinking trench, they
moved on quickly. Other mission hospitals were horrified that he only used
Africans as menial workers, and never trained them as nurses or physicians.
His form of religion (compare JAINISM)
did not allow him to kill mosquitoes or termites, and he hated to see in
his microscope the amoeba that caused amoebic dysentery being killed by
modern drugs. He even halted an extension to his hospital in Africa because
the work would require destroying a nest of termites.
SCHOLASTICISM As universities developed
in Europe (Bologna, c.1100; Paris, 1150; Oxford, 1167; Cambridge 1209)
theology was viewed as the queen of the sciences. Truth about God was established
by a process of exact word definitions and deductive argument. The method
was based on the writings of Aristotle (384-322 BC) and AUGUSTINE
of Hippo (354-430 AD). Later this approach was used by Thomas Aquinas (c.1225-74).
But William of Occam (Okham, 1285-c.1349) rejected the attempt to establish
the Christian faith by human logic. On this website we use the insights
who proved that words (such as beauty, justice, love, God) have no essential
meaning. In each case we need to note the FORMS
OF LIFE (is this Music, biology, politics, a joke, a discussion
of creation?), and then learn carefully how the particular speaker or writer
uses a word (see LANGUAGE
GAMES) in that precise context.
SCHOOL In the New testament the
only reference to a school is the Hall of Tyrannus that Paul rented for
two years to explain the good news in Ephesus (Acts 19:9). But it
is important to remember that the definition of a Christian is a disciple
(Acts 11:26). And a disciple is someone enrolled to begin learning
from a teacher. The enrolment sign that Jesus used for his traveling school
of learners was baptism (John 4:1). There were no prerequisites,
and baptism did not guarantee that the enrolled would continue as disciples.
This is pictured in the parable of the Sower, and in fact there were many
drop-outs (see John 6:66). When the Messiah planned to build his
church (Matthew 16:18), he sent his apostles like Paul to plant
schools of the Holy Spirit in every city of the world (Matthew 28:19-20).
In that sense the church consists of disciples who are being taught the
love of God by the Spirit. And learning is hands-on by exercising one or
more gifts of the Spirit in the community (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).
This school model of the church is set out in Go
Make Learners. See CHURCH.
SCIENCE Richard Dawkins said "The
universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there
is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but
blind, pitiless indifference." The problem with this statement is that
there is no language for evil or good in physics. And the fact that Dawkins
himself is a brilliant scientist proves that he is not blind, and we hope
he is no pitiless. But how could he study his own blindness or brilliance,
his own compassion or pitiless indifference, with the existing scientific
language at his disposal? The Bible gives us the language we need to discuss
evil and good, being caring or pitiless, and a possible purpose for human
beings. After learning that language, it makes sense to discuss the patterns
and processes that science can illustrate for us. And more and more scientists
are beginning to see that, without God, nothing makes sense, especially
the scientific enterprise.
SCIENTOLOGY L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986
) wrote Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, 1950.
This offered a way to "get rid of the reactive mind - the source of your
stress, depression, anxiety, psychosomatic aches and pains, negative feelings,
stress." The book spawned hundreds of Dianetics Clubs, which grew into
The Church of Scientology. What is the goal of those who get involved in
this multi-million dollar enterprise? In God
of Many Names (1993 web publication, chapters 2 & 3) I suggest
four options for a person's ultimate goal (summum bonum): a theistic
heaven, a monistic oneness, a personal state in this life, and a social
state in this life. The main appeal for new disciples of Scientology is
the learning of psychological techniques to survive, face their problems,
and enjoy a happier life on earth. In that sense it is one of the many
means that are offered for self-help by psychological methods. But as it
has grown into The Church of Scientology, with all the services that other
denominations offer, there is also a concern for a social state in this
life which will preserve our world, animal and plant life, and some kind
of continuing spiritual existence. When he was alive every effort was made
to encourage faith in the founder, Ron Hubbard. That is still the main
thrust of the vast Church of Scientology website. It leaves no room for
faith in God as Creator, or Jesus as Messiah Son God, or the transforming
work of the Holy Spirit.
SCOFFERS One of the signs of a
proud despising spirit is scoffing at the opinions of others. Instead of
taking the other seriously, we adopt a contemptuous, mocking attitude.
Solomon noticed that the scoffer has no interest in learning from others
"How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?"
(Proverbs 1:22). Scoffing is the direct opposite of wisdom. "A scoffer
who is rebuked will only hate you; the wise, when rebuked will love you"
(9:8). By scorning every unfamiliar idea "a scoffer seeks wisdom
in vain" (14:6). And he is hated for his arrogance. "The proud,
haughty person, named "Scoffer," acts with arrogant pride" (21:24).
Even one scoffer in a family or group of friends (or a committee working
together) will cause disruption. "Drive out a scoffer, and strife goes
out; quarreling and abuse will cease" (22:10). The opposite of scoffing
is a humble willingness to learn from others, even if we disagree with
them (see HUMILITY).
One of the principles of Model Theology is that other ways of looking at
things are to be understood without caricature. We can clarify our mind
by understanding clearly what alternatives are adopted by others. And those
who disagree with us are always worthy of respect.
SCOPES TRIAL In July 1925 a biology
teacher was fined $100 by the State of Tennessee for teaching the theory
of evolution (see DARWIN,
Charles). On appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States the
law of Tennessee was upheld, but John T. Scopes was acquitted because he
had been fined "excessively." The law against teaching evolution was repealed
in 1967, but the discussion continues among Christians. Some maintain that
Darwin's theory of evolution is a denial of God's CREATION
as pictured in the first chapter of Genesis. We prefer to say that
merely a term for the changes that occur for example in the development
from a wheelbarrow to carts and carriages, the Model T Ford and the evolution
of the Mercedes (see
MAKING). Evolution in that sense allows for some chance happenings
(mutations) but it can never imply the mindless design of automobiles,
cakes, quilts, or humans (see THEISM).
SCOTLAND The Romans had found it
hard to control the northern part of Britain, and the Emperor Hadrian (Emperor
117-138) had Hadrian's Wall built from the Tyne to the Solway. From the
time of the Normans (1066) the English kings tried to control at least
the lowlands, leaving the Highlanders to themselves. The Scots revolted
from English control under Robert the Bruce (1306). He defeated Edward
II at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) and gained recognition for Scottish
independence (1328). Before the REFORMATION
the churches in Scotland were controlled by Bishops appointed by the Pope
in Rome. Under the influence of John KNOX
OF SCOTLAND became PRESBYTERIAN
(1560) with a confession of faith based on CALVINISM.
After James VI of Scotland became the joint King of England and Scotland
(1603) Scotland had a long struggle to retain its own institutions and
Presbyterian form of religion. The Scottish Covenanters supported Cromwell
in the civil war (1642), and after the restoration the CHURCH
OF SCOTLAND has remained independent and Presbyterian since 1690.
There is an interesting compromise whereby the Kings and Queens who reign
in London are required to belong to the CHURCH
OF ENGLAND while in England and they worship in the established
Church of Scotland when north of the border.
SCRIPTURE Sola Scriptura
(Latin for "by Scripture alone) expresses the fact that for the leaders
of the Reformation the only given is the Bible (66 books, see APOCRYPHA).
It should be used to argue Christian doctrine without including church
traditions. But Sola Scriptura tells us nothing about how the Bible
is to be interpreted (if your eye offends you, pull it out, if your hand
offends you, cut it off). It does not clarify the relationship of Jesus'
teaching to the patriarchy and genocide of the Old Testament. So different
groups invent their own rules for doing this. What counts is not the words
as written or as originally written but what God intended the Bible to
do. In that sense the Bible is infallible for what He intends it to do
in the world. And there is plenty of evidence that in hundreds of languages
God infallibly uses the Bible to effect all sorts of wonderful purposes.
Our assurance is not based on the scientific meaning of some texts, but
on God who does not fail (infallibly) to use the Scriptures to bless and
SECOND COMING Throughout
the Bible the Messiah Son of God is described as coming to intervene among
nations and in the lives of individuals. He came in the garden of Eden
(Genesis 3:8), he visited the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:5),
came to ABRAHAM
(Genesis 12:7, 17:1) and MOSES
(Exodus 3:4-6), and he came again and again in DAY
OF THE LORD interventions among the nations (Psalm 96:13, 98:9,
Comings of the Lord Among the Nations). The words come and coming
are used ten times to refer to the Lord's coming in the fall of Jerusalem
in AD 70 (Matthew 24 and 25). There are twelve other references
to the parousia
(coming) of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:23, 1
Thessalonians 3:13, 4:15, 5:3,23, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, James 5:7-8)
but there is not one text that speaks of that coming as a "second coming."
The one exception is "The Messiah, having been offered once to bear the
sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save
those who are eagerly waiting for him" (Hebrews 9:28). But this
"second time" coming is a Day of the Lord intervention (Hebrews10:25).
The purpose of the parousia
(coming) is to rescue us "from the WRATH
that is coming (1Thessalonians 1:10). It will be a time of hope
and joy (1 Thessalonians 2:19,
5:4) when "the lawless one"
is annihilated (2 Thessalonians 2:8), and Christians will "not be
put to shame" (1 John 2:28). Using this model the church's faith
in the coming again of the Lord is not looking to a final end but a coming
again to intervene in world history and judge among nations (Apostles'
and Nicene Creeds).
SECULARISM a previous Archbishop
of Canterbury set out four assumptions of a secular model of living. "1.
The temporal world is the only world which exists. Eternity is irrelevant
and meaningless. 2. Religion is to be dismissed. 3. Man's knowledge is
based solely upon observable phenomena. 4. Man's own potentialities of
knowledge suffice for all man's needs" (Arthur Michael Ramsey, God, Christ
and the World: A Study in Contemporary Theology. New York: Morehouse-
Barlow, 1969). On this website our response to secularism is first to admit
that there is no absolute scientific or historical proof for our model
of Trinitarian Theism. But there is also no scientific or historical proof
for any of the assumptions that people without faith in God take for granted.
