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Mary And Martha


MOW
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Originally , I was going to ask the women on the board if they identify more with Mary or Martha in this famous little story from Luke 10. But I think there are male versions of "Martha" as well.

 

The inspiration for this thread is a woman at a Presbyterian church that I know.Cooking for the congregation after church is very important to her , in fact she views it as her ministry. There also was a man at the Methodist church where I grew up , who ran the children's table for fellowship hour after church. Being an "old school " Methodist man , he was very strict. You could only get two cookies and punch. Nevertheless he did that for over thirty years.

 

I think we need the "Marthas" of the world. For some personality types, religion is more about action and service.

 

 

MOW

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Guest wayfarer2k

Oh, yeah, there are definately male "Martha's" out there. ;)

 

I think you're right, there is room for both Martha's and Mary's. The Martha's often take alot of crap in Christianity because they are seen as being "works-oriented" while the Mary's get praises because they are seen as being "faith-oriented". Martha's are seen as working for their salvation while Mary's are seen as sitting at Jesus' feet in faith. But I think the dichotomy is a false one. Aren't there times in our lives when we all play Martha and Mary roles?

 

Sometimes I enjoy reading alot of theological books or studying my bible or just meditating. And then there are other times when I feel like my religion is not all about me and I just need to get up and do something to make a difference. My own life requires both. If I get too busy, I suffer from burnout. If I get too much into study and conjecture, I become self-centered and/or prideful.

 

So I'm both Mary and Martha at different times. But I don't see one as right and one as wrong. I just see them as appropriate for different context.

 

Great subject. Share more on this, okay?

 

Bill

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Hi Wayferer

 

There are indeed male "Marthas". At one church I attend ,there are some guys who basically hang out in the narthex. Before service they make sure the bulletins are ready, all the light bulbs are in, they check the microphones etc. After that they retire to the narthex until service is over.

 

"Martha" types seem to be "Extroverted Sensate" types (am I right Minsocal?). They need action and physical objects to have meaning. There is no evidence that Martha sat down at Jesus' feet afterwards. For all we know she might have just thrown up her hands and went back to the kitchen. (" I ain't got time for that , I got things to do." ).

 

"Marthas" would find theological discussions, Bible study, Taize sevices, meditation etc. literally excruciating and boring. I agree they may need more balance, but their point of view and psychological type should be honored

 

MOW

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  • 2 weeks later...

Have you read, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver? It is an interesting book that talks about balance in life. I tend toward being a Martha, and I never understood how Jesus would praise Mary for not helping her sister. If there were no Marthas in the world, Jesus would not have had any food that day, etc.

 

Now I understand that we are meant to try to develop the faith side if we are do-ers. Martha achieved that, since later in the Bible she showed her faith in coming to the Lord asking him to raise Lazarus.

 

Also, I have found value in the story now by seeing that what the Lord answered was, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed." Maybe Jesus was saying that relationship is more important than preparations and logistics. That has been helpful in my own life.

 

Janet

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  • 2 weeks later...
Hi Wayferer

 

There are indeed male "Marthas". At one church I attend ,there are some guys who basically hang out in the narthex. Before service they make sure the bulletins are ready, all the light bulbs are in, they check the microphones etc. After that they retire to the narthex until service is over.

 

"Martha" types seem to be "Extroverted Sensate" types (am I right Minsocal?). They need action and physical objects to have meaning. There is no evidence that Martha sat down at Jesus' feet afterwards. For all we know she might have just thrown up her hands and went back to the kitchen. (" I ain't got time for that , I got things to do." ).

 

"Marthas" would find theological discussions, Bible study, Taize sevices, meditation etc. literally excruciating and boring. I agree they may need more balance, but their point of view and psychological type should be honored

 

MOW

 

You are right, but there is a twist. Jung was quite clear that "a Mary forced into a Martha role" will not fare well in life. The beauty of these stories is that they inject questions such as this. The goal is to find a "goodness of fit" between the innate "type" and the environment (in early life), and then to explore our lesser used talents in later life.

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I was thinking about this story and the discussion on it. Here is my take on it:

 

In the days of the first century CE women were not educated (at least in the culture Jesus is depicted in). Being uneducated leaves one very vulnerable. When Mary (Miriam) is sitting at Jesus' feet she is learning from him. When Martha comes in she is basically telling Jesus to put Mary back in her place (a woman's place). Jesus says "no" that she has chosen the better of the two options. Her education is more important than her doing the work society expected of her. I don't think the story is meant to demean service in the way we take it. When looking at and understanding biblical stories we have to put ourselves into the 1st century rather than trying to pull the 1st Century into the the 21st Century!

