Busted Halo
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Ann Naffziger :
100 article(s)

Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.
August 26th, 2013

The Old Testament contains a vast amount of material about giving a portion of one’s harvest, properties, or ownings back to God. Many commandments in the Old Testament mandate giving of one’s “first fruits” i.e. the first of the fruit or grain harvest, or the first of the newborn livestock. The Hebrew word for this offering is translated as “tithe” or “a tenth-part” with the emphasis being that the first fruits are intentionally offered.
The New Testament doesn’t adopt the language of tithing or mandate that a particular percent be given for the support of a religious institution. That said, in Mark 12:41-44, Jesus praised a woman who put the equivalent of a penny into the Temple treasury (similar…

July 12th, 2013

Question: Many scholars believe that the Jews were never slaves in Egypt. Is there reason to believe that there was some sort of Exodus and would a lack of Exodus be problematic for our faith?
Attempts to corroborate the historicity of the Exodus as told in the Bible have always been fraught with challenges. No other extra-biblical sources record this event, and because the Egyptians were known for careful record keeping it seems odd that they wouldn’t have recorded it. On the other hand, there are records of Semitic slaves in Egypt, variously referred to as “Habiru” or ‘Apiru’ – words that could easily be understood as “Hebrews.” One historical note mentions the ‘Apiru who transport stones…

July 3rd, 2013

Question: Why does the Catholic Bible include the Maccabees and the Book of Wisdom? And do any other denominations acknowledge the extra books? Why at some point were they considered part of the Bible then a man-made council decided they didn’t belong?

Catholic Bibles contain 46 books in the Old Testament, including seven (Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch) which were part of an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. These books were better known among Greek speaking Jews in the Mediterranean world around the time of Jesus. Today these seven books are variously referred to as the “apocryphal” or “deuterocanonical” books and are usually placed…

June 20th, 2013

Full question: What is a sign (from God)? What “signs” might appear to us today, and how is God still speaking?…
There are many events, supernatural or otherwise, that happen in the Bible, which can loosely be termed “signs from God.” Some appear in dreams, like the image of Jacob’s ladder (Genesis 28:11-22). Others happen during waking hours, as when God spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-15). Some, like those in the Gospel of John (One example — Jesus changing the water into wine at the wedding at Cana), are more often thought of as miracles, although the gospel writer used the term “signs.” What they all have in common is that they were unexpected

June 6th, 2013

Because the Bible was written so long ago and in a culture so foreign to our own, it’s a tough book to try to pick up and read from cover to cover. It actually consists of dozens of books of different genres that are not in chronological order, so approaching it like you would a modern bestseller will only leave you confused and frustrated.
For this reason, it’s important to read the Bible with some guidance and companionship. Look for a class or Bible study at your local campus ministry or nearby parish to help you along. Usually these will focus on smaller, more discreet sections of the Bible while giving historical background and context so you don’t get bogged down in some of the more arcane sections. For example,…

June 4th, 2013

Imagine a timeline stretching back millions of years. Scientists believe that dinosaurs became extinct about 66 million years ago, tens of millions of years before humans evolved from our primate predecessors. Fast forward to the centuries when the books in the Bible were written, a mere two to three thousand years ago. At that time, dinosaurs had been extinct for many millions of years. Continue to fast forward to the beginning of the 1800s. That is when dinosaur fossils were first recognized and began to be studied to the extent that they are now. So the reason dinosaurs are not mentioned in the Bible is simply that the authors and their contemporaries did not have any knowledge of their existence.
However, occasionally…

May 17th, 2013

Question: How can anyone really take the bible seriously? It was written soooooo long ago and has gone through one translation after another. If someone sat down today and pounded out a bunch of stories because “God spoke to them” and said we should obey everything within them, would we believe it?  
The Bible was written long ago, between two and three millennia past. It has been translated many times, but the content of our best current translations are remarkably consistent with the oldest manuscripts we have of the ancient texts. The reason we can still take the Bible seriously, while being frank about the cultural and societal shifts humans have undergone since its writing, is that we believe