"We should respect and be kind to others, love is better than hate, the
weak should be protected, murderers, rapists, and child abusers should
be sent to jail." Secularists try to answer that these values are necessary
for the preservation of the race. But why should the human race be preserved,
and for what purpose? As soon as we begin to give reasons for a human goal,
what is wrong with our world, and how we intend to correct it, we are into
one of the 24 religions and ideologies set out in God
of Many Names (chapters 1-4). But why do I personally choose to
live by Trinitarian Theism? Because that is the only model that views love
as the very heart of our world, and offers a way to enjoy it.
SECULARIZATION Leslie Newbigin
defined secularization as "the prying loose of one after another of the
elements of human thought and action from the direct control of religious
principles or of the Christian Church" (Honest Religion for Secular
Man, London: SCM Press, 1966, p.17). But there is no evidence that
this process has in any way hindered what God has in mind for our world.
On the website we again and again commend the FREEDOM
OF RELIGION set out in the First Amendment of the Constitution
the United States of America. "Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof; or abridging
the freedom of speech, or of the press." No one can ever be pressured to
conform to a particular set of beliefs or moral standards. But that did
not prevent the flourishing of AMERICAN
RELIGION. Rather it permitted a rich variety of hundreds of Christian
in close contact with other religions and ideologies. People have the opportunity
to weigh and compare the Christian good news with other options. And we
thrive in that free for all. In nations where genuine secularization has
occured, a church will emerge in each city. And as it meets in many locations,
and offers a variety of denominational emphases suited to different temperaments,
it is able to permeate the culture of every area of secular life.
SEEING GOD Isaiah reported that
"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne"
(Isaiah 6:1, 5). But, as John explained, "No one has ever seen God.
It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made
him known" (John 1:18). Which proved that the Person Isaiah saw
was not God the Father but the eternal Son of God. His function is to come
into personal contact with humans. When Hagar was promised a great future
for the Arab people, "she named the LORD who spoke to her, 'You are Elroi'
(God sees me); for she said, 'Have I really seen God and remained aliveafter
seeing him'" (Genesis 16:10, 13). The same Person was seen by Abraham
when "the LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre (Genesis 18:1,
22). The eternal Son of God was also seen when "the LORD used to speak
to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend" (Exodus 33:11, see
34:29). We also know that the Son of God took birth and lived among
us for all to see (John 1:1-2, 14, as in 1 John 1:1-2). And
after the resurrection Jesus not only appeared to the apostles but he actually
ate with them (Luke 24:15-31, 36-43, John 20:19, 21:1, see Acts
23:11). In addition to such rare appearances, the Psalm writers saw
the Son of God reigning as KING
among the nations. We may not have the privilege of seeing him in bodily
form (as Paul did, Acts 9:17, 23:11) but we can have our eyes opened
to see him intervening in our
SELF-CONTROL One of the fruit of
the Holy Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23). But this is not
the ordinary human self-control which enables us to tame our bodily functions,
to mind our tongue, to avoid rude and unacceptable behavior. The problem
is that our instincts have no desire to love enemies, to turn the other
cheek, or go the extra mile. They don't know how to love God, or pray for
others. That is why the self-control that Paul describes is by the Holy
Spirit of God. The Spirit enables us to reject worldly wisdom to receive
inspiration (1 Corinthians 2:12). He can give us the self-control
to move in the right direction (Romans 8:14), enjoy the freedom
of being children of God (Romans 8:15), and pray according to the
mind of God "with sighs too deep for words" (Romans 8:26). No amount
of human effort can produce the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the
Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). And only the Spirit that raised
Jesus from the dead can assure us of our resurrection (Romans 8:11).
The human self-control of the disciplined person inevitably results in
pride. But, as Paul explains, what the Spirit does in us is "not your own
doing . . . not the result of works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians
SELJUK TURKS The Turkic people
who originated in Mongolia spoke one of the ALTAIC
languages. As they moved west (as the HUNS
had done) a chieftain named Seljuk converted to ISLAM.
His grandson Tughrul (Togrul) became the Sultan of BAGHDAD
(1055), and his nephew Alp Arslan routed the BYZANTINE
EMPIRE (1071) in Anatolia. The Seljuk Turks who were MUSLIM
made KONYA (previously ICONIUM)
their capital. As a result Christian churches virtually disappeared from
Turkey for nine hundred years till KEMAL
ATATURK (President 1923-38) abolished the CALIPHATE
(1924) and granted the country some FREEDOM
SELLING everything The rich young
man came running because Jesus was on his way out of the house to go on
a preaching tour with his disciples. This suggests he hated to see Jesus
leave, and he would have loved to accept the invitation to "come, follow
me" (Mark 10:17-21). He asked about eternal life, but the real question
was what he should do with his life right now. There was nothing wrong
with his business interests and successful political career, but a choice
had become necessary. A longing to climb mount Everest is incompatible
with playing tennis at the club. "Yes, I long to study Opera in Germany
but I have a boy friend and I don't want to lose him." Jesus invitation
to "sell what you own" is not a condition of eternal life, but for this
week-end disciple the cost of full time service on the road with Jesus
was more than he really wanted.
SEPHARDIC JEWS The Hebrew word
20) refers to a place where Jews were dispersed. The Jewish traditions
identify it as Spain, and as a result the Jews who settled in Spain and
Portugal before the INQUISITION
were called Sephardic Jews. Many of them were given responsible positions
who occupied Spain (712-1492). They were persecuted (from 1391) as the
Arabs were driven back. Jews were finally expelled under the Grand Inquisitor
Torquemada from Spain (1492) and then from Portugal (1496). They scattered
in all directions, mainly into the Middle East, but also into England,
Greece, and the Americas. Unlike the ASHKENAZI
JEWS who spoke Yiddish, they used the language of the countries
they settled in. When they arrive in Israel, by the second generation Jews
are melded together as they speak and read Hebrew.
SEPTUAGINT About 250 BC Jewish
scholars produced the Septuagint (Latin septuagint usually written
as LXX in Roman numbers) in Alexandria. This was a translation of the Hebrew
Old Testament into Greek to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of
Jews all over the Roman Empire who could not read Hebrew. The LXX included
some Old Testament books written in Greek (see APOCRYPHA)
which were never part of the Hebrew Bible. This was the translation used
by the first Greek speaking Christian congregation (synagogue) in Jerusalem
(Act 6:1-6) and Antioch (Acts 11:19-20). The LXX was read
with great interest by thousands of Roman and Greek citizens, who were
horrified by the immorality of their heathen gods. Many of them attended
the Jewish synagogues, and Paul found it easy to explain the faith to them
from the Septuagint translation (Acts 13:4, 14, 43, 14:1, 17:1-4, 10-11,
17, 18:4, 24-26, 19:8-10). Beginning with Peter's visit to the Roman
Centurion Cornelius and his family, the door was opened for non-Jews to
be baptized to form a congregation in the church of CAESAREA
(Acts 10:15, 44-48). This was recognized by the church in Jerusalem
(Acts 11), and at the Council of Jerusalem a way was found for Roman
and Greeks to have table fellowship with their Jewish brothers and sisters
SERMON ON THE MOUNT When a senior
tax collector named MATTHEW
was called to follow Jesus, and then became one of his apostles, he apparently
wrote down a collection of sayings of Jesus (usually called the document
These were notes from sermons which Jesus gave again and again with minor
variations (as is done by all great teachers). When Matthew translated
these into Greek, and incorporated them into his Gospel, he arranged them
in the form of a typical day of instruction that Jesus gave for disciples
who had gathered to hear him on a mountain slope (See
Commentary 5 - 7). It began with a session on how God's blessing
is very different from the world's idea of happiness. Then Jesus pointed
out the heart implications of two of the TEN
COMMANDMENTS. He also freed his hearers from the legalities of
rabbinic interpretations of the Old Testament laws. A third session was
devoted to the heart attitude required for almsgiving, prayer, fasting,
and serving God as opposed to serving
mammon the God of money (chapter
6). A final set of teachings focused on dangers they would face as disciples,
and God's willingness to help them and teach them from his Word (chapter
7). Much the same teaching is collected by Luke in his Gospel (Luke
6:20-49, 11:1-13, 33-36), but it is arranged in different contexts.
SERVANT You can be a servant if
you are forced or paid to do a job. You can also take the form of a servant
when there is no compulsion to do it. "He emptied himself taking the form
of a servant" (Philippians 2:7). A servant heart is being excited
about the best interests of another. Most of us are excited about the best
interests of two or three other persons. Christmas is about the one who
is excited about my best interests. To my astonishment I then discover
he is excited about the best interests of all those other people.
SERVANT LEADERSHIP "Among the Gentiles
(nations) those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them,
and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you;
but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and
whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave (unpaid servant) of
all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give
his life a ransom (to obtain FREEDOM)
for many" (Mark 10:42-45). Servant leadership is an attitude of
mind which is deliberately adopted. "Let the same mind be in you that was
in Jesus the Messiah, who though he was in the form of God (with all the
majesty and rights of heaven) did not regard equality with God as something
to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave" (Philippians
2:5-7). And this was exemplified at the last supper when Jesus "got
up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.
Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet
and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him" (John 13:4-5).
SERVICES Every congregation needs
four Sunday services. FINDERS for those new to the faith.
those who want traditional worship. LOSERSfor those losing their
faith. WEEPERS for those who get miffed.
SETH After Cain had killed his
brother Abel (Genesis 4:3-10), Eve conceived another son named Seth
(Genesis 4:25). From Seth there was a genealogical line that continued
till the time of Noah (Genesis 5:3-32), and through him to ABRAHAM,
and the MESSIAH
(Luke 3:23-38). But the line descended from Cain (Genesis 4:17-22)
was ended with the flood. The Kanza Rama holy book of the Mandean
Sabaeans of Iraq lists Seth as their first prophet (see JOHN
THE BAPTIST Followers).