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To me it seemed like a very simple lesson. Mary choose to focus on the things of the spirit since Jesus's words were spirit and truth while Martha chose to focus on the things of the flesh such as eat and drink and serving the flesh. It seems to me to fit in with his other teachings such as:

 

"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?"

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

 

It is not that the serving of guests is to be always neglected but that when there is a choice between the two, Mary's choice was more important than Martha's mental distraction from spiritual teachings of the kingdom. In otherwords, Martha was cumbered by her servicing of the flesh in lieu of the servicing of the spiritual food that was being offerred at that time to all.

 

Just another perspective,

Joseph

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Guest wayfarer2k
Mary choose to focus on the things of the spirit since Jesus's words were spirit and truth while Martha chose to focus on the things of the flesh such as eat and drink and serving the flesh.

 

While that is a popular interpretation, for me it is a little too simplistic. I know that there is much to be said about flesh versus spirit, especially in the NT, and I think there is some validity to it. But at the same time, Jesus also taught that it was "spiritual" to give someone a drink of water or to feed them with bread. To me, ALL of life is spiritual. I don't see life as a continual dichotomy of flesh/spirit. I'm well aware this goes against some writers of scripture, especially the apostle Paul. But I think we can become "so spiritually-minded that we are no fleshly good". It seems to me that if we truly have our spirit aligned with God's spirit, then we will perform acts of service that demonstrate the spirit's love.

 

My 2c.

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While that is a popular interpretation, for me it is a little too simplistic. I know that there is much to be said about flesh versus spirit, especially in the NT, and I think there is some validity to it. But at the same time, Jesus also taught that it was "spiritual" to give someone a drink of water or to feed them with bread. To me, ALL of life is spiritual. I don't see life as a continual dichotomy of flesh/spirit. I'm well aware this goes against some writers of scripture, especially the apostle Paul. But I think we can become "so spiritually-minded that we are no fleshly good". It seems to me that if we truly have our spirit aligned with God's spirit, then we will perform acts of service that demonstrate the spirit's love.

 

My 2c.

 

Hi wayfarer2k,

 

Yes, I believe you are correct in that love also provides the necessities to others and perhaps have made what I said too overly simplistic by leaving out the last part of the post which I include here. I don't believe the story had anything to do with that extension of love.

 

It is not that the serving of guests is to be always neglected but that when there is a choice between the two, Mary's choice was more important than Martha's mental distraction from spiritual teachings of the kingdom. In otherwords, Martha was cumbered by her servicing of the flesh in lieu of the servicing of the spiritual food that was being offerred at that time to all.

 

So while the interpretation i have given is indeed on the simple side, it has nothing to do with suggesting that we are to let a person go hungry or thirst. Otherwise, Jesus wouild not have told Martha that Mary had made the better choice in that situation. I doubt that the guests were really hungry or came there to eat and drink fleshly food. Perhaps we as people try to read more in a story than is being revealed?

 

Joseph

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The problem with spirit/flesh is no such concept exists to Jesus. The dichotomy comes from Greek influence. Jesus is concerned with the here and now and the bringing of the Kingdom of Heaven/God here and now. That is not a spirit concept but a flesh and blood concept. It is about justice in the form of the last shall be first. Not in some distant place and abstract way but here on earth. It again returns to understanding the culture of the 1st Century and not dragging it into the 21st century. If we want to be true to the scripture we must understand it in the way the readers/hearers of the time would understand it!

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The problem with spirit/flesh is no such concept exists to Jesus. The dichotomy comes from Greek influence. Jesus is concerned with the here and now and the bringing of the Kingdom of Heaven/God here and now. That is not a spirit concept but a flesh and blood concept. It is about justice in the form of the last shall be first. Not in some distant place and abstract way but here on earth. It again returns to understanding the culture of the 1st Century and not dragging it into the 21st century. If we want to be true to the scripture we must understand it in the way the readers/hearers of the time would understand it!

 

Hi OA,

 

That is a view I had not heard before.

Your last sentence sounds like a formidable task to me and a most difficult one to undertake. I would not know how to begin. Perhaps I will leave that to those younger than me.

 

Joseph

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I doubt that the guests were really hungry or came there to eat and drink fleshly food. Perhaps we as people try to read more in a story than is being revealed?

 

That's probably true, Joseph. But one thing that Autumn may be referring to, either directly or indirectly, is that, in that culture, the offering of food and drink was a sign, not of trying to meet the basic human needs of sustenance, but of welcoming, of acceptance.

