Our human DNA is encoded with all that men and women need to enjoy and create music, engage in moral discussion, and choose among alternative scientific and religious models. Where did this DNA come from? In the Book of Genesis we are told that God designed us to be in his image (Genesis 1:26-27). That can only mean that God designed, and then created the DNA that would be needed for humans to know God and converse with him. It is becoming more and more difficult for scientists to explain how our DNA could have evolved by chance. What use could some parts of our design be without all the other components of the human mind and body? The human genome has been decoded but there are still many parts of it whose function has not yet been understood. And it is possible that only a small part of the complexity built into us has so far been used.
All this and much more would have been unthinkable fifty years ago
when Watson and Crick proposed the Double Helix as the blueprint
model for the design of life.
WAY, Narrow Jesus said "the way (not road in this context) is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it," but "the way is narrow (not hard, tethlimmeny means pressed together) that leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14). In the Book of Proverbs the narrowness of the way is described as a path. "Keep straight the path of your feet, and all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil" (Proverbs 4:26-27). "In the path of righteousness there is life, in walking it there is no death" (12:28). At first sight the narrowness of Jesus way of life seems restricting. But any kind of excellence requires narrowness. There are many ways of being unloving, just as there are many ways for a photographer to get the picture wrong (composition, focus, aperture, timing). And there are many ways for an ice skater to miss the gold medal. Life is a series of choices, and the easy way may not be the right one, as pictured in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. "There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way of death" (14:12). In the New Testament we are given a huge freedom of choices in how we engage in loving, but in each situation the Holy Spirit is willing to clarify our mind to choose the right way. "All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God" (Romans 8:14). And the good news is that when we make a mistake, we can be forgiven and brought back on the right path.
WEALTH Many people believe in God the Creator, but their heart devotion is to wealth (Aramaic mamon, Greek mamonas). As Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters . . . You cannot serve God and wealth" (Matthew 6:24). There is nothing wrong with being as wealthy as Abraham, or Job before he lost it all. It could be old money inherited from our family. If we earned it, our brain and hands and ability to work were all given to us. Whatever the source of our wealth, its only purpose is to be invested during our lifetime. We can buy a home, lay it aside for our retirement, provide for our children, invest in a good cause. What goes wrong is when wealth becomes our God, our supreme value, an end in itself, the way we judge others and ourselves. The first sign of going off track is when we say to ourselves "I have money to burn, what can I spend it on?" We come back on track when we look to God and say "I have more than my basic needs, help me to see how I can best invest it for your kingdom? (See TITHING)
WEDDING In the Bible (and all other ancient cultures) a MARRIAGE usually began with a celebration (as in Matthew 25:1-10, John 2:1-10) just before sexual intercourse was about to begin. In millions of cases, especially among poorer people, an informal marriage was recognized when the couple were known to be living together. There is no record in the Bible of a rabbi, priest, or judge being involved. In modern English we use the term 'wedding' for the service before a judge, rabbi, priest, or licensed minister who is responsible for recording the contract in government records. That contract can only be ended by a legal DIVORCE. But there is no example in the Bible of a wedding or a divorce in that sense. If a legal contract was needed, it was called the BETROTHAL and it preceded the marriage celebration (as with Joseph and Mary, Matthew 1:18, Luke 2:5). On this site we view a COMMON LAW marriage as beginning when the couple are living together. More and more governments now assign legal rights to those who have lived together for two or three years. We would prefer to recover sexual intercourse (not the establishment of legal rights) as the moment that needs to be honored and kept sacred for the beginning of a lifetime marriage.