SEX see LOVE,
SEXUAL CRIME In the TEN
COMMANDMENTS the only reference to sexual morality is "You shall
not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14). As explained in Adultery:
An Exploration of Love and Marriage this does not tell us what
adultery is. It is a category of moral judgment that needs to be filled
out by moral discussion. Having done that, each country has to decide what
kinds of behavior should be part of the criminal code. In Arabia for example
adultery can result in the death penalty. In Canada the sexual abuse of
minors is a serious offence. In the Old Testament there was a list for
judges giving ten kinds of sexual behavior for which the death penalty
could be assigned : the sexual penetration of another man's wife; a married
woman allowing herself to be penetrated by a man other than her husband;
two kinds of incest resulting in death for both parties, a male penetrating
another male, a male allowing himself to be penetrated, a male penetrating
an animal, a woman allowing herself to be penetrated by a male animal (Leviticus
20:10-16). In each of these cases sexual penetration had to be proved,
and a conviction required two male witnesses, which explains why so few
executions or stonings were reported among Jewish people (but see John
SHAKESPEARE, William (1564-1616)
The language that Shakespeare used had been developed in previous Bible
Translations (Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, Great Bible1539). But his great
plays (Hamlet 1603, Othello 1604, King Lear 1605, Macbeth 1606) were written
while the King James Version (1611) was in its final stages of preparation.
Shakespeare does not claim to have been a religious person, but his plays
are full of allusions to the Bible. And he certainly had a strong moral
sense expressed by words such as nature, right, order, truth. He pictures
for us how his characters struggled with these in the working out of complex
life situations. We are also given a rich psychology of human experiences
such as tragedy, revenge, murder, double-mindedness, loyalty, betrayal,
SHANKARACHARYA One of the most
influential Hindu philosophical systems is the Vedanta taught by Shankar
(788-820 AD), a Brahmin from Kerala in south India. After wandering around
India as an ascetic, he taught from the UPANISHADS
a model in which Brahman (the ultimate reality) and human soul (Atman)
are one (Advaita meaning non-dualism). The problem is that
humans live under the illusion (maya) that they and the world around
them are somehow what is real. The way of salvation (escape from TRANSMIGRATION)
is to engage in the discipline of
and deep meditation to grasp the fact that only Brahman is ultimate
reality and all else is
maya. He was able to make his philosophy
known by establishing ashrams (simple monasteries) in many parts of India
where people could learn this truth and practice the meditation needed
to attain it in practice (see Religion:
Origins and Ideas, chapter 9)..
SHARI'A LAW Based on the
during his life), the ijma (the consensus of the MUSLIM
and qiyas (deductions by analogy from these first three sources)
a system of Islamic law was developed which covers every aspect of life.
Inevitably this law was loosened when Muslims were governed by French law
in Lebanon or Egypt or British law in India. In many periods of Islamic
civilization ways were found to mitigate the severity of Shari'a law, but
Muslim fundamentalists (Islamism) keep trying to enforce it, as was done
in Saudi Arabia, and even more ruthlessly by the Taliban of Afghanistan.
The terrorists who flew their planes (September 11, 2001) into the towers
in Manhattan were motivated by the idea that the world would never be a
better place till the decadent culture of North America is destroyed and
strict Islamic shari'a law is enforced in every country. This is
why it is hard for Islamic countries to encourage democratic government.
Neither is there much enthusiasm for women to be anything but subservient
to men. In some places men can divorce their wives merely by saying "I
divorce you, I divorce you" and apparently in one of the Gulf States this
can now be done on a cell phone.
SHEOL Before Jesus resurrection
people who died were described as going down into the abode of the dead
(Hebrew sheol, Genesis 37:35, Greek Hades, "the grave").
During an earlier visit to Jerusalem Jesus had said "the hour is coming
when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out"
(John 5:28-29). And it seems that when he died his first concern
was to free those who were lying imprisoned in sheol.. Peter explains
he preached to them (1 Peter 3:18-19), and those who responded were
resurrected with him. Even while his corpse was still hanging on the cross,
Jesus had already brought up these faithful dead, and they appeared in
Jerusalem (Matthew 27:52-53). Those who refused Jesus' invitation
were freed to choose eternal death (Genesis 2:17, Matthew 4:16, Romans
6:23, Ephesians 4:4-6) or outer darkness (John 3:19-21, Colossians
1:13, see "conditional immortality" in Unbounded
Love Chap. 8). This means that
has been destroyed for ever, and at death we go straight to be with the
Lord, as did the penitent thief (Luke 23:43 see PARADISE).
For Paul there is no period of cold storage to await a future resurrection
(2 Corinthians 5:1-8, Philippians 1:23). That is why the resurrection
trumpet is not after a long wait, but it welcomes us to heaven the moment
we die (1 Corinthians 15:51-55).
SHEM As in our day, nations are
formed by language, not by racial origins. In the table of nations (Genesis
10) the Shemites are listed under five language groupings. The Elamites
(south west Iran,
Isaiah 11:11, Jeremiah 25:25) fell under Persian
control (680 BC) but they were restored as a nation (c. 200 BC, Jeremiah
49:39) to control the vast Parthian empire from the Euphrates to the
Indus rivers (Acts 2:9). Asshur was in northwest Mesopotamia.
Their language was replaced by Hamites under Nimrod (Genesis 9:11).
Assyrians destroyed Samaria (2 Kings 17:7) in 721 BC. The Sumerian
language, probably the language of Arpachshad, was at one time dominant
from Ur (see ABRAHAM)
up the Tigris and Euphrates, and down the Persian Gulf, but the Hamitic
Accadian (Babylonian) language took over the whole area of Mesopotamia.
A fourth branch of the Shemitic group of languages was Lud (Lydian)
which was spoken to the west into present-day Turkey with important cities
in Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia (mentioned in Revelation 2:18,
3:1, 7), but their language was lost when they became part of the Persian
empire and then came under the Greeks and Romans. Aram was the area
where Abraham's family remained when he moved south into Canaan (Genesis
11:21, 24:10, 28:10), but their original Aramean language was displaced
by the Persians. The Syrian Arameans later adopted the language called
Aramaic (a dialect of Hebrew). They now use Arabic, which is the common
language of the ARABS.
SHEEP In his wonderful book on
the 23rd. Psalm Philip Keller explained that four kinds of freedom
are needed for sheep to rest peacefully. They must be fed and freed from
hunger. They must feel free from predators such as lions, wolves, and wild
dogs. They need freedom from bodily pests such as flies, ticks, lice, bugs,
and other skin conditions. They must be freed from friction with other
sheep who bully them. None of these are possible without a SHEPHERD
who cares for the flock. When King David said "The LORD is my Shepherd"
he was trusting the Son of God to give him day by day the food he needed,
and we too can trust him for our provision (Matthew 6:11, 25-33).
As in David's time, we live in a world of people who want to prey on us.
Many of the Psalms (e.g. 3:1-3; 18:16-17; 91:1-6) remind us the
Lord can warn us and keep us and our family from those who want to harm
us (Matthew 6:13). We take it for granted that physical abrasions
will heal, and human doctors can cure a skin condition, but we also look
to the Lord our Physician (Matthew 9:12-13) to heal the hurts of
our life. Family quarrels at home and in our church fellowship disturb
us and make it impossible to sleep. And again it is only the Lord who can
create love for one another by the Holy Spirit. Without his intervention
we are helpless and in continual danger. We cannot rest in peace without
him (Romans 15:13)
SHEMITES see SHEM
SHEPHERD When Moses needed to hand
over the leadership he prayed: "Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of
all flesh, appoint someone over the congregation who shall go out before
them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in,
so that the congregation of the LORD may not be like sheep without a shepherd"
(Numbers 27:16-17). Later David the King wrote "the Lord is my Shepherd"
(Psalm 23). We could paraphrase "When the LORD leads me I will not
lack anything important in my life. He takes me to where I can find the
nourishment I need. . And he knows how to renew me when I am discouraged.
He keeps me from going off into wrong directions. When I face mortal danger,
I need not fear, he is with me, and he can take me through. If enemies
seem to triumph over me, he assures me that I am always welcome at his
table. He heals my wounds, and give me joy in terrible circumstances. That
assures me that his love will surround me all the days of this life, and
I will dwell in his house for ever."
and south-east IRAQ
the majority of
belong to the Shi'as (see
SHI'A AND SUNNI,
SHI'AS One could date the origin
of Shi'a ISLAM
by the battle of Karbala (661). It began with the attempt to restore the
descended from Ali. Shi'as agree with the absolute authority of the QUR'AN
as the final revelation of ALLAHthrough
They also agree with the traditions (hadith) of what he had said
and done. But their current interpretation has to be given by a living
(who bases his explanation on the words of seven, twelve, or a line of
previously accepted Imams). That allows metaphorical explanations and much
greater flexibility than among fundamentalist SUNNIS.