 

Even today, if a visitor shows up to our home, we often offer drink and/or a meal. It is a sign of fellowship, of unity, of acceptance. To not do so could be interpreted as rudeness. We tell people "make yourself at home."

 

This was even more of a consideration in that day. If people came into the home of Martha and Mary and "refreshments" were not offered, it is very possible that the visitors would have considered themselves to be unwelcome and would have left.

 

Now, as to Jesus' "approval" of Mary's choice, there is no denying that. Maybe Martha and Mary should have made preparations earlier. Then Martha would have been free to sit at Jesus' feet also. We just don't know. Granted, Jesus does stress the importance of listening to him. He always did. And we should.

 

But what I'm saying is that in the former religious circles in which I traveled, this account was ALWAYS interpreted as Mary receiving her salvation BY FAITH from the words of Jesus while Martha was attempting to WORK for her salvation in the kitchen. :) THAT, yes, is reading WAY TOO MUCH into this story. I don't believe Martha was trying to earn Jesus' acceptance by working in the kitchen. I just think she was doing what women did in that culture. And while that was accepted (or even necessary) in that day, Jesus was often counter-cultural. I don't think women were allowed to sit at the feet of their rabbis. Someone else here may be able to substantiate/repudiate that for me. But, if so, Martha was instinctively observing cultural traditions rather than helping form a "new way." Perhaps that is the reason for Jesus' words. But I seriously doubt Martha was trying to earn her salvation. :)

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Hi all,

this is a really interesting thread. I'll add some thoughts here and explain my assumptions first, so you get an idea of where I'm coming from. You might not be in the same place but I thought I'd add this angle to the discussion.

 

My basis for comment is:

a) I'm in a 'paring down' mode, trying to get to the kernel of what still exists for me in the christian faith.

b I don't feel drawn to understanding Martha and Mary were actual people who actually lived, or were the exact people featured in this story.

c) this story may be a story that has a message but might use the identities of Mary and Martha

d) we might never really know what the writer intended to convey by including this story and it's embedded message

Okay, I hope you see what I'm basing my thoughts on :blink:

 

I wonder if this is just a simple story about priorities, and the struggle we all have in getting our priorities 'right'.

Mary chose to sit with Jesus, Martha chose the dishes.

Jesus repeatedly said he wouldn't be around long. Maybe that's the message - things can wait, enjoy the moment now.

 

So, maybe in my life, I read about Martha and Mary and then decide to fight the natural urge to get on and do something and just sit for a bit, enjoy the moment that will soon be gone, forever. Mary might say...

- Maybe I'll go for drinks with everyone after the big win today, even though I should go home and get through that basket of ironing (pah! It can wait).

- Maybe I'll skip that assignment (and even risk a fail), just so I can spend time with my aunt who flies into my city tonight on a whistle stop tour (pfft! She's more important than Business Strategy)

 

Just my thoughts (basic I know) but life is way more complicated than it needs to be, sometimes. ;)

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The problem with spirit/flesh is no such concept exists to Jesus. The dichotomy comes from Greek influence. Jesus is concerned with the here and now and the bringing of the Kingdom of Heaven/God here and now. That is not a spirit concept but a flesh and blood concept. It is about justice in the form of the last shall be first. Not in some distant place and abstract way but here on earth. It again returns to understanding the culture of the 1st Century and not dragging it into the 21st century. If we want to be true to the scripture we must understand it in the way the readers/hearers of the time would understand it!

 

It is interesting how we use words in so many different ways. What struck me about this comment is that the example of "the first shall be last" is the same example Jung used to define "spirit" in "the best sense of the word". Then again, Jung had a habit of turning concepts upside-down. This is a useful techinque. It can break our tendency to interpret the world from an exclusively "bottom-up" or "top-down" perspective. [Life-to-Spirit versus Spirit-to-Life].

 

There is another tradition, dating back to times before Jesus, that these stories were intended to have two (or more) meanings. One meaning for those grappling with day-to-day existence in the realm of local (temporal) cultural practices, and a second meaning in the spiritual (atemporal) realm.

 

Myron in Southern California (Minsocal)

 

P.S. I would also add the following in support of the "here-and-now" view:

 

Deuteronomy 30:11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

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You are right, but there is a twist. Jung was quite clear that "a Mary forced into a Martha role" will not fare well in life. The beauty of these stories is that they inject questions such as this. The goal is to find a "goodness of fit" between the innate "type" and the environment (in early life), and then to explore our lesser used talents in later life.