WEEDS A weed is a plant whose properties have not yet been recognized. Even dandelions came into their own for wine making. When weeds came up in a field the servants wanted to go and root them out. But the farmer said "No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest" (Matthew 13:13-30). Jesus' disciples were obviously puzzled by this strange method of farming. At first sight it seems to be suggesting a LAST JUDGMENT. "Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so it will be at the end of the age" (Matthew 13:40-41). But in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus used the fires of GEHENNA to picture bad consequences (getting trashed, making shipwreck of one's life) (Matthew 5:22, 29, 30, 18:9, 23:22). Parables are designed to shock, and in this case I prefer to think of the good and bad growing together in the church, and from time to time their true nature is revealed (see Matthew Commentary 13). But we should add that the Holy Spirit can change our weed inclinations to enable us to become good wheat. Better not be hasty in pulling up weeds.
WELFARE These days we think of being on welfare. It is given by a government department that cares about a minimum subsistence for people to keep alive. In the Bible the meaning of the word is quite different. When Joseph saw his brothers he "inquired about their welfare" (Genesis 43:27). When Moses and his father in law met "each asked after the other's welfare" (Exodus 18:7). We used to say "Fare thee well" (as in Acts 15:29, 18:21, 23:30 KJV) which was a prayer for God's blessing. Jesus defined God's blessing as being poor in Spirit, mourning, meekness, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, being merciful, peacemaking, and even being persecuted for righteousness' sake" (Matthew 5:1-11). Paul quoted some words of Jesus which are not found in the Gospels "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35), and the Apostle John linked the blessing of physical health with the welfare of our soul (3 John 2). But spiritual well-being is never for our private enjoyment, but for the blessing of all those whose lives we touch. "We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us - and we ought to lay down our lives for one another" (1 John 3:16). That connects our welfare inextricably with the welfare of others.
WESLEY, John (1703-1791) of Oxford University was ordained as a minister of the Church of England (Anglican) in 1927. With his brother Charles, and George Whitfield, he founded the Holy Club who became known as Methodists. In 1735 he went with his brother Charles on a mission to Georgia, but his preaching against the slave trade and gin drinking forced him home discouraged two years later. In 1738 he visited the Moravian colony at Hernhut (see PIETISTS). On his return to London he experienced faith and conversion (May 24, 1738) through the reading of Martin LUTHER's preface to Paul's Epistle to the Romans. By the next year he began preaching to coal miners in the open fields (instead of in the Church of England parish churches which refused to welcome him). He then organized class meetings for his converts, and lay pastors to follow up his preaching. He never left the Church of England but by the time of his death there were 294 preachers and 43,265 members who in 1784 became the Methodist denomination. In1741 he had broken with the strict CALVINISM of George Whitfield (1714-1770), and he taught the perfection in love by the Holy Spirit which is expressed in the model on this website. His brother Charles experienced conversion three days before John Wesley, and went on to write 5,500 hymns, of which a dozen are in still regular use in most churches.
WESTMINSTER CONFESSION Approved by the Presbyterian General Assembly in Edinburgh (1647), the Confession was approved by the English parliament the next year. It has 33 chapters setting out a Calvinistic explanation of the Bible from the first chapter of Genesis to the LAST JUDGMENT. It distinguishes a COVENANT of works made with Adam and his seed, and the covenant of grace made with believers by faith in Christ. It also distinguished the visible church on earth from the invisible church in heaven. The rules of the Jewish sabbath were transferred to strict Sabbath observance on Sunday. The practice of denominations adding such detailed statements of approved faith to the CREEDS is not a helpful way to encourage people to study the Bible and explore alternative possibilities under the Holy Spirit who "will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:12).
WICCAN The leaders of the Ancient Celtic religion were called Druids (see Robert Graves, TheWhite Goddess, London: Faber & Faber, 1961). As in many other parts of the ancient world their religion viewed the earth as the mother goddess. Some of her other names included Ashtoreth, Astarte, Diana, Venus. In the prophets she was called the queen of heaven, and she was worshiped with cakes and drink offerings (Jeremiah 7:18, 44:17-19). Among the Canaanites she was the goddess of fertilty, and her consort was called Baal (Hebrew for lord). This ancient religion is now revived and given the name of Wiccan. It is practiced by witches and warlocks who meet in covens, usually the night of the full moon, and at the annual solstices. And they use dancing, rituals, charms, and incantations to influence the course of our world and the lives of others. Their faith is that they can make things happen by using the right magic. White magic is influencing others for good. Black magic is designed to harm others who are opposing them. The goal or final aim of the religion seems to be preserving and nurturing our world as the body of the earth mother. That fits in well with the current concern for ecology, but it denies a theistic Creator and the possibility of bodily resurrection.