People who are not ARABS
tend to resent the authority and arrogance of the SUNNIS
of Saudi Arabia. As a result
is ninety percent Shi'a. TURKEY
is 85% Shi'a but there is a strong minority of KURDS
in the south who are hated for being Sunni. Fifty per cent of Lebanese
Muslims are Shi'a, and there are minorities in southern Iraq, Bahrein,
Pakistan and India. See IRAN,
SHI'AS AND SUNNIS At first sight
the hostility between the two main branches of ISLAM
seems to be a matter of who was the authorized successor of MUHAMMAD
But that is a historical matter. The underlying issue is based on two very
different models of how the QUR'ANand
the traditions (hadith) should be interpreted. The
is that the meaning of the Qur'an and Muhammad's example was exactly defined
and remains settled for ever. In Saudi Arabia this is strictly enforced
SHI'A theology depends
on the interpretation of a recognized spiritual leader called an IMAM
who depend on divine inspiration. Only the Hidden Imam (mahdi) who
would return in the future could be infallible. Living Imams (called
in Iran) depend for their authority on their learning and piety, but their
rulings are flexible, and open to revision. As a result the living Imams
were not tied to Sunni fundamentalist rulings (see Vivienne Stacey,
to God: Introducing Islam, London: Hodder, 1997, p.89). ARABS
are almost universally Sunnis, but people of other nations including Iran
and Turkey are usually SHI'AS. (an exception
is Indonesia which is mostly Sunni, but it has a secular state)
SHINTOISM A basic idea in Japanese
thinking is their oneness with the kami. This word includes their
ancestral gods, human beings, animals and birds, trees and plants, and
everything which they sense as alive such as mountains and the sea around
can describe anything that is holy, unusual, or connected
with the world of the spirit. Animals have kami nature but humans
have much greater kami power, men have greater kami than
women, and the emperor was viewed as supreme. Family duty and loyalty to
the emperor was viewed as the right way to keep the forces of kami in
order and maintain the peace and prosperity of the Japanese people. A
was willing to honor the kami of the emperor and the Japanese people
by flying his plane into an enemy warship. Religion was therefore judged
by its usefulness in honoring the
kami of Japan. There was no need
of conversion because Shintoism was able to include a wide variety of religious
ideas. This was how CONFUCIANISM
was welcomed from China (about 400 AD), BUDDHISM
came in from India (from about 550 AD) and more recently Existentialist
and Christian ideas were easily absorbed. As a result a person might have
a Shinto wedding, study the Bible in a Christian class, and insist on a
Buddhist funeral. Shinto priests serve in shrines where worshipers can
go to honor an aspect of Japanese kami and pray for special needs.
Shintoism is therefore a means to express respect for the kami with
a view to attaining personal and national success in life.
SIDON In the Table of Nations Sidon
is listed as the firstborn of Canaan (Genesis 10:15). Since the
time of Homer it was known as the first Phoenician city (see Deuteronomy
3:9, Judges 10:12, 1 Kings 5:6) to sail ships all over the Mediterranean.
It was destroyed by the Assyrians, (677 BC), destroyed again by the Persians
(351 BC) and taken by the Greeks under Alexander (322 BC). Probably having
crossed the Lebanon range of mountains on a holiday to the coast through
(Mark 7:24), Jesus and his disciples traveled back 22 miles (36
km) south through Sidon before returning to Galilee (Mark 7:31).
A church was probably planted in Sidon by Greek speaking Christians who
traveled north as a result of the persecution at the time of Stephen's
martyrdom (Acts 11:19-21).
SIGNS On the one hand we are warned
not to be deceived by Satan "who uses all power, signs, lying wonders"
(2 Thessalonians 2:9, as in the case of the magicians of Egypt,
7:11-12, 8:7, 8:18-19). But John's Gospel is constructed around seven
signs from God. The first was the miracle of water turning to wine at the
wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11), and the second was the
healing of a royal official's son (John 4:46, 54). The other five
are the healing at the Pool of Bethesda (5:1-9), the Feeding of
the 5000 (6:1-14), Jesus walking on the water (6:16-21),
the healing of the Blind Man (9:1-7), the raising of Lazarus (11:32-44).
In addition John gives us a group of Resurrection appearances (20:1-28,
see Acts 1:3). And he explains "Jesus did many other signs
in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But
these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah,
the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name"
(20:30-31, see 1 John 1:1). In addition to the signs of Jesus'
ministry Paul refers to the signs of the Holy Spirit. "By the power of
signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God I have fully proclaimed
the good news of the Messiah (Romans 15:19, 2 Corinthians 12:12, Hebrews
SIKHS As he sought the presence
of God, Guru Nanak (1469-1539) rejected the caste system, and taught "there
is no Hindu and no Muslim". He combined Hindu and Islamic ideas to found
a religion which believes in one Creator God. He retained the Hindu doctrine
Under Guru Arjan (1653-1606) the Sikhs began defending themselves against
Muslim persecution. He built the Golden Temple in Amritsar as the focus
of Sikh worship and identity. The tenth and last Guru was Guru Govind Singh
(1666-1708) who founded the Khalsa brotherhood, and led them in a great
victory at Bhangani (1686). This was followed by twenty years of fighting
that ended in defeat. The tenth guru collected the Adi Grant as
the sacred scriptures, and after his death they were enlarged with his
hymns as the Guru Granth written in Gurmukhi. God is the true guru
but the whole Sikh community is viewed as the continuing
are no Sikh priests, and both men and women can function in the Sikh rituals.
Men are required to wear the five Ks, uncut hair (kesh), comb in
the hair (kanga), a bangle on the arm (kara ), knee length
underwear (kaccha), and a dagger (kirpan). They must serve
others, and avoid adultery and tobacco. Male Sikhs have their name ending
in the word Singh (lion) and women are called Kaur, to avoid their names
being connected by caste or social importance.
SIN Governments view sin as those
crimes which can be punished by law. Roman Catholics expect sins to be
confessed to a priest as a means of improving our behavior. And many
use the threat of EXCOMMUNICATION
on earth or burning in HELL
to keep people from sinning. In the model used on this web site we reject
of Hippo's idea of ORIGINAL
SIN. Sin does not pass into us by procreation. It is the result
of the evil influences that surround us and our own refusal (seeFLESH)
of God's intention to change us from within. The result of viewing sin
in this way is that we can live freely (see Living
Totally : Without Guilt), and focus, not on our frailties and failures,
but on the ENERGY
of the HOLY
SPIRIT to transform our lives and make us fruitful. That is why
Paul could write that "we died to sin . . . our old self was crucified
with him . . . whoever has died is freed from sin . . . so, you also must
consider yourselves dead to sin . . . having been set free from sin, have
become slaves of righteousness . . . you have been freed from sin" (Romans
6:2-22). This is why he was so fierce against LEGALISM
as a "bewitched" method of trying to control sin (Galatians 3:1-5).
Forgiveness without transformation by the Spirit is only half the good
news (see how LUTHER
SIN, Against the Holy Spirit In
every psychiatric hospital there are those who think they have committed
the unpardonable sin, the sin against the Holy Spirit. Jesus did say "I
tell you, people will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy
against the Spirit will not be forgiven" (Matthew 12:31, Mark 3:28).
But the context is people who were calling good evil. They said "It is
only by Beelzebul, the ruler of demons, that this fellow casts out the
demons" (Matthew 12:24). If we call Jesus' light spiritual darkness,
this means we are calling God's heaven absolute hell, and we certainly
won't want to be there. Satan's biggest lie is the idea that Jesus cannot
forgive us, and the second is that the Holy Spirit cannot change the heart
of the worst person in the world. That means the cure for anyone who thinks
he or she has committed the unpardonable sin is to say "Thank you, Jesus,
for forgiving me." Or "Thank you, Holy Spirit, that you are going to change
me from a miserable guilt-ridden person to be happy and joyful."
SIN, Contrition There are many
reasons why people become interested in the good news that Jesus brought
from heaven. The invitation of friends, a longing for freedom from oppression,
a sense of failure, marriage break-up, the need of healing for oneself
or others, the fear of death, or just plain curiosity. But at the beginning
Jesus' invitation is very simple. "Come to me, all you that are weary and
are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon
you, and learn from me" (Matthew 11:28-29). Jesus never used the
fear of eternal damnation as a reason for people to become DISCIPLES
(learners). It is only after trying to live this new life of love for God
and for others that a sense of contrition is experienced. Paul puts it
this way. "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want,
but I do the very thing I hate. I can will what is right, but I cannot
do it. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in
my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive
to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who
will deliver me from this body of death" (Romans 7:15-24). The solution
he discovered was the power of the Holy Spirit to do in him what he could
not do by his own will-power (Romans 8:1-5).
SIN, Conviction The model taught
on this website may have originated with some words written by J.B.Phillips
fifty years ago: "The success of a certain type of Christianity depends
almost wholly on the sense of guilt. The 'gospel' will be accepted only
by those in whom the sense of guilt can be readily awakened or stimulated.
Missioners of this type of Christianity (flying in the face of Christ's
own example) will go out to induce 'conviction of sin' in their hearers.
This is not to deny the fact of human sin or the necessity of divine forgiveness.
There is a real 'conviction of sin' which is quite different in quality
from that produced by high-pressure evangelism" (Your God is Too Small,
London: Epworth Press, 1952).
SIN, as entanglement We often think of sin
as particular acts that we do. "She got drunk, I told a lie, he stole
money from the church." But sin is not just little acts of badness. It is much
more like getting caught in a complex entanglement of the evil in the world
around us. In the story of Salome’s dance and the beheading of John the
Baptist (Mark 6:17-29) we have the story of a woman who wanted revenge, a
girl who was a beautiful dancer, the dignitaries who applauded her dance, a King
who made a careless promise, and a soldier who was ordered to cut off the head
of John the Baptist. Each of them was caught in a web entanglement of social sin
(see Sermons, ENTANGLEMENT). This is usually the case in family
sin, school sin, business sin, and political sin.
SIN, Retaining "Whatever you bind
on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be
loosed in heaven" (Matthew 18:18). The context is "If another member
of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two
of you are alone" (18:15). If that fails, Jesus gives us a method
of "taking one or two along with you" (18:16). Then the matter can
be brought up in a church gathering. But if the person refuses all reason,
he or she is treated as "a Gentile and a tax collector" (18:17).
Obviously people of other nations, and tax collectors like Matthew and
Zacchaeus, became church members. So this expression is metaphorical for
the offending person no longer being viewed as family. After a terrible
betrayal in Ephesus, Paul wrote "Alexander the coppersmith did me great
harm; the Lord will pay him back for his deeds" (2 Timothy 4:14-15).
In the case of Ananias and Sapphira the consequences were immediate and
very serious (Acts 5:11). In the Psalms there are many prayers for
PSALMS). The point is that love does not mean we let ourselves
get walked over. There comes a point where a person has chosen a course
where the sin has to be retained and committed to God for his intervention.
Happily he does not have to act exactly as we had in mind.