 

Hi minsocal

But also wouldn't a "Martha" forced into a "Mary" role not fare very well either?

 

I'm unfamiliar with the quote from Deuteronomy ,but it sounds similar to a saying from The Gospel of Thomas. Something about "if they say the Kingdom is in the sky the birds will get there first. And if they say the Kingdom is in the sea the fish will get there first. I can't remember which saying number it is.

 

MOW

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Hi,

 

This story has always been a favorite for me...enjoyed the discussion here.

 

As I see it, the Mary/ Martha encounter shouldn’t be taken as a comparison of social activism vs passivity. There are plenty of other instances in the gospels that do point out the need to help others.

 

Martha is not going around the village donating food to the poor. She is focused on proving herself worthy and judging her sister—she is “worried and distracted by many things” and that is why Jesus chides her. Both women have the opportunity for a relationship with God, but Martha turns away from it to conform to the world, the traditions that bound women to household tasks. Mary was opening herself to learn whatever she could from Jesus, a rather bold stance when women were forbidden even to learn the Torah.

 

In Martha’s anxious preoccupied state of mind we cannot be still and know that God is within….the “one needful thing” which will not be taken from her. We have to slow down, center ourselves, to receive the spirit that will in turn allow us to give from the heart.

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Hi minsocal

But also wouldn't a "Martha" forced into a "Mary" role not fare very well either?

 

I'm unfamiliar with the quote from Deuteronomy ,but it sounds similar to a saying from The Gospel of Thomas. Something about "if they say the Kingdom is in the sky the birds will get there first. And if they say the Kingdom is in the sea the fish will get there first. I can't remember which saying number it is.

 

MOW

 

Hi MOW,

 

The answer to your question is yes. The issue really has to to with deciding whether personality naturally varies from person to person and is, at least in part, due to nature itself providing more than one approach to coping with typical (and essential) situations. For example, in an emergency one person might spontaneuosly respond with "I must rescue others" while a second might respond with "I must wait to be rescued by others". Both strategies are effective and (potentially. at least) innate. They form a complementary pair of responses that should enhance the overall survival of the species. However, we saw this break down during Kartrina with tragic consequences. Then the "blame game" set in.

 

The quote from Deuteronomy belongs to a cluster of similar sayings from a variety of cultures. Consider:

 

"The highest excellence is like that of water. The excellence of water appears in its benefiting all things, and in its occupying, without striving, the low place which all men dislike. Hence it is near to the Tao ... Under these two aspects [heaven and earth], it is really the same; but as development takes place, it receives the different names. Together we call them the Mystery. Where the Mystery is the deepest is the gate of all that is subtle and wonderful (from the Tao Ching, The Book of Changes)."

 

Notice how "excellence" is first linked to "highest" and then to "the low place which all men dislike." Heaven and earth are "really the same".

 

“The psychic depths are nature, and nature is creative life. Whatever values in the visible world are destroyed by modern relativism, the psyche will produce their equivalents.” C.G.Jung, Modern Man in Search Of a Soul

 

Minsocal

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At this point, I thought I would add a few comments for general consideration. As I previously posted, it seems that "nature" and "spirit" could be one in the same thing. Dichotomies, and ambiquity, are embedded in nature, not in the contrast between the natural and the supernatual. Rather than use the term "dichotomies", we could just as well describe complementary pairs of strategies for dealing with the world as we know it. Consider the following from P. Valent (2007):

 

1. Must rescue others versus must be rescued by others (rescue - attach) (care - be cared for) (altuistic - lovable)

2. Must achieve goals versus must surrender goals (assert - adapt) (strength - acceptance) (successful - tribute)

3. Must remove danger versus must move from danger (fight - flight) (threat - retreat) (heroic - refugee)

4. Must obtain scarce essentials versus must create scarce essentials (compete - cooperate) (power - love) (honored - beautiful)

 

Note how we will be judged based on the natural strategy we employ, and how we judge others.

 

The key point is that these attributes or characteristics of a person do not define the whole person as such. Thus the ethical teaching "never treat a person as an object".

 

For what its worth, I think it would be a fairly easy task to find the pairs (1-4) all represented in the Bible. The point I wish to make here is summed up in the following example:

 

About four years ago, I was sitting in a coffee shop when a Rabbi and a young girl about 13 or so entered. They were engaged in what appeared to be a fairly serious conversation. They sat down next to my table and I was able to hear what the conversation was about. It concerned the fact that the young girl had a close friend that was using marijuana and she was attempting to decide how she should handle the problem. The Rabbi never gave her any instructions, but at each juncture of the conversation asked her "... do you remember the story of ... (from the Bible)?" as she went through her list of alternatives. Her decision? She could not reject her friend, but would not join her friend in using marijuana to keep the relationship. She would make this clear and see how things developed from there. The Rabbi simply nodded his head.

