Wrestling With Biblical Texts   1 comment

moses-with-the-tablets-of-the-law-rembrandt-van-rijn

Above:  Moses With the Tablets of the Law, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people

by sending us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit,

that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 20:1-21

Psalm 33:12-22

Matthew 5:1-12

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 20:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-sixth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/third-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/devotion-for-the-eighth-day-of-easter-second-sunday-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/week-of-proper-11-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/proper-22-year-a/

Matthew 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/devotion-for-september-28-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Shall we unpack the Ten Commandments, at least a little?

  1. Many more commandments follow immediately, starting in Exodus 20.
  2. Many of the Ten Commandments are self-explanatory, so not committing adultery against a neighbor are straight-forward, for example.
  3. Swearing falsely by the name of God refers to insincere oaths and to attempts to control God, not to certain curse words and related expressions.
  4. On the troubling side, the text classes wives with property and livestock (20:14) and allows for slavery (20:10).
  5. The commandment to have no other gods might deny the existence of other deities or mean simply not to worship them while acknowledging their existence.  Hebrew Bible scholars debate that point.  Yet I know that many Hebrews during Biblical times not only acknowledged the existence of other deities but worshiped some of them.
  6. Sometimes displaying the Ten Commandments constitutes idolatry, which intention defines.

Exodus 20:5-6 requires some explanation.  Does God really punish descendants for someone’s sins?  Or is this a description of behaviors repeated across generations?  The ultimate context in which to consider any passage of Scripture is the entire canon thereof.  Thus I point out that a note on page 149 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004) lists Deuteronomy 24:6; Jeremiah 31:29-30; and Ezekiel 18:1-20 as passages which state that God punishes a person for his or her sins alone.  This nuance helps to fill out the picture.  Sometimes Biblical authors wrote of effects as if they were divine purposes, even when they were not.  Human understandings have changed, even if God has not.

If we read Exodus 20:5-6 as descriptive and interpret it within the context of the previously listed passages from Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, a certain understanding takes shape.  One’s good and bad behaviors might echo for three or four or more generations.  I can, for example, identify positive and negative legacies from two of my paternal great-grandfathers which have affected me.  I, being aware of my responsibility for my own actions, have endeavored to keep the good and to break with the bad.  God know how successful that has proven so far.

The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are about, among other things, how faithful people of God ought to live with God and in community.  Depending on one’s community, living with God properly might contradict the former and lead to persecutions–even death.  The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-23) say that God’s order is not the dominant human one in