SINAI Sinai could refer
to any steep cliffs or mountain crag. After crossing the Red Sea, the people
came to Mount HOREB(
Deuteronomy 4:10, 5:2) where the moral law of the TEN
COMMANDMENTS was promulgated. That suggests that Jebel
the location of the monastery dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria,
may be Mount Horeb, not Mount Sinai. Two or three months later the people
probably crossed the shallows at the entrance to the Gulf of Aquaba (as
when they crossed the Jordan) and came to a mountain at the western end
of the Arabian desert (see Galatians 4:25). There the moral law
of the commandments was repeated. But Moses added the detailed ordinances
of a COVENANT
(Exodus 21:1-23:23) which was sealed in blood (Exodus 24:7-8).
In the New Testament Jesus' "new covenant" is new in relation to these
laws for the desert journey given at Sinai (Galatians 3:17, 4:25-26).
In that sense we are not under the Sinai laws. But the moral law (given
is confirmed and given its positive meaning in terms of love (Mark 10:18-19,
12:28-31, as in Romans 13:8-10).
SINGING " A bird does not sing
because he has a statement. He sings because he has a song" (Anthony de
Mello, The Song of Bird, 1982). A joyful heart likes to sing. It
can be alone in the shower. "My heart and my flesh sing for joy" (Psalm
84:2). But singing with a great crowd moves us to the core, gives courage
to act. Soldiers sing themselves into battle. It was an essential part
of Old Testament WORSHIP.
"Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy"
(Psalm 47:1). "Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly
of the faithful" (Psalm 149:1). In the New Testament we are told
to "be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual
songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord" (Ephesians
5:19). There can be a place in a special service for a highly trained
solo performance. But elaborate music should not take over and become a
performance. Ordinary people need the freedom to sing familiar hymns, and
also learn to enjoy the new melodies. These days the use of an overhead
screen enables people to do without a book, so they can move their feet,
clap, and raise their hands. In Africa congregational singing is to the
sound of drums, and people dance to the words they are singing.
SIXTH CENTURY REVOLT "In the sixth
century BC there was a tidal wave of revolt against the priestcraft of
the ancient world. This wave shattered the power of the old religions,
though their cults continued to exist as backwaters for centuries. Seven
world religions appeared within fifty years of each other and all continue
to this day - Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism,
Vedanta Monism, Taoism" (taken from Religion:
Origins and Ideas
chapter 3). A hundred years later the philosophers of the Golden Age
in Greece rejected the claims of their corrupt priests.. By using the caste
system the Brahmins of India managed to regain their priestly power in
India. The Romans retained their priests (flamens) for ceremonial
purposes till Christianity became the religion of the empire, but Europe
again came under priestly power until the REFORMATION.
In the New Testament all Christians are PRIESTS,
and with the death of Jesus as our sacrificial LAMB
the offering of ANIMAL
SACRIFICESended in all churches. And all the sacrifices of the
ancient world gave way to our COMMUNION
service (see SACRIFICE, Thanksiving).
SKINNER, B.F. Having rejected the
"pleasure principle" (libido) taught by Sigmund FREUD
(1856-1939) and the "struggle for power" in the theory of Alfred ADLER
(1870-1937), Skinner wrote The Behavior of Organisms (1938) which
clearly demonstrated "operant conditioning" in rats. He extended that to
assume that this can be used to control human behavior, and he popularized
this in a best-selling novel titled Walden Two (1948). It pictured
an ideal community based on the "operant conditioning"of its human members.
Five years later he had concluded (Science and Human Behavior, 1953)
that we are totally the result of our conditioning. It is certainly true
that much of our character is programmed into us from infancy. It is also
obvious that, like rats, when we find something rewarding, we repeat it,
and if it proves distasteful, we avoid it. But it was quickly pointed out
that if Skinner's behaviorism was total, his scholarly opinions would be
as conditioned as those of a person who thinks he is a poached egg. Any
kind of scientific or moral evaluation would be impossible. There could
be no such thing as personal responsibility. The behavior of a rapist or
child abuser would be as inevitable as that of Skinner himself. Anyone
believing in God as CREATOR
would have to make him responsible for making a world of robots, and for
of all the evil in our world. And the alternative religions and ideologies
(set out in God
of Many Names) would be programmed into humans with no freedom
to adopt one or another.
SLAIN in the Spirit When Paul was
approaching Damascus to persecute the Christians in that city "a light
from heaven flashed around him, he fell to the ground, and he heard the
Lord speaking to him" (Acts 9:3-4). When the temple police came
to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane he identified himself by using
the words I AM (the name of God, Exodus 3:13-15) and "they stepped
back and fell to the ground" (John 18:5-6). In our day there are
thousands of cases of people falling to the ground in charismatic meetings.
The term "slain in the Spirit" is commonly used.. And in a proportion of
cases such persons have indeed encountered the Holy Spirit of God as Paul
did on the Damascus Road. There are many reports of the Lord speaking while
they are unconscious, and evidently some lives have been wonderfully changed.
The Spirit is free to use this and all sorts of means such as laughing,
dancing, weeping, shouting, and shaking (Christian groups have been called
Shakers and Quakers), as he may choose to help a person into faith. The
problem is that all the gifts of the Spirit can be duplicated by Satan
and his false teachers, false prophets, false tongues, false miracles,
etc. Some hypnotists have the ability to make people drop to the ground.
The test of genuineness is by the subsequent fruit of the Spirit in that
SLEEP God has arranged for us to
enjoy a weekly cycle of work and SABBATH
refreshment. There is also a daily cycle of night and day. The Jews began
their day in the evening. "And there was evening and there was morning,
the first day (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). The point is that
our sleep at night is to charge our batteries, and prepare us for what
we have to do. We can pray for sound refreshing sleep. "I will both lie
down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety"
(Psalm 4:8). But that requires bringing our unfinished business
to God. "Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
and do not make room for the devil" (to tell you lies all night!
4:26). The result is that "when you lie down your sleep will be sweet"
(Proverbs 3:24). In a boat tossed by a storm one night night "Jesus
was in the stern, asleep on a pillow" (Mark 4:38). Sleep is also
a metaphor for death. But the sleep of death is not doing nothing for ever.
In this life we sleep all night long engaged in dream situations. But the
"sleep" of heaven is much more wonderful than the best dreams we ever had,
with no possibility of a nightmare. "I saw the holy city . . . death will
be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more . . .The nations
will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory into
it" (Revelation 21:2, 4, 24).
SMELL You can tell when a skunk
has been around. And Christian disciples soon develop a sense of smell.
Satan's lies have a different odor from the perfume of Christian truth
The devil's first lie was "You will not die; for God knows that when you
eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God" (Genesis
3:4). As usual it contains a partial truth: Adam and Eve did not die
right then in any physical sense. Their spirit died. People do not die
immediately from drugs that give them a high, or alcoholism, murderous
being riddled with guilt, or the inability to praise God's creation, or
thank him for our daily food and other blessings. Enjoying God, and loving
like God, is as fragrant as roses and carnations. It is nothing like the
smell that bothers us when people are trying out what Satan suggests. Or
the musty odor of books that offer "the yeast of the Pharisees (legalism)
and Sadducees (denying resurrection)" that Jesus warned us against (Matthew
SMYRNA Still an important port
in western Turkey (now called Izmir) Smyrna was one of the seven churches
in Asia that the apostle John wrote to (Revelation 2:8-10). It was
about 30 miles (48 km) by land due north of Ephesus. The church there was
the result of Paul's work in Ephesus "so that all the residents of Asia,
both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord" (Acts 19:9-10).
Polycarp (c.69-c.155) the Bishop of Smyrna paid a visit to Bishop Anicetus
of Rome to discuss the date of Easter. The Roman church kept Easter on
a Sunday, as we do to this day. The Greek speaking churches in Asia kept
in on the day of the week that coincided with the date of the Jewish Passover.
Polycarp was unable to change the mind of the western church, but retained
the right for Smyrna and other churches to continue their practice. On
his return at the age of 86 Polycarp was arrested during a heathen festival,
and refusing to deny his faith, was martyred by being burned to death.
SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION see SYMBOLIC
SOCIETY OF FRIENDS Jesus said "You
are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants
(slaves) any longer . . . I have called you friends because I have made
known to you everything that I have heard from my Father" (John15:14,15,
3 John 14). This became the basis of the Society of Friends, which
is the official name of the
as a denomination.
SOKA GAKKAI A Tokyo schoolmaster
named Tsunesaburo Makiguchi was converted from Shintoism to faith in a
teacher called Nichiren (about 1250 BC) who had claimed to be the real
Buddha. The movement, also called Nichiren Shoshu, was welded into a powerful
coercive force by Josei Toda in 1951. The movement was intolerant and aimed
to destroy SHINTOISM in Japan, and to do
this Toda also tried to gain political influence. Toda died in 1958, and
Daisaku Ikeda became President with a gentler emphasis on zadankai (discussion
meetings). A political offshoot was komeito (The Clean Government
Party, 1964). Neither Hinayana or Mahayana Buddhism would recognize the
activism of this tightly organized "Value Creation Society." The question
is not "What is Truth?" but what benefits humans (a form of Utilitarianism).
The continuous repetition of the phrase Namu Myoho Rege Kyo (from
the Buddhist Lotus Sutrai) is the key to success, happiness and
the good life. A plaque in the head Soka Gakkai temple proclaims "Happiness
Machine - money, jobs, promotion, health, Buddhahood." When this was packaged
for North America, Buddhahood became less important.
