Jesus’ Connection to King David in Chapter 1 of Matthew Utilizes Gematria to Confirm Messiahship

As many people know when they read the New Testament, it’s very important that Jesus be connected to King David because it is supposedly a descendant of David who is the rightful heir to the thrown over the Jewish people, and by extension, their savior.

The Abraham-David-Exile-Jesus Genealogy

Bearing this in mind, we can take a look at the opening chapter and verses of the New Testament, Matthew 1, which begin with a genealogy. The genealogy is in three parts, starting with Abraham, a natural beginning, and ending in Jesus. Part one goes Abraham to King David; part two is David to the time of the Babylonian exile – when the monarchy came to an effective end; and then from the exile to Jesus, the period when the Jews desperately needed a savior.

In between each of these groupings are fourteen generations, a fact that is highlighted in Matthew 1:17: “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.”

Playing with Hebrew in the New Testament

Yeehaw, you might say. That’s great….but why are we being told this seemingly irrelevant fact? Well, this has to do with a fascinating linguistic trick with Hebrew, whereby each letter correlates to a particular number and the manipulation and analysis of those numbers reveals interesting facts.

So why 14 generations? Well, the name David (as in, King David), in Hebrew is three letters with the sounds D-V-D (vowels are not independent letters). D (or daled) is the fourth letter and so has a value of four, and V (or vav) is the sixth letter and therefore has a value of six. Thus, d-v-d correlates to 4-6-4 which has a total value of 14. David, then, equals 14. The fact that 14 generations each separate Abraham and David, David and the exile, and the exile and Jesus, when the object is to connect Jesus to David and David’s name equals 14, serves to reinforce the connection between Jesus and David.

What This Means

Now, do I think that the gematria proves that Jesus is the messiah? No – the rabbis were masters of manipulating letters and words to correlate them to other things in mesmerizing ways, and Jesus and those who told of his life are a product of this time. It is interesting, I think, that Matthew (or the person who wrote Matthew) does not mention this element of David and Jesus’ connection. Perhaps he is leaving it for us to figure out, but I find it more likely that by the time the story got to him, it no longer reflected its linguistically Semetic origins (that is, Aramaic, Jesus’ language, and Hebrew, a related tongue), but rather, was a story in Greek whose Semetic elements would have been lost on the writer and his audience. Nonetheless, it’s interesting that this element exists in the story, reminding us of how well-crafted the tale of Jesus was and how crystallized the notion of his messiahship was by the time this story was related to the author of Matthew.

Afterthoughts and Questions

What do you think about this genealogy? Do you have anything to add to what I’ve said? If you are a Christian who has ever discussed these verses in Church or religious study, has this fact come up and if so, how was it discussed and portrayed?

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Interview with Psychologist and Author, Marlene Winell, about Recovering from Religion

Today we’re going to speak with Marlene Winell, psychologist, author and educator. Marlene has spent her life trying to help people recover from lives that have been torn asunder by religion and religious indoctrination. She has made it her mission to help people feel better about themselves, and their choices and to begin living their lives again.

Marlene runs retreats, one of which is actually happening this weekend. You can read about her and her work on her website by clicking HERE. If you or anyone you know could benefit from speaking with her, please don’t hesitate to contact her. For now, please enjoy this interview with her about her book, work and experiences helping people recover from religion.

What got you interested in the work you do?

I find people fascinating and it is very rewarding to be of help. I come from a missionary background so it is natural to be in a helping profession, but this is very different because I assist people in developing their own resources from within, not an external source.

Please tell me about your book, Leaving the Fold.

My book is Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion. It’s the only self-help book for recovering from harmful, restrictive religion. My own story is one chapter. The first half names and describes the important issues in recovery, along with many examples from my interviewees and clients. The second half is about concrete steps for recovery with exercises to do.

How about a word about your retreats?