WIDOWS In the Old Testament four classes of person were the special concern of the LORD (see ALIENS, WIDOWS, ORPHANS, and the POOR. One of the first rules Moses made on Mount Sinai was "You shall not abuse any widow or orphan (Exodus 22:22). "Part of the tithe and remains of the harvest were reserved for them (Deuteronomy 14:28-29, 24:20, 26:12-13, Job 22:9, 29:13). Widows were vulnerable and in danger of losing their property to those who could bribe the judges (Deuteronomy27:19, Job 24:3, Isaiah 10:2, Ezekiel 22:7, Zechariah 7:10). Not only were widows to be protected from injustice (Isaiah 1:17, 23), but the LORD would intervene to execute justice on their behalf (Deuteronomy 10:18, Psalm 68:5, 146:9, Proverbs 15:25, Malachi 3:5). In New Testament times Jesus complained that the religious leaders "devour widows' houses" (Mark 12:40, Luke 20:47). So it is not surprising that the early church immediately took steps to provide a "daily distribution of food" for their widows. And when the Greek speaking widows found they were neglected in the Hebrew speaking congregation, they arranged for a new synagogue to take care of them (Acts 6:1-6). But Paul had to make rules for the care of widows in each church. "Honor widows who are really widows. If a widow has children or grandchildren, they should first learn their religious duty to their own family and make some repayment to their parents." Younger widows were encouraged to remarry (1 Timothy 5:14), but there was a list of "real widows" who should be taken care of. "Let a widow be put on the list if she is not less than sixty years old," has not remarried, and is active in church life (1 Timothy 5:3-16 probable meaning).
WILLIAM OF OCCAM (c.1300 - c.1349) was a philosopher who joined the FRANCISCANS and taught at Oxford. He is famous for "Occam's razor" (beings should not be unnecessarily multiplied) and his strong support of NOMINALISM. He was summoned to Avignon (1328) to defend his teaching and was excommunicated. He wrote Opus nonaginta dierum (1330) to oppose his order's abandonment of the rule of poverty, and for which he was expelled from the Franciscans. He wrote several attacks on the papacy (1334-47), but it seems that he may have been reconciled to the church before he died.
WILLIAMS, Charles (1886-1945) had to leave his studies at University College, London, for lack of funds. He worked (1908-45) at the London office of the Oxford Univesity Press. He wrote novels with Christian themes including War in Heaven (1930), Descent into Hell (1937), All Hallows' Eve (1944) and an important book about the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church titled Descent of the Dove (1939). His poetry included Taliesssin through Logres (1938) and The Region of the Summer Stars (1944). He lived in Oxford during the war and was a regular member of the INKLINGS at that time (1939-45). In 1943 Oxford University recognized his literary work and gave him an honorary M.A.
WILLIAMS, Roger (c.1604-83) was educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and ordained as a CHURCH OF ENGLAND priest. In search of religious liberty he sailed to Boston (1630) but he found the New England Puritans as intolerant as the church authorities at home. Williams objected to the assessment of taxes to support the established Congregational parishes. He was ordered out of Massachusetts (1635) and founded a settlement called Providence (1636). There he established the first Baptist church in America (1639). He traveled back to England (1643) where he was able to obtain a charter for the new colony. While there he published anonymously The Bloody Tenent of Persecution, 1644. This powerful pamphlet is the root document of the vision of religious freedom. On his return to Providence, later called State of Rhode Island, became the first state to grant its citizens FREEDOM OF RELIGION based on the separation of church and state. That vision was adopted as the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (see AMERICAN RELIGION). One might say that Roger Williams is the father of religious freedom wherever it has been established throughout the world.