May 10th, 2013

Question: In spiritual law, men leave their mothers for their wife, when they marry. But if a man chooses to love and cherish the mother OVER the wife, isn’t this a conflict that God would not encourage?
There is nothing in scripture that declares that a man should love or cherish his wife more than his mother, but it simply points to a change in the relationship that marriage occasions for the man (Genesis 2:24). A man is called to a different manner of loving his mother than his wife, and these different kinds of loving can’t be compared quantitatively. Once a man marries, his relationship with his mother will necessarily need to be reoriented, not lessened. If he discovers that he can’t find it in himself

May 3rd, 2013

Question: How do you reconcile the commandment to “love thy neighbor” when he/she is not living in the image of God without becoming too judgmental so as to act like the elitist high priests that Jesus spoke out against?…

Recalling St. Augustine’s well-known axiom “hate the sin, but love the sinner,” may be helpful here. All people are deserving of love, precisely because they are created in the image of God. However, that doesn’t mean that we should be accepting of sinful behavior. Depending on your relationship to the particular person and your role in his/her life, it may be appropriate for you to challenge the person and sound a call to conversion. If you decide to do so, the impetus should

April 25th, 2013

Question:Why are we instructed to believe in a book that contains things we would view in today’s society as morally wrong? 
There is a distinction here between believing in the Bible and believing in the God that is revealed in the Bible through Jesus Christ. As Catholics, we affirm that the Bible contains sacred scripture, which was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but that “in sacred scripture, God speaks through human beings in human fashion.” (Dei Verbum, Vatican II)
The Bible was written and compiled over more than a one thousand-year period with influences from cultures very foreign to our own. Human culture and societies have developed and changed since then. So although

April 15th, 2013

There are a couple of primary differences between the KJV and the “Catholic” Bibles of today. I’ll use the New American Bible (NAB) as the point of comparison since it is the translation read in English speaking American Catholic churches today.
To begin with, most KJV Bibles have 39 books in the Old Testament, all originally written in Hebrew. However, the Old Testament of the NAB contains 46 books, including an additional seven (Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch) which were part of an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. These seven books are variously referred to as the “apocryphal” or “deuterocanonical” books and are usually placed between…

April 11th, 2013

According to the Bible, yes, Eve was Adam’s only wife. There is no other reference to Adam having an intimate relationship with another woman than Eve, the woman formed from his rib (Genesis 2:18:23).
Many centuries after the Bible was written and compiled, a Jewish legend grew up about a woman named Lilith who was said to have been Adam’s first wife, created from the same ground and at the same time as Adam. In the Middle Ages this legend was greatly developed, especially the notion that Lilith left Adam and the Garden of Eden when she refused to be subservient to her husband. Sometimes today this Lilith figure still shows up in cultic and literary references.…

April 5th, 2013

Who exactly was Enoch? Only a few phrases are mentioned about him in the Bible, but the Apocryphal texts have entire volumes of Enoch.
Yes, there are only a grand total of 14 verses in the Bible that name Enoch. The verses are divided between those that refer to Enoch, the son of Cain (Gen 4:17-18), and a later Enoch who was the son of Jared and the father of Methuselah (Gen 5:18-24). It is the second Enoch who is mentioned a few times later in the Bible, primarily in reference to the verse that Enoch “walked with God: then he was no more, because God took him” (Gen 5:24).
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the phrase “walked with God” meant that one lived righteously. Thus the suggestion seems to be that because of Enoch’s…

March 22nd, 2013

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the image of bride and bridegroom was used to symbolize the relationship between God and the people of Israel. God called the Israelite people to faithfulness to his teachings and attested his eternal love for them. The image was later adopted in the New Testament where Jesus was envisioned as the bridegroom sent by God. His task was to win back the people who had fallen away from the teachings, and to metaphorically “woo” others with his message of peace, justice, and unity. Because it built on the earlier scriptural metaphor, the term bridegroom did not need Jesus to be married for it to work symbolically. Moving forward, the Church has continued the imagery by naming Jesus as the bridegroom…