“Release and Reclaim” retreats are small group experiences where we spend a weekend together telling our stories, getting support, and doing healing activities together. It’s a powerful experience because you are with real people who understand. Past participants have described it as a big turning point in their recovery.

Who are they designed for?

People who have decided to leave their religion and need some help and support.

How often do you have them?

For the last 3 years, it’s been twice a year, but I’d like to do more, particularly in other areas of the country.   I could use some help organizing them.

What do you hope to accomplish at the retreats?

“Release and Reclaim” refers to letting go of old, toxic beliefs and systems and then reclaiming one’s life and one’s self. The biggest area of healing is overcoming the fear that has been conditioned at a deep level.  People then learn to trust themselves again and reconstruct their lives based on their own inner wisdom instead of external authority.

What kinds of techniques do you use to accomplish these goals?

We use discussion, writing, guided imagery, art, movement, and group exercises such as psychodrama. It’s a combination of both intellectual and emotional methods.

What kinds of religions are people when they come to you?

Mostly Bible-based groups – Christian fundamentalists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh-Day-Adventists. . . but also Eastern religious cults. The key is an authoritarian mindset.

What are their largest issues with their religions?

They have grown to realize that their religion has it wrong – intellectually, emotionally, morally, socially – and that it is possible to give it up and move on, despite the fear. Many have been hurt in some way.

Are they generally still embedded in their religions when they come to you or have they already left their religion and are now lost and in need of guidance?

They have already left but they haven’t worked through all the issues and some are afraid of letting go entirely. The phobia indoctrination is very powerful, which is why the group dynamic is also so helpful. I have a beginning retreat and more advanced retreats. At the first one, people are often pretty terrified; they need to tell their story and get support for their new insights about what was wrong. Later on, the groups are helpful for people reconstructing their lives with confidence and self-love. We also have participants who have been out of their religion for quite a while but have deep-seated “left-overs” they want to address.

What are your personal thoughts about religion?

I think people do need to have a framework of values and beliefs to use in approaching life, but it does not have to be a religion.  An organized religion with rigid dogma is not good because it robs the individual of the responsibility (and the privilege) of critical thinking and forming one’s own conclusions.

Despite the difficulties you see that people experience with religion, do you believe that religion has certain benefits or a certain value? If so, what are those/is that?

A group which provides community and a place for shared values that serve human needs in a tolerant, inclusive manner can be a good thing. Churches that emphasize the more humanitarian teachings of Jesus rather than his death on the cross provide better guidelines for how to actually live. But belonging to any group should always be done responsibly, i.e., never give away your right to think and feel for yourself.

What do you do for people after the weekend retreat is over to help them maintain what they’ve learned?

We have a confidential online support group with monthly conference calls. People also make friends at the retreats and stay in touch on their own.

Do people ever lapse back into old religious patterns or is this generally a turning point in their lives?

We have never had anyone return to their same religion. Some have retained a personal spirituality or belief in God but on their own terms, which I encourage. I have an article about this.

The retreat is most definitely a turning point for many people. I have followed up with past participants, many of whom have told me this. One man who traveled here from New York had been isolating himself in his apartment, overwhelmed with guilt and fear, never venturing out except to go to work. He was terrified when he arrived at the retreat and very quiet at first, afraid to tell his story. Then with the warmth and acceptance of the group, he shared and participated. On the last day, he gave everybody big hugs, and left smiling. About two months later, I spoke with him and he said the burden of his abusive religious past had lifted thanks to the retreat. He had new friends, was going out, and was also back into playing music he loved. Returning to his religion was simply not an option and he felt free for the first time.

A woman who came to the retreat was leading an outwardly successful life with career and family but had secret fears about the “Rapture” that would shake her up despite being irrational. The retreat helped her let go and even laugh about the idea for the first time. Two years later, we talked and she said the retreat was a turning point for her – she had had no more anxiety attacks.

What do you think is most important about the work you do?

I provide a safe, therapeutic place where it is okay to question religion first of all. In terms of healing and growth, my approach is to empower people, and I think I have found good ways of doing that!