SOLA SCRIPTURA One of the watchwords
of the Reformation was sola scriptura (Latin for "by the Scriptures
alone." Others argued that the Bible needed church tradition to give the
correct interpretation. All Christians of all denominations agree that
the Bible is the Word of God, and that is what we study and preach. We
do not preach from the Hindu Vedas or the BhagavadGita, nor
do we base sermons on the
Qur'an. But then having committed ourselves
to living by the Bible we have a choice. Some say that the Word of God
is so hard to understand that we need an infallible church or theological
experts to interpret it. This website is based on the assumption God expects
us to study the Bible looking at alternative interpretations (models) in
the light of the love of God as revealed fully by Jesus, the eternal Son
SOLDIERS Jesus said we were to
love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), and when he healed the servant
of an army Captain from the occupying Roman power he said that he had not
found such great faith among the Jewish people (Matthew 8:10, see
also Acts 10:1-29). But love for enemies does not mean we let ourselves
be walked over, and allow others to rape and kill our children. Paul used
of a Roman soldier to picture the spiritual equipment we need to fight
"against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers
of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly
places" (Ephesians 6:12). Genuine integrity is the broad leather
belt that covers our liver and stomach. Our heart should be protected by
the breastplate of the righteousness that the Holy Spirit creates in us.
Most of us are hesitant about going out with the good news of God's peace,
so we need tough boots to free us from fear of being hurt on the way. As
we are assaulted by each doubt we hold up the shield of faith that can
stop "the flaming arrows of the evil one." Our head is protected by the
helmet of salvation with the sign of our regiment (church congregation?)
Our offensive weapon is "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of
God." And then strangely we have the equivalent of long distance artillery
when we can "pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication"
SOLOMON When he became king Solomon
prayed "O Lord my God . . . give your servant an understanding mind to
govern your people, able to discern between good and evil" (1 Kings
3:7-9). God was pleased that he asked for that, instead of "long life
or riches, or the life of your enemies." And so he was told "I now do according
to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like
you has been before and no one shall arise after you " He was also given
riches in abundance and greater honor than any other king. Why then did
things go so badly wrong later in his life? He prayed beautifully at the
dedication of the temple that he built: "When a foreigner, who is not of
your people Israel . . . comes and prays toward this house, then hear in
heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner
calls to you" (1 Kings 8:41-43). But welcoming people to pray does
not mean adopting their idolatry. "King Solomon loved many foreign women"
but in his senility "his wives turned away his heart after other gods;
and his heart was not true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his
father David" (1 Kings 11:1-4, see 3:7-12, 10:23, see WALK).
SOLZHENITSYN After he had written
books, usually first published in the west, about life in Soviet prisons
(A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, 1962, Cancer Ward,
1968, The First Circle, 1968), Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (born 1918)
was given the Nobel prize (1970) but he could not leave to receive it.
He was expelled from Russia.(1945). That same year the horrifying story
of The Gulag Archipelago (in Paris 1973, in Russian 1974, New York:
Harper & Row, 1975) was published in English. Solzhenitsyn and his
family settled for twenty years in Cavendish, Vermont. Life in the United
States also allowed Solzhenitsyn to be more open and outspoken about the
significance of his Christian faith. He explained the barrenness and evil
of an atheistic model of government. Following the collapse of the Soviet
Union in 1991, Solzhenitsyn returned to his homeland (1994) where he was
finally recognized and honored. He suffered a stroke in Moscow in January
2003, and recovered slowly.
SON OF GOD A strictly Unitarian
model of God (as in Islam and the Jehovah's Witnesses) rejects any concept
of complexity in the oneness of God, and that includes the idea of a Trinity.
Arianism had a limited sense of the Trinity by saying that the Son of God
was a created being. But in the Trinitarian Theism of the Nicene Creed
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are an eternal oneness of love
(see Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19). We experience the Father as the one
who loves us like a parent behind the scenes, but is never seen (1 John
4:12). The Holy Spirit works within us to inspire and empower us. But
the Son is the one who keeps coming into personal contact with us as the
Lord, Messiah-King of our world (as in Genesis 3:8, 11:5, Isaiah 13:9,
19:1, 40:10, see COMING).
"The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world"
(John 1:9) and he "became flesh and lived among us" (John 1:14).
His close relationship with the Father is a constant theme of John's Gospel
(3:16, 5:17-23, 36-38, 6:40, 46, 7:28-29, 8:16-19, 28). And Paul
explains that he is the Head of the church (Ephesians 4:15-16, Colossians
SONG OF SOLOMON Also called the
of Songs, this was a love poem or fantasy written by a black woman
(Song 1:5), perhaps addressed to Solomon (1:1: 3:7, 11).
It is a celebration of love (8:6-7), and the language is unashamedly
erotic. She imagines Solomon's delight in her breasts (4:5; 7:3, 7-8),
and her "garden of spices" (4:12-15; 6:2-3). Some theologians have
tried to reject it as immoral from the CANON
of Scripture, and many allegorize it into an expression of the devotion
of the church for her Lord. It is certainly evidence that God is not embarrassed
by our sexual feelings (see FANTASY).
SOUL At the heart of all our longings
there is a center of personal identity, which in the Bible is variously
called our heart, will, or human spirit (distinguished from God the HOLY
SPIRIT). In some religions the soul is pictured as leaving the
body at death so it can continue its existence by TRANSMIGRATIONand
But the Bible teaches the RESURRECTION
of the body (as opposed to our soul continuing in a disembodied form of
existence). Love needs a body to express itself. Without a body it is impossible
to see, hear, walk, talk, touch, eat. Jesus showed himself engaging in
these activities with his resurrection body, and assures us our body will
be able to do all that and much more in heaven. We now know that every
part of our physical body can be replaced , and it is conceivable that
eventually medical science will find a way to transplant a damaged ear,
eye, memory, or word processor for our brains. We can already extend ourselves
to do all this through a computer. But the body can change its form (see
the sermon on "The
Caterpillar") for another kind of environment. And God has no problem
giving us a new body for our soul to enjoy after death (2 Corinthians
5:1- 4, see "My
SOUTHERN BAPTISTS The Southern
Baptist Convention was established in Augusta, Georgia (1845). At first
only in the Southern States, the Convention expanded (about 1940) to plant
congregations in every one of the United States, and in many other countries.
Thousands of Southern Baptist missionaries serve in tough places all over
the world. They have a high view of the authority of the Bible in their
statement of faith, and their preachers can tend to literalism in the interpretations
of some Biblical metaphors and imagery.
SPAIN An army of PHOENICIANS
from Carthage under Hamilcar Barca took over Spain, but they were soon
expelled by the Romans after the second Punic war (218-201 BC). The Iberian
Peninsula became a center of Roman culture. Paul had wanted to go on to
Spain after visiting ROME
(Romans 15:28) but there is no
evidence that he was able get there. But soon after his death churches
were planted, and there was a Christian council in Elvira (c.300 AD) even
before the conversion of Constantine (312 AD). Later councils met in Saragossa
(380) and Toledo (400). But then Spain was overrun by east German Vandals
(406-429 AD) till they were ousted (534 AD) by the Roman general Belisarius..
The Arab armies who had come across North Africa took over Spain (712),
and though they were defeated in France at the Battle of Tours (732) they
continued occupying most of Spain till Grenada was finally retaken (1492).
Meanwhile French monastic orders had re-established the rule of the church
of Rome (see
STALIN The son of a Georgian shoemaker,
Joseph Stalin (1879-1953) studied for the Russian Orthodox priesthood,
but was expelled from his seminary (1899). He was imprisoned several times
as a leader of the Boshevik party. He served under LENIN
in the Council of People's Commissars. And when Lenin died (1924) he soon
gained total control (1929). In a series of purges he ousted all rivals,
initiated the liquidation of the kulaks (peasant farmers) to form farm
collectives, and by means of the secret police (OGPU) and the Gulag prison
camps he purged all opponents (1936-38). When Germany attacked (1941) he
took over military command to defeat them in the battle of Stalingrad.
He then took part in important conferences in Tehran (1943), Yalta (1945),
and Potsdam (1945) which set the stage for the Cold War.
STONING When a woman was about
to be stoned, Jesus was put on the spot. "Teacher, this woman was caught
in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded
us to stone such women (Deuteronomy 22:20-24). What do you say?"
(John 8:1-5). Jesus' answer was "Let anyone among you who is without
sin be the first to throw a stone at her." And the accusing theologians
and Pharisees slunk away ashamed "beginning with the elders" (John 8:9).
This is an example of Jesus' compassion in saving this woman from a horrible
death. But it is also shows how Jesus dismantled the authority of Old Testament
criminal law, which required stoning for several kinds of crime including
approaching Mount Sinai, blasphemy, human sacrifice, disobedience to parents,
adultery, sex before marriage (Exodus 19:13, Leviticus 20:2, Deuteronomy
13:10, 17:5, 22:21, 24). When he freed us from kosher food laws
(Mark 7:19), sabbath keeping, and the need to offer animal sacrifice,
Jesus made clear that the moral sense of love must correct the harshness
of outdated laws. "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind
for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27).
STORMS Many assume that winds merely
obey the laws of science. But mariners have always known that there is
another power at work. "They cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he
brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the
waves of the sea were hushed" (Psalm 107:29). Knowing that the storm,
which was about to engulf them, was due to Jonah's disobedience, "they
picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its
raging. Then the men feared the Lord even more"(Jonah 1:11-16).
When the apostles woke Jesus up "He woke and rebuked the wind, and said
to the sea, 'Peace! Be still! Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead
calm" (Mark 4:37-39). When all others on the ship had given up hope,
Paul was able to stand up and announce that he had been told "there will
be no loss of life among you, but only the ship" (Act 27:20-22).
Similarly in the metaphorical storms of our daily life faith enables us
to see another power at work which can change a disastrous course of events
(see 2 Corinthians 1:8-10).
STRANGERS Resident ALIENS
are specially loved by God and he expects us to love them as he does (Leviticus
19:34, Deuteronomy 10:18-19). Strangers had a right to the same day
of rest as others (Deuteronomy 5:14), they could keep the passover
(Numbers 9:14), and in due course would become full Jewish citizens
(Ezekiel 47:22). They should not be taken advantage of, oppressed
22:21, 23:9), or deprived of proper justice (Deuteronomy 1:16, 24:17,
27:19, Job 29:16, Jeremiah 7:6, Ezekiel 22:7, Zechariah 7:10). And
where justice was not done, they believed "The LORD watches over the strangers"(Psalm
146:9), and will act fiercely on their behalf (Malachi 3:5).