WILLIAMS, Rowan In 2003 the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Wales became the first Archbishop of Canterbury appointed from outside the CHURCH OF ENGLAND. In that position Rowan Williams (aged 52) is the figurehead for the thousands of Anglican (Episcopalian) dioceses all over the world. But outside his own diocese (unlike the Bishop of Rome) he has no way of enforcing what he would like done. He can only rely on moral authority and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to gain our affection, credibility and respect. Already recognized as a brilliant scholar, at the age of 36 he was the youngest person ever appointed to be a professor at Oxford University. He is not afraid to express strong opinions, but he is known to prefer "gradual consensus rather than confrontation." He will need this to maintain the spiritual unity of the Anglican Communion all over the world. He is married with two children.
WIND Gulls do not need to calculate air currents. Nor can they force the wind to blow where they choose. But windsurfers can move at great speed when they know how to adapt to constant change. "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. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). The problem is that unspiritual people decide what they feel needs doing, and hope desperately for that to happen. Then they complain when they fail to soar. But the secret of spiritual power is to harness our faith to the gentle (or strong) wind of the Spirit, and let him lift us by his power. When there is no wind, better wait quietly without fussing. And when we sense the wind of the Spirit, that is the time to take off with joy and excitement.
WINE Jesus turned water to wine at a wedding (John 2:1-10), so there can't be anything wrong with wine at a meal. And Paul recommended wine to Timothy for his stomach problems (1 Timothy 5:23). What is always wrong is drunkenness. "Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery" (Ephesians 5:18). And there are occasions when even social drinking is best avoided. Drinking and driving don't mix. Old Testament kings were told to avoid wine when they had to settle difficult legal problems (Proverbs 31:4-5). And none of us would want to smell alcohol on the breath of an ophthalmologist about to operate on our eye. We should never stumble a recovered alcoholic by encouraging a drink which might lead back into disaster. And we respect the early Methodists and Salvation Army who recommended total abstinence when gin drinking was destroying families. But in Jesus' day bread and wine were the ordinary food of ordinary families. So Jesus told us to use bread and wine as a symbol of our family love as Christians and it would be a reminder of his last supper with the disciples and his crucifixion the next day (Matthew 26:2-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
WINESKINS In Jesus' day the grape harvest was metaphorical of two great problems of church renewal. There are grape stompers and connoisseurs. You don't get a vintage without those who enjoy singing loudly and drinking the new wine as they stomp out the grapes. But connoisseurs despise this enthusiasm as they savor the "good wine" that has matured six years later (John 2:10, Luke 5:39). Church structures can also be divided into new skins and old skins. If you put fermenting wine into old skins, they burst and the wine is spilled. The new wine of revival needs skins that are flexible enough to change (Luke 5:37-38). On the other hand you don't get the maturity that wine lovers enjoy without the wrinkled up old skins that contain it. Obviously Jesus' solution is to have both. Churches need the exuberance of grape stompers jumping into the wine vat. As Peter said on the Day of Pentecost "These are not drunk, as you suppose" (Acts 2:15). But we also know that "all things should be done decently and in order" because "God is not a God of disorder but of peace" (1 Corinthians 12:32, 40). If we cannot have a mix of exuberance and dignity, a congregation may need to provide two or more different forms of service to meet the needs of its members.
WISDOM Priests were responsible for religious instruction. Prophets announced the wrath of God (bad consequences) and future blessing in the life of nations. And people went to the wise for wisdom. Their proverbs were offered "for learning about wisdom and instruction, for understanding words of insight, for gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity" (Proverbs 1:2-4). Wisdom was pictured as a woman (sophia) who had been with the Son of God from the beginning, and "was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race" (Proverbs 8:27-31). She keeps inviting us into her seven pillared house: "Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed" to "lay aside immaturity, and live and walk in the way of insight" (Proverbs 9:1-6). She is also known as the Holy Spirit. Compared with worldly wisdom, "The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality and hypocrisy" (James 3:17). The problem is that, like Solomon, wisdom can easily be lost and turn into foolishness (1 Kings 3:9-12, 4:29, 10:23, 11:1-4). But David was wise enough to pray "Do not take .your Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:11).