What advice would you give to people who are struggling with their religions but who are unable to attend your retreats or work with you?

Don’t be afraid. Read everything you can. Trust yourself for a change and don’t believe the self-serving lines you have heard from your religious group about how sinful and dangerous it is to question. Get support of some kind. On-line forums can be good – stay away from the ones where religious people try to shame you. Take baby steps into the larger world and find out what’s going on and how other people are approaching life. Try new things in small ways and learn to enjoy life here and now. Congratulate yourself often for your courage.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Working with me may not be as hard as it seems. I talk with people on the phone a lot, and it works well.  We can make the cost affordable. The retreats also have affordable options, so don’t rule it out. The investment is worth it considering the time, effort, and money it can take to get therapy, or the loss of living fully if you don’t get better. I’m open to traveling if someone wants to organize a retreat in their area too.

That was wonderful, Marlene! Thank you.

If you’d like to read past interviews with ex-cult members, please click HERE and HERE. If you have any questions for Marlene, please feel free to ask them in the comments or contact her directly with more personal matters.

Featured Author, Irvine Welsh: Currently Reading Glue and Loving It

Published in 2001, Glue is certainly one of Welsh’s longer books. As a master of the short story – and Acid House being an excellent example of this – Glue proves that Welsh has it with his longer books too.

And this is only a mid-way review!

Welsh’s most well-known work, Trainspotting, famous for its adaptation to movie form, demonstrated how funny, bizarre and absolutely deranged the author could be. Its sequel, Porno, was nothing to scoff at either.

Welsh’s ability to tell stories in accents most of us can barely understand when spoken, much less read, while engaging the reader in his characters and never letting their obsessions with sex, drugs and debauchery get in the way of truly masterful storytelling is truly a mark of his talent. I haven’t read an Irvine Welsh book, whether full-length or a short story collection, that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. Of course, I have an unhealthy taste for books about disturbing topics and messed up characters.

Have you read it? What’d you think? Wanna get your own copy of Glue? What’s your favorite Irvine Welsh book?

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Topical Tuesdays…on Wednesday! – Self Publishing

First, an apology. As some of my loyal readers (and for the record I love you all) will notice, this promised Topical Tuesday is not happening on Tuesday. It’s Wednesday (to be honest – I’m in San Fran so it’s still Tuesday here but since it’s Wednesday on the East Coast and most people on the West Coast won’t read this blog until Wednesday, here we are). Low and behold, you will also know, as a loyal reader, that I have just moved to San Francisco and so my life and schedule (and internet access) are a little thrown off. Please forgive me for the aberration in posting.

That all said, don’t forget to check out Chandler’s blog for more on this week’s Topical Tuesday subject, self publishing. I assure you it’s more informed than my own opinion. And here we go…

Self publishing is a challenging matter and Chandler’s point remains crucial: a self-published author has not been selected for publishing. The author has chosen to avail him or herself of the services of someone else’s abilities to print. That means you’re responsible for what happens (generally speaking) after said availing.

There are, of course, some benefits to self publishing. One is that, if an author is having trouble getting a book published, self publishing is a way to prove that the book can be successful. With a proper ad campaign (self-funded, of course) and good promotion, you can sell a lot of books (pending you convince people to buy your book). You can sell copies out of the trunk of your car after a book signing or talk. You can sell them over the internet and with an isbn number through Amazon.com. All of these things and more are possible and you could sell a crapload of books this way. If your goal is to be published, a publisher could be greatly incentivized by your book’s success and agree to give it a go through real publishing. So, in this sense, it could be a means to an end.