Part of the tithe and the remains of the harvest was reserved for resident
aliens (Leviticus 23:22, Deuteronomy 14:28-29, 24:20, 26:12-13).
Jesus rebuked the citizens of Jerusalem with "I was a stranger and you
did not welcome me" (Matthew 25:35, 38,43). And the importance of
welcoming strangers is beautifully expressed, "Let mutual love continue.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some
have entertained angels without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:2).
SUBSTITUTION All Christians agree
that in some sense Jesus the Messiah substituted for us, but theologians
continually discuss what this means. AUGUSTINE
argued that because of ORIGINAL
SIN we all deserve eternal damnation but on the cross Jesus made
the payment instead of us. This model seems to be set in what looks like
a Roman law court (see Unbounded
argued that the main purpose of Jesus' coming was to satisfy the justice
of God which had been affronted by human sin. The problem with such models
is that they seem to suggest that God the Father could not love us till
the Son had made a payment to satisfy his wrath. A totally opposite model
is that Jesus' substitution on the cross was only by way of example. But
that does not engage with texts like Romans 3:24-25, 5:18, Galatians
2:20, 3:13, 1 Peter 3:18. Another alternative is that by his death
Jesus paid a RANSOM(Mark
10:45) to free us from the power of Satan. On this website we explore
aspects of a family model of the ATONEMENT
enables us to picture all three Persons of the Trinity working together
at great cost to free us.
SUFFRAGAN BISHOP In the ANGLICAN
group of DENOMINATIONS a
suffragan (Old French suffragant meaning one who assists) is a Bishop
who is appointed to assist the Bishop of a Diocese. He or she can perform
all the functions of a BISHOP but
does not have the right of succession to be the next Bishop of the Diocese.
SUFFRAGE means having VOTING
rights (see POLITICAL EQUALITY)
SUFIS Either SUNNIS
or SHI'AS can become Sufi mystics. An early
Sufi brotherhood was founded in Iran by Baha al-din Naqshbandi (died 791).
It was based on meeting with God by inhaling (inspiration) and exhaling
the evil. They stressed the inner heart meaning of Islamic law (shari'a)
and traditions (hadith). Al-Ghazali (1058-1111) was a famous Persian
who followed the mystic way (similar to MONISM
in India, and the Mediaeval mystics of Europe). Music which was banned
in Muslim mosques was allowed for the ecstatic dances of the Dervishes.
As among Christians, these MUSLIMS
reject the submission to rules as the way to love and please God (see SHARI'A).
Rather they seek to enjoy the love of God by meditation and spiritual intimacy.
An early Sufi was a woman of Baghdad who prayed "O Beloved of my heart,
I have none like unto Thee, therefore have pity this day on the sinner
who comes to Thee" (which could have been prayed by any of the mediaeval
Christian mystics). To avoid falling into error Sufis are required to follow
a pir (also called a shaykh
or recognized spiritual guide).
They also believe they can receive a special grace to grow in patience
and love (perhaps comparable to our experience of the Holy Spirit which
they call ruh ul quddus (Wind of God). Sufis usually reject jihad
military force, and prefer to think of an inner battle to purify their
soul. Whereas hymn singing is not practiced in mosques, some Sufis sing
hymns of praise of the prophet
and engage in religious dancing.
SUICIDE When King Saul saws that
the battle was lost, and his three sons were killed, he committed suicide
(1 Samuel 31:5). When Ahithophel's wise counsel was not followed
"he set his house in order, and hanged himself" (2 Samuel 17:23).
Socrates (469-399 BC) was condemned to death for corrupting the youth of
Athens, and he commited suicide by drinking poison. Judas hanged himself
when he realized the enormity of his betrayal (Matthew 27:3-5).
When Masada was about to fall to the Romans (73 AD) over nine hundred Jewish
defendants committed suicide. Having lost everything in the stock market
crash of 1929, many jumped from their office towers. Hara kiri is
the Japanese practice of cutting open one's bowels when it would be too
shameful to remain alive. And their
pilots flew bomb laden
planes right into American warships. And on September 11, 2001 Saudi pilots
flew passenger planes into office towers in Manhattan and the Pentagon.
But suicide because of DESPAIR
is something else. It can be due to a chemical imbalance, or unbearable
Often godly people face "the dark night of the soul" (Jeremiah 20:14-18,
Job 3, Jonah 4:8). And for the relatives of those who take their own
life, the guilt is unbearable. We should not add to it by adding to their
grief. Nowhere does it say in the Bible that suicide is a sin, or that
it sends the person to eternal damnation.
SULEIMAN I (1494-1566) Suleiman
the Magnificent was the Sultan of the OTTOMAN
Empire (1520-66). He moved west across the area that had previously been
controlled by the
SELJUK TURKS and took
(1521) which was occupied by the Turks for most of 350 years.. But the
city of VIENNA
in Austria bravely held out against Suleiman's siege (1529). However he
(then known as Buda) under Turkish Occupation (1540-1686). His fleet controlled
the Mediterranean and the Red Sea coast of Arabia. He was known as the
"Magnificent" because of his military successes and his building of many
beautiful mosques. But he also was a wise and tolerant ruler, and a great
patron of the arts.
SUMERIAN LANGUAGE The first Sumerian
pictographic inscriptions (c.3200 BC) appear in the ruins of the city of
Erech about the same time as the early Egyptian pictographs.. On this site
we assume that the SUMERIANS were listed
in the Table of Nations under SHEM (Shemites
not Semites as in modern nomenclature) in the line of Arpachshad, from
whom Abram (Abraham) was descended (Genesis 10:24, 11:10). If this
is correct, the Sumerian agglutinative language (similar to Chinese) belongs
to the same linguistic group as Elamite (see
proto-Assyrian, Lydian (Assyrian Luddu, see LYDIA),
and proto-Aramean before it was replaced by Accadian (Genesis 10:22).
It could be connected with the INDUS
VALLEY civilization. The Sumerian pictographs were later stylized
(by about 2200 BC) into
(groups of wedges formed by a stylus in clay, metal, or stone). Sumerian
arithmetic was based on the number 60, from which we get an hour of 60
minutes, 60 seconds in a minute, and 360 degrees in a circle. For over
2000 years Sumerian was as important in the Middle East as Latin was in
Europe. By the time of Abraham Ur and other Sumerian cities had fallen
under the control of Hamitic people (see HAM
in Genesis 10:8-14) whose Akkadian language soon dominated the whole
fertile crescent. And with that language he would quickly understand the
closely related languages of Canaan and Egypt (see MIZRAIM,
SUMERIANS The earliest form of
Sumerian pictogaphic inscriptions (about 3200 BC) were found in the ruins
of the city of Erech (Genesis 10:10). The Sumerians came by sea
VALLEY) and their river civilization was based in the eleven cities
of Sumer and Accad located on both banks of the Euphrates from present
day Basra to Baghdad. The Table of Nations tells us that the Sumerian cities
of Babel (Babylon), Erech, and Accad were taken over by a Hamitic (see
army under Nimrod who made a raid across Arabia from Cush (Ethiopia, Genesis
10:8-12). In this website we assume that Abraham was a Sumerian (from
the line of Arpachshad,
Genesis 10:21-31, 11:12-29) who lived in
Ur in the district Chaldaea (kaldu) between Basra and Kuwait.
SUNDAY After the Battle of the
Milvian Bridge (312) when CONSTANTINE
fought under a Christian banner, Christians were given their freedom of
worship (313). A few years later the Emperor Constantine made SUNDAY
the weekly holiday in the empire (321). The pagans in the Empire did not
object since the first day of the week (Sunday) was the day of the sun
god. Reasons why Christians began worshiping on Sunday are given under
OBSERVANCE. Up to that time it seems that Jewish Christians had
rested from work on the
SABBATHday, but they
gathered for COMMUNION
after work on the first day of the week which was Sunday evening (Acts
20:7). This is still the case in Islamic countries where Sunday is
a work day and the national day of rest is a Friday. But in the Roman Empire
and throughout Europe it was very convenient to have Christian services
on the same day as the official day of rest.
SUNDAY Observance Why did Christians
start meeting for worship on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7),
instead of attending services on Saturday?. One answer is that Jesus revealed
himself on RESURRECTION
Sunday, again that Sunday evening and on the next Sunday. It is possible
he appeared on a third Sunday by the Sea of Galilee, and he apparently
did not appear on the days in between (John 21:1, see "Eight
Sundays from Easter to Pentecost"). The Day of Pentecost was also on
the first day of the week. Even in exile on the Island of Patmos John "was
in the Spirit on the Lord's Day" (Revelation 1:10). Among Jews the
early Christians rested on Saturday, but all over the Roman Empire and
in other parts of the world, there was no official day of rest for slaves,
soldiers, and others. Often on a Sunday evening Christians would gather
to take communion together when they could. In England the Puritan SABBATH
imposed (enacted in 1644, 1650, 1655) which prohibited any kind of recreation
on Sunday, even going for a walk. Dorothy Sayers later commented "They
have transferred the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, and feeling that
the original commandment "thou shalt not work" was rather half-hearted,
they have added to it a new commandment, "thou shalt not play" (The
Whimsical Christian, 1978, p.152).
SUNDAY SCHOOLS Robert Raikes (1735-1811)
was concerned about the illiterate children of Gloucester. He persuaded
the minister of his parish to allow him to pay four women to teach them
to read (1780). In addition to reading they also learned the Anglican catechism.
Sunday was chosen because the children's families had to work every other
day. Hopefully some of them might attend the Sunday service. There was
opposition by those who maintained that educating children would breed
revolution, and others argued that teaching on Sundays was a desecration
of the SABBATH. After the interdenominational
Sunday School Union (1803) was organized in the London area, the movement
soon became world-wide. When public schools became available in each community
Sundays Schools changed their emphasis, in some cases with unfortunate
by-products. Instead of reading the Bible with their children at home,
parents got the idea that this was the work of the Sunday School. Teaching
about the Holy Spirit was considered too advanced for children, so they
were mainly taught moral behavior (see LEGALISM).