WISDOM, Literature Only some books of the WRITINGS (the third section of the Hebrew Bible) relate specifically to wisdom, ethical, and philosophical questions. Job deals with the problem of undeserved suffering. The Psalms have been called God's guide for the emotions. Proverbs is Solomon's collection of wisdom sayings from the Middle East. Ecclesiastes is an early example of facing the futility of life (see Existentialism, God of Many Names 2 & 3). Sirach (The Wisdom of Jesus be Sira, later given the Latin name Ecclesiasticus meaning the Church Book) is a book of the APOCRYPHA in praise of the wise and virtuous, including scribes (theologians) and men in public office. The second apocryphal (hidden, concealed) book is The Wisdom of Solomon (Latin Sapientia, meaning book of Wisdom) It is a presentation of apologetics designed to convince Jews to return to the faith, and show the reasonableness of the Jewish Scriptures in the light of Greek philosophical ideas..
WITNESSING Many Christians are worried by their inability to witness (EVANGELISM). But Paul says "Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:4). That suggests that our witness begins when we pray for another, and thank God for that person. Having done that, we are not to worry. But there are ways we can help prepare the ground. It is good to write down (I use 3 x 5 index cards) the person's address and phone number, children, work, sick parents, and any other information that they are happy to be public knowledge. That opens up our conversation. We can also invite their opinion. "What do you think is wrong with our church congregation?" If a person says he or she is an atheist, we can ask if they are ever thankful. "You can't give thanks to matter or chance or energy. What is the name of the person you are thankful to?" It is good to tell stories (see the "Caterpillar Story") as Jesus did. God is a TRINITYso a person may find it easy to run like a little child to a loving Father. Others find the life and personality of Jesus the Son very appealing. Those who wonder what to do can turn to the Holy Spirit as the WISDOM of God.
WITTGENSTEIN, Ludwig The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein ((1889-1951) said that if you want to understand anything that is said or written you first have to grasp what is the "form of life" (Philosophical Investigations, 1967, 19, 23). Is this a letter, a business report, a commentary, a message from Bin Laden, an April Fools Day joke, a rock song, a photo or a painting to show the horror of war (Guernica). Then you have to pick up the language-games of the expressions, metaphors, ironies, details of a painting (crows flying above Van Gogh's wheat fields) that are used. The Bible's description of the creation of the world (Genesis 1) for example pictures an Artist creating a masterpiece. That is the form of life we are trying to understand. It is not a scientific text. The Creator uses light as the raw materials, then he fills the sea and dry land, and adds in fish, birds, mammals, and finally makes humans. Then as we study the details we wonder what is the language-game for making humans "in our image" (Genesis 1:26). The other insight we often refer to from Wittgenstein's complex writings is based on his book On Certainty, see CERTAINTY, LOGIC, LANGUAGE GAMES
WORD We communicate by giving a sign, or speaking words. In the Narnia stories C.S.Lewis had Aslan singing our world into existence. We can also communicate by being something. Like parents for their children, or a friend who is there just when needed. And God was of course there for us from the beginning. There is also communication by writing, as we do at Christmas, or causing something to be written as God did through many writers. Doing something is more dramatic. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word became flesh (John 1:1,14). But the drama is more to catch our attention, and have us meet the actor as a personal friend.
WORRY It is good to be concerned as long as it does not turn into worry. We need to be responsible for mortgage and insurance payments, getting the car serviced, medical and dental needs, protecting our children and much else. And no church is built without the hard work and concern of its members. Paul had plenty of concerns as he planted and nurtured churches from Jerusalem to present day Croatia (Romans 15:19). But he refused worry. "Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). He knew Jesus' words "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear . . . But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:25, 33).