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1. Must rescue others versus must be rescued by others (rescue - attach) (care - be cared for) (altuistic - lovable)

2. Must achieve goals versus must surrender goals (assert - adapt) (strength - acceptance) (successful - tribute)

3. Must remove danger versus must move from danger (fight - flight) (threat - retreat) (heroic - refugee)

4. Must obtain scarce essentials versus must create scarce essentials (compete - cooperate) (power - love) (honored - beautiful)

 

 

For what its worth, I think it would be a fairly easy task to find the pairs (1-4) all represented in the Bible. The point I wish to make here is summed up in the following example:

 

-----------------------------------

I loved the example minsocial. Do you want to move the 4 characteristics to another posting and we can work on the exercise of finding those teachings in the Bible? Then we would all be prepared to counsel like the rabbi.

 

I used to be confused when I read conflicting messages in the Bible, like "Honor thy father and mother" and "let the dead bury their own dead." Now I understand that because life is so complex, one answer does not fit all situations or all people. That is why people can use the Bible to justify opposing positions on the death penalty, human rights, etc.

 

However, I believe there is value in taking some time for the Mary side if one tends to operate on the Martha side most of the time. The author of the Mary in a Martha World book suggested that Martha had grown in her faith between the time she was complaining in the kitchen and the time she ran to meet Jesus after her brother, Lazarus had died. At that point she chose to give her time and energy to Jesus, to put her trust in Him.

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  • 1 month later...

Good topic and discussions. It shows quite a variety of thought on how each considers the Biblical story.

 

One thing to perhaps consider a bit more in the Luke 10 story is Martha's concern over herself rather than Jesus. It wasn't quite so much that it was her works that were more important to her but that she was being "abandoned" by Mary for Jesus. Martha was quoted as saying, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me."

 

Jesus spoke, gently scolding Martha for concerning herself with trying to manipulate a situation in her favor rather than listening to the Lord's word. Especially a situation where she really has no control over it anyway (Mary, for example). It seems no one was struggling for any grave need save for listening to the Lord.

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  • 1 month later...
Good topic and discussions. It shows quite a variety of thought on how each considers the Biblical story.

 

One thing to perhaps consider a bit more in the Luke 10 story is Martha's concern over herself rather than Jesus. It wasn't quite so much that it was her works that were more important to her but that she was being "abandoned" by Mary for Jesus. Martha was quoted as saying, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me."

 

Jesus spoke, gently scolding Martha for concerning herself with trying to manipulate a situation in her favor rather than listening to the Lord's word. Especially a situation where she really has no control over it anyway (Mary, for example). It seems no one was struggling for any grave need save for listening to the Lord.

 

Well, what it seems to you IS what it seems TO YOU. There is NOTHING PROFOUND in such an observation. NOTHING! I see A. you see B ... you see B and claim superiority. SO WHAT? YOU HAVE TO SUPPORT YOUR CLAIM TO SUPPERIOR KNOWLEDGE ... give me the credentials, give me YOUR credentials. Are you Jesus? Are you God?

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Well, what it seems to you IS what it seems TO YOU. There is NOTHING PROFOUND in such an observation. NOTHING! I see A. you see B ... you see B and claim superiority. SO WHAT? YOU HAVE TO SUPPORT YOUR CLAIM TO SUPPERIOR KNOWLEDGE ... give me the credentials, give me YOUR credentials. Are you Jesus? Are you God?

minsocal,

 

It was just a simple observation based on the Biblical text.

 

Your accusatory post to me seems to be the one declaring superiority, rather than the other way around.

 

I think the profound nature of something is usually much simpler than we sometimes try to make it.

 

Dk

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minsocal,

 

It was just a simple observation based on the Biblical text.

 

Your accusatory post to me seems to be the one declaring superiority, rather than the other way around.

 

I think the profound nature of something is usually much simpler than we sometimes try to make it.

 

Dk

 

The bulk of your posts have to do with uniformity and understanding propositions as literal. Jesus did not document his intentions, this was left to others. We do not know the intentions of those writers for certain, they do not always agree. Intentionality and intentional causation are the issues.

 

I will ask you this question here, though it relates to other threads: Is it the case that knowledge of the Bible is a sufficient cause for an action?

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