Children, especially boys, began to see the Christian faith was as a religion
for goody-goodies. More recently expensive glossy Sunday School curriculums
have been put out by publishing houses which have slanted the good news
of Jesus for denominational and fundamentalist purposes. But at their best
in many countries of the world millions of Sunday School children have
learned the Bible stories, memorized Scripture, and enjoyed the hymns and
choruses which have brought them to faith and enriched their life.
SUNDAY SERVICES see SERVICES
SUNNIS Ninety per cent of ISLAM
to the Sunni grouping, as opposed to only ten per cent who count themselves
as SHI'AS. Historically the Sunnis define
themselves as those who accept the authority of the first four Caliphs
and the Ummayad Dynasty (661-750) of the DAMASCUS
CALIPHATE. They differ from the Shi'as in viewing the interpretation
of the QUR'AN
and the traditions (hadith)as settled and unchangeable (for an extreme
view see WAHHABIS).
Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Gulf States, are solidly
Sunni. Iran and Turkey, which are not Arab nations, and minorities in some
other countries are SHI'AS. The popular folk
religion of Bangladesh and many country districts of the Arab world is
denounced by orthodox Sunnis (see Vivienne Stacey, Submitting to God:
Introducing Islam, London: Hodder, 1997, 65-67). The predominant religion
of some countries is Sunni Muslim (e.g.Indonesia, and states that used
to be part of Russia) but they prefer the Turkish model of a secular state.
In these days they face strong attempts to establish a Muslim state under
SYMBOLIC WORLDS We do not live
in a single world of mutual understanding. Every language uses words to
express quite different ways of experiencing reality (see LANGUAGE,
Reality). And within each group of language speakers there are
people living by alternative visions of what life is about (we set out
24 explanatory models of personal religion and ideology in God
of Many Names chapter 1-4). Each of these visions uses symbols
and stories to yield quite different perceptions of what is real and unreal.
the common language of Europe. And THEISM
was the agreed model to explain the relationship of God to our world (seeUNIVERSITIES,
Western). But as scholars began to write in English, French, German,
and the Scandinavian and Slav languages they found it less and less easy
to understand each other. In our day westerners find ARABIC
ways of thinking alien and incomprehensible. Add to that the symbols of
totally different religions and ideologies, and no wonder our intellectual
world is in confusion. We are worried by FUNDAMENTALISM,
but that is merely a name for people who believe passionately in a reality
which we do not share. How can we make sense of such a confusion of symbolic
worlds? First we should clarify the very personal vision we intend to live
by (this website commends the model of Trinitarian Theism, see
Love). But a responsible educated person will also try to understand
with sympathy other ways of thinking.
SYMPHONY Vivaldi (c.1675-1741)
and Bach (1685-1750) had perfected the concerto as a way of enabling a
single instrument to interact with an orchestra. In his nine symphonies
Beethoven (1770-1827) took a step further. He showed how all the instruments
of an orchestra could express different moods (joy, sadness, children dancing,
struggle, victory, nostalgia) in a five movement composition that finally
united them to produce a totally satisfying musical experience. That is
why the symphony is a good metaphor for the church in our city. We differ
from one another as much as violins are different from trumpets. And each
of us have our part to play in the particular situations of our life. "With
all humility and gentleness, bearing with one another in love, making every
effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit" (Ephesians 4:2). No
individual part makes sense on its own. But under the direction of our
conductor (see CEO)
we are brought towards a final conclusion that is the very music of heaven.
SYNAGOGUE As Jews were scattered
all over the Middle East and Mediterranean they would gather for prayer
and fellowship As soon as there were ten Jewish men they could organize
themselves as a sunagogy (gathering place). As they grew, they could
to administer their affairs. One of these might become their president
or ruler. When they could afford it, they would invite a resident rabbi
to teach them on the sabbath day and have special classes for children.
Jesus taught in the synagogues of Galilee (Luke 4:15-16, 31, 33, 44,
John 18:20). Synagogues were often organized on the basis of
their country of origin, or their language (Acts 6:9). There were
several synagogues in Damascus (Acts 9:2). This was a method easily
adapted for the first Christian churches. There was soon a Greek speaking
Christian synagogue in the church of Jerusalem (Acts 6:1-6). Wherever
he traveled Paul found synagogues where he was allowed to preach, and he
soon was able to form a Christian synagogue (Acts 13:5, 14, 43, 14:1,
SYNCRETISM Many people suggest
that world religions offer complementary or alternative ways to God. As
explained in God
of Many Names, what religions offer is ways of attaining 24
different goals. Often the goals are contradictory. Buddha wanted to attain
a nirvana with no desires. But Christian Theism looks forward to
being perfected in love. And there is no other religion (explanatory model)
that explains how we can be perfected in love by a loving God. In fact
the more clearly we understand an explanatory model the more its differences
will be distinguished from other models. This means that a syncretism of
explanatory models is a contradiction in terms. But no explanation, even
our Trinitarian Theism (Creative Love Theism), ever saved anyone. God looks
at the heart, not the correctness of our explanation. C.S.Lewis pictures
the warrior who had served the god Tash all his life being welcomed into
God's presence because his heart was right. That means that in Christian
Theism a person may adhere to a wrong religion, and argue a wrong explanation
(model), but his or her heart could be looking in the right direction.
What such a person lacks is the assurance of being accepted by God (as
set out in 1 John). Jesus said "No one comes to the Father but by me,"
which means that regardless of religion not one, but no one, can be resurrected
and perfected except by him.
SYNOPTIC PROBLEM It is easy to
see from a synopsis (Greek for seeing together) of the Gospels that Matthew
used much of Mark's Gospel. He also added material that is also found in
Luke's Gospel. On this web site we assume that when the apostle James was
beheaded (AD 44,
Acts 12:1-3), the early church realized the urgency
of having written records. So Mark was charged with interviewing Peter
and writing down as much as he could remember. He added his own personal
eye-witness account of the arrest, crucifixion, entombment, and the women
finding the tomb empty (Mark 14:26-16:8). Matthew had been a tax
collector, so we imagine he wrote down his notes (called logia,
perhaps in Aramaic) of Jesus' sayings which circulated among the churches..
He then used 601 verses of the 661 verses in Mark's Gospel as the structure
of his Gospel and inserted many of his notes which he had translated into
Greek. When Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea (58-62 AD) we suggest he asked
Luke to use Mark's Gospel as a framework, include material from Matthew's
and add what he could find from written records in the Bethlehem tax office,
by personal interviews with Mary the mother of Jesus, and from people in
Nazareth. This is why Luke begins "Since many have undertaken to set down
an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just
as they were handed on to us by those who were eyewitnesses and servants
of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from
the very first to write an orderly account" (Luke 1:1-3).
SYPHILIS The Latin term first appears
in a Latin poem by Girolamo Fracastoro (1483-1553). It was brought to Europe
by the sailors of Columbus'
Santa Maria (1492). It appeared in Scotland
(1497). It was taken to India by Vasco da Gama's sailors (1498), and it
soon arrived in China (1505) and Japan (1569). Syphilis and Gonorrhea were
identified as venereal diseases propagated by sexual intercourse. They
are not inherited, but they can have a damaging effect on the unborn child.
They are both treatable by antibiotics, though other forms of venereal
disease may not be curable.
be contracted by sharing tainted needles, but it is mostly propagated by
sexual contact. Among Christians the ideal is faithfulness to one's partner
before and after a marriage based on mutual submission (as in 1 Corinthians
7:1-16). This is why in the New Testament PORNEIA
(promiscuity, sleeping around, prostitution) was viewed as unacceptable
SYRACUSE On their way north from
the ship that carried Paul and Luke towards
called in at the port of Syracuse. The city was taken by Rome after a two
year siege (213-211 BC), and it became the very prosperous capital of the
Roman Colony of Sicily. We can be sure that during the three day stay in
that port (Acts 28:12) Paul had contacts with the Jewish synagogue,
and probably found Christians in the cosmopolitan city. There was certainly
a church there by 185 AD.
SYRIAC Both Arabic and Hebrew were
forms of Canaanite (which was called a Hamitic language, as was early Egyptian,
10:6, Psalm 105:23, 27). This was the language Abraham used when he
came into Canaan, and it was revived 27 centuries later as the Hebrew of
modern Israel. One dialect of this later became the Aramaic which
was spoken among ordinary people in Jesus' day (see Jesus' words in Mark
5:41, 7:34, 15:34). Another was Syriac which was the trade language
spoken in the churches that spread out far to the east from Edessa(Urfa
in South East Turkey). Portions of the New Testament were translated from
Greek into Syriac well before 250 AD. The Syriac language is still used
in the Syrian and Mar Thoma liturgies of churches in Kerala, South India,
though more and more the Bible is read in Malayalam in South India and
English in North America.
SYRIA, Modern After the first world
war the French were given the mandate to rule Syria (1920-1946). During
the 1939-45 war Syria was occupied by the British and Free French forces
(1941), and it was declared independent three years later (1944). The French
continued to control the country till Syria became part of the Arab League
(1945). Syria joined with Egypt in the United Arab Republic (1958), but
seceded (1961), and two years later Syria became a republic under a military
regime (1963). In the 1967 Arab-Israeli war Syria lost the Golan Heights
from where the Syrians had been shelling the area of Galilee. Hafez al-Asad
(1930-2000) was elected President of the Syrian Arab Republic (1971). He
stationed Syrian troops in Lebanon (1976). When he died (10 June 2000)
the Ba'th party nominated his son, Bashar al-Asad, who was elected as President
with 97% of the votes. The street called Straight (Acts 9:11) is
still the center of the ancient capital in DAMASCUS.
And to this day there is a minority Christian community in Syria, and one
third of Lebanese people view themselves as Arab Christians.
SYRIANS see ARAMEANS