WORSHIP (Old English "worthship") The Hebrew root of the verb has the idea of reverent bowing down before someone greater than we are. We worship when we appreciate what is really worthwhile compared with our puny efforts. "O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our maker" (Psalm 95:6). Humans create all sorts of things, but we worship the LORD who created our whole world. In the Bible many forms of wrong worship are described. They are wrong because Baal, the moon, or mammon, do not deserve our adoration. These days teenagers worship a rock star. It can happen when we are alone. "An Englishman is a self-made man who worships his maker," but the problem is that nobody joins in. It takes a crowd to honor the superb skill of a dancer, hockey player, or virtuoso. That is why we need public worship. At its best it will have the notes of celebration, explanatory WORD, RITUAL, MUSIC, DANCE, SINGING. Nobody is embarrassed by cheering and clapping a great play in the stadium. Why should we be restrained when we recount the astonishing deeds of the LORD. But genuine worthship cannot be forced or manipulated. It is always the sacrifice of a joyful offering that is freely given.
WRATH There is not one text in the Old Testament where the wrath of God sends people into eternal damnation. Wrath simply means anger (see ANGER) that results in assigning proper consequences. And the consequences are always in this life (see HELL). In a pair of parables about the imminent destruction of Jerusalem Jesus described the wrath consequences of rejecting the Son of God. The owner of the vineyard "will put those wretches to a miserable end, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at harvest time" (Matthew 21:37-41). He then repeats the good consequence of this (for us): "I tell you, the kingdom of heaven will be taken away from you and given to people that produces the fruits of the kingdom" (Matthew 21:43) Similarly in the next parable he warned of the consequences of rejecting God's word and making light of God's invitation. "The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city." And the good consequence was that all sorts of people came flocking into the heavenly banquet (Matthew 22:7-10). Wrath consequences can be very severe in a nation, and we should consider the causes. But we should never add that all those who perished in the disaster were destined to burn in hell for ever.
WRITINGS The third section of the Hebrew Bible (see CANON, Old Testament) included the books we call Ruth, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Daniel (here listed as they come in our Old Testament sequence). We use the term WISDOM, Literature to describe only some of these books including Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, plus two books of the APOCRYPHA, Sirach, and the Wisdom of Solomon. This suggests that the Writings were included in the Hebrew Bible in the inter-testamentary period after Malachi (the last of the Old Testament prophets). The arrangement in our Christian Bible placed the book of Ruth where it comes historically after the book of Judges. The later historical books from Chronicles to Esther came in immediately after the books of Kings. And Daniel (obviously written after the exile) was put as the first of the minor prophets. It might have been more logical to put the book of Daniel between Chronicles and Ezra, since DANIELwas more an administrator than a prophet in the usual sense, though he did foresee the sequence of kingdoms that would follow his time (Daniel 11:1-12:13).
WYCLIFFE, John (c.1329-84) became Master of Balliol College, Oxford. As a philosopher he attacked NOMINALISM and the idea of ANNIHILATION. In De Potestate Papae (c.1349) he showed that the Pope's claims were a denial of Scripture and in De Eucharistia he rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation. He served as a parish priest (1361-1384). He wanted the Bible to be read in the vernacular, and began a translation into English, which was carried on by his disciples. It was never allowed to be published but it circulated among the "Poor Preachers" (later called LOLLARDS). As a result he is honored as "The Morning Star of the Reformation." Wycliffe was condemned (1377) by Pope Gregory XI. The Council of Florence (1415) condemned 267 errors in his writings, which were to be burned, and his bones were dug up and burned.