As far as money is concerned, first books and writing in general don’t yield a lot of money. Very few people become Stephen Kings or Nora Roberts. Most of us make next to bubkes doing this. If you self publish, you could be responsible for some money up front (I don’t know the details). Fortunately, if you get a lot of copies of your book (and some awful publishers like PublishAmerica don’t let this happen so be careful and as Chandler warns, make sure you know what you’re signing) by running a large print run at your expense and keeping the copies, you get to keep all of the profits if you sell them. That means that the harder you work to promote and sell the more direct fiscal benefits you see. In the world of publishing houses, they reap the financial benefits of your promotions (aside from meager royalties) and you only reap the benefits of a book thoroughly sold which increases your odds of being published again – a noble gain, no doubt.

On the flip side of all of this are two issues that I see. Number one: you’re not really published in an elitist way and your book is probably not all over Barnes and Noble bookshelves. And number two: you could pay more money up front and not really get paid by a publishing house. There are other issues but these are two that I see.

At the very least, before self publishing read your contract carefully and make sure you’re not getting into a mess you can’t get out of – or at least get out of with your book.

What do you think about self publishing? Are you self published? Was it a good or bad experience? Are there other pros and cons that I didn’t talk about that you think should be brought up?

Status Report: San Fran is great and I’m loving the city. This was our first day apartment hunting and we’ve seen some stuff we liked. We feared the worst before beginning but think that we’ve found some great things and are not worried about working out a positive situation. We are staying in a friend’s apartment 30 minutes outside of the city (Sunnyvale) and it’s quite nice. His car is a great bonus for apartment hunting. Cyrus, the cat, did not have a great trip in and was pretty upset all through the night (disoriented, still a bit drugged, upset by the move) but today he seems pretty normal and his usual self. Tomorrow we check out more apartments – I’ll let you know how it goes.

Querying, Proposals, and Agents

As promised, I’ll say a bit about the process of getting an agent when you’re writing non-fiction. For fiction querying, check out Chandler’s blog (in my sidebar).

So, first thing’s first: an idea. After you have an idea, develop it. Come up with the layout and structure of your book, what you’ll be talking about and think long and hard about a few areas: your market and your qualifications. If you know those two things and your idea (and I mean well-researched, well thought out, etc.) then it’s time to draft a query letter.

This should cover those three things I just mentioned with a strong intro sentence and your most important area of the three coming first. For much more on this I recommend The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published . It’s very informative (go to www.thezenofsouthpark.com to purchase this now) and will give you all the details you need. Make sure that dozens of people read and edit your very well-written query letter. One mistake and what kind of writer are you? Why would someone take a chance publishing your book? Change, revise and edit. You have this one page to make a great impression on every agent out there.

But before you send it, you should have done two other things: a proposal and a sample chapter. The proposal is a 10-15 page project that details your idea in full with a table of contents. There are also sections about your market (in detail), the publicity and promotion potential, you as an author and your qualifications, and a detailed chapter summary. And then there’s the sample chapter. That’s right, you should have written one of the proposed chapters (preferably the first) so that the agents know you can write, that you will write and so they can see the viability of the whole book.

The nice thing about nonfiction proposals is that, unlike fiction, you don’t have to write the whole book before it’s sold. The idea is that agents will ask you for a proposal and sample chapter after they read your query letter and you will be able to send them what you have. Fortunately, if no one thinks the idea is viable (and though they could be wrong 100 agent recommendations probably tells you that you’re doing something wrong or that the market for the book doesn’t exist) you won’t have written the whole book. That would have sucked. Once you get an agent, though, keep writing because although you don’t have a publisher yet (now that’s the agent’s job) it means the idea is workable and someone is actively trying to sell it.

One thing that is super important is following the rules. When you read a book about this subject do what it says. They’re professionals and they know. I have a great agent and as wonderful as my book idea may or may not be, I followed the rules of getting an agent and they like that – had I not followed the rules I definitely wouldn’t have an agent, no matter how great the idea. Sure, if you’re a seasoned writer you can probably bend them a bit, but if you’re striking out on your first writing adventure then do what you’re supposed to do if you want to be published.

Do you have an agent and was the process different? Do you want to share any advice with people looking for agents? Any questions about this process?

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