March 15th, 2013

Heaven is the common religious term generally referring to a “place,” where God or divine beings are thought to originate from and dwell. Also, many humans imagine ascending to heaven at their deaths, depending on their goodness and God’s grace. Ancient peoples have passed on the mythology of heaven being a place above this created world, with its opposite, hell, being located in the underworld.
The “kingdom of heaven” is a term used frequently by Jesus, though never defined by him. It is also sometimes called the “Kingdom of God” or “Reign of God.” The concept is one of the central messages of Jesus’ preaching. It is a symbolic term calling up the Jewish belief that God created this world,…

March 8th, 2013

Question: In John 6: 1-14, did Jesus really feed 5,000 people (or a crowd about that size) with five loaves of bread and two fish? Who was counting? What’s the truth in this passage?

Raymond Brown, a well-known and highly esteemed Catholic scripture scholar was once asked this very question. He responded “I find no reason to dismiss the miraculous from the ministry of Jesus. Indeed, one of the oldest memories of him may have been that he did wondrous things — a memory that could have circulated not only among believers but among nonbelievers.” He goes on to explain that the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves was narrated in all four gospels suggesting, “Obviously the evidence for that miracle

March 6th, 2013

In first century Palestine where Jesus was living, tax collectors were individuals who worked for Roman administrators. They were responsible for collecting taxes to support the Roman Empire, which governed Jesus’ homeland. (Think of the IRS in our day.) Some of the taxes levied on the Jewish people might have been oppressive in themselves, but sometimes it was the tax collectors who made the situation unduly difficult by collecting more than was due and pocketing the difference. We know this because at one point when John the Baptist called for repentance, he warned the tax collectors to stop collecting more than what is due (Luke 3:12-13). Other citations in scripture equate tax collectors with prostitutes…

March 1st, 2013

The gospels don’t publish the specific menus offered at any of Jesus’ meals, except for giving multiple references to him eating bread, very commonly imbibing wine, and a couple of times eating fish. Many people think it is improbable that Jesus was a vegetarian given the fact that he was an observant Jew of his time. Jewish dietary laws (a.k.a. kosher food laws) did not require, nor even encourage, vegetarianism. On the contrary, the Hebrew Scriptures command very particular ways of preparing and eating both sheep and goat meat, as well as other types of animal flesh. Going on this assumption then, we would guess that when Jesus’ family celebrated the Passover, for example, he would have eaten his share…

February 27th, 2013

Question: Why is Paul always in prison? Did people write letters responding to the ones he sent to them from prison?

The New Testament tells us that Paul spent some time in prison, although we can’t be certain of how many times Paul was imprisoned, where, or for how long each sentence lasted. According to The Acts of the Apostles, Paul remained under house arrest in Rome for two entire years. Possibly Paul wrote his letters to the Philippians and Philemon during this tenure, but it is impossible to know.
Acts tells us he was accused by the people of Philippi of “disturbing our city … and advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe” (Acts 16:20-21). Later, Jewish leaders sent him

February 22nd, 2013

Question: In Mark 10:17-30, Jesus tells a man to give away all of his possessions in order to inherit eternal life. Do I need to give away all of my possessions if I want to spend eternity with Jesus?
Some read this passage (and it’s cross-references, Mt 19:16-22 and Lk 18:18-25) literally and have given over all they have to follow their call to discipleship. Some dismiss it as impossible, and give it no further thought. Others have considered this passage with great seriousness, even while noticing that Jesus didn’t ask the same of every person who followed him. It is in this tension of taking Jesus’ words seriously while discerning God’s unique will for each of us that perhaps offers the best hope for enlightenment.…

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