YAHWEH When Moses was called to lead his people out of slavery, he had some tough questions to ask. "If I come to the Israelites and say to them 'The God of your ancestors has sent me to you.' And they ask me 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" (Exodus 3:13) Out of the burning bush the Son of God gave a very simple answer. "Call me I AM" (Hebrew eheyeh). When Moses explained this to the people, they used the third person of the same verb to say HE IS (yiheyeh). In the First English Bibles this was transliterated Jehovah. Modern versions say Yahweh. When Jesus identified himself as I AM it was an obvious claim to deity (John 8:58). The soldiers sent to arrest him fell terrified to the ground (John 18:4-6). HE IS (yiheyeh) tells us that God is not just in the past or the distant future, but HE IS right here for us right now. But we then add the metaphors that Jesus used to fill out how he relates to us: "I am the Bread of life, I am the Light of the world, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Vine" (see METAPHOR).
YEAST Jesus told a parable about the growth of the church in terms of size. "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it is grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree" (Matthew13:32). But he immediately followed it with a parable about the influence of the church
permeating the life of each city. "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed (hid) in with three measures of flour until (with the result that) all of it was leavened" (Matthew 13:33). As one travels to other countries it is easy to see how the religion or ideology of a country permeates every aspect of its life. In a so called Christian country only a small proportion attend church gatherings, but the social concerns and moral tone of the New Testament is taken for granted. It would unthinkable for a woman to be forced to jump on her husband's funeral pire, as used to happen in India. Or for a woman to be buried to her neck and stoned to death for adultery. Justice is by no means impartial in Canada but no one would accept it being totally corrupted by bribery and nepotism. The inhumanity of Communist Russia was only possible when Christian teaching and worship had been pushed underground. The fact that one or two members of a
committee have integrity can prevent that department from being taken over by corruption.
YHWH The original Hebrew text, which was fixed by about 100 AD (but already appears in the DEAD SEA SCROLLS in the complete text of Isaiah) had no vowels. Hebrew vowels were only added much later as they appear in the Leningrad Codex (1008 AD) which represents the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible. This means that no one knows how the four letters of the sacred name (Greek tetragrammaton) should be pronounced. And the rabbis felt it was in any case too sacred to be spoken by anyone. Under LORD we suggest that the Son of God introduced himself to MOSES as I AM (Hebrew eheyeh, Exodus 3:13-14) which is the first person of the Hebrew verb from the interchangeable roots HIH and HWH. When speaking in the third person this became HE IS (Hebrew iheyeh, yehweh) which some scholars transliterated as YAHWEH. It is better to use LORD in capital letters (as in RSV, NRSV) on the understanding that the Son of God was originally referred to in the third person simply as HE IS.
YOGA In western countries Yoga has been promoted as a method of bodily exercise. But in India it was the ancient discipline prescribed inHINDUISM as a preparation for deep meditation. In the ADVAITA philosophy the only way of escape from the weary round (samsara) of REINCARNATION is by freeing ourselves from all that binds us to this world (even our own personality) to attain oneness with the ABSOLUTE. The way to achieve this is by bringing the body under control of the mind. Yogis can sit cross-legged for a long period without sensing any discomfort. The next step is the control of breathing. Without that the mind is distracted by noticing the movement of air in and out of the lungs. After this severe preparation it is possible to withdraw the mind from all that can distract it, and concentrate on the tip of an idol, a word such as om, or an idea. It has been proved that those who attain this single-minded focus can remain undistracted by gongs, flashing lights, or hot objects. Yogis can experience longer and longer trance experiences, and they can then return to ordinary life assured that union with the absolute may one day be possible (see ADVAITA). But this is not a discipline for ordinary people. Instead of losing our personality and merging with the Absolute, Jesus taught us that our personality is not a mistake. As very personal relationship with God as Father can be enjoyed immediately and continued in heaven for ever.
YOKE Oxen, and in some case donkeys, had a wooden yoke attached above their shoulders to pull a plough or cart. Freedom was pictured as undoing "the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free" (Isaiah 58:6). On the other hand students freely accepted the metaphorical yoke of a rabbi when they were enrolled to study with him. But Jesus explained that, instead of the long burdensome memorizing of laws and interpretations required by the rabbis, his training would be enjoyable. "Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest (anapauo, refresh, revive, as in Philemon 7, 20). Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle (as opposed to the fierceness of some teachers) and humble in heart (as opposed to overbearing pride) and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). For ploughing two oxen were usually yoked together, but Moses made it illegal to yoke an ox to plough with a donkey (Deuteronomy 22:10). Which suggested to Paul that it is never a good idea to be "mismatched (Greek 'yoked') with unbelievers. For what partnership (a partnership in crime) is there between righteousness and lawlessness" (2 Corinthians 6:14).
YUGOSLAVIA see BELGRADE
ZEALOTS One of the streams of religion and ideology in Jesus's day was named zealot (Greek zylotes meaning enthusiastic). The term could be used in its wider sense as "You are zealots for spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:12) and Christians who were "zealots for the law" (Acts 21:20). In that sense before his conversion Paul was "a zealot for God" (Acts 22:3) and "a zealot for the traditions of my ancestors" (Galatians 1:14). In the narrower sense one could be a recognized member of the Zealot party (in Canada you can be conservativeby preference without being a card-carrying member of the Conservative party). Luke identified one of the twelve apostles as Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13) which suggests that Simon the Cananean (Mark 3:18) had belonged (or still belonged) to the Zealot party. Their platform was a willingness to fight (if necessarily violently) for the Jewish law (tora), the temple, and the integrity of their land (see Judas Maccabeus as pictured in the books of the MACCABEES in the Apocrypha. Compare the similar agenda of the WAHHABI sect in modern Arabia).
ZEN BUDDHISM A thousand years after Buddha a system of meditation (zazen) was developed in China and then flourished in Japan. With the help of a Zen teacher who uses very severe discipline and koans (insoluble riddles, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"), disciples are freed from the grip of the senses and this world's logical thinking. When the mind is freed from all mental conceptions, the person "hears nothing, sees nothing, and feels nothing." The result is an experience of total clarity called satori (enlightenment). Those who experience this claim total freedom from tensions, struggles, and failure. The severity of the original Zen as practiced in Japan has been softened and popularized in western countries, as for example by the beatniks of the sixties. The indirect impact in a modern lifestyle was expressed by Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 1974.
ZIGGURAT see TOWER building
ZINZENDORF, Count von (1700-60) Having studied at the Lutheran Wittenberg University (1716-19), he engaged in evangelical activities, and had religious gatherings in his home. When a group of Bohemian Brethren fled from persecution in Austria, he welcomed them (1722) to settle on one of his estates. Five years later (1727) he gave up his government post and served the Herrnhut community as their leader. The Lutherans had him exiled from Saxony (1736) and he began teaching across Europe and America. He was ordained as Bishop (1737), and the Moravian Episcopal Church was recognized by the English parliament (1749).
ZOROASTER (Zarathustra, 618- 541 BC) The SIXTH CENTURY REVOLT seems to have begun with the preaching of this prophet (588 BC) while Jewish people were in exile very close to where he lived. He called people to turn from POLYTHEISM and ANIMAL SACRIFICE to worship Ahura Mazda (Lord of Light). In that sense he was committed to MONOTHEISM but he allowed a dualism of the Holy Spirit and the Evil Spirit, with the freedom to follow one or the other. The Parsees of Bombay continue to honor him as their prophet
ZOROASTRIANS Zoroaster (c.660-583 or c.618-541 BC) had the Iranian name of Zarathustra. He seems to have begun the sixth century BC wave of revolt against the priestcraft of the ancient world (see Religion: Origins and Ideas chapter 3). He lived close to the Jewish exiles in Persia, and he may have derived some of his ideas from the writings of the Old Testament prophets. His sayings are collected in the Avesta which taught a dualism of good and evil in constant opposition. To follow Ahura Mazda (the wise Lord) we must strive for purity of thought, word, and deed. Under the Magi priests Zoroastrianism became the Religion of Persia, and it influenced the Middle East till the rise of ISLAM. The PARSISof Bombay (Mumbai) are the main group that still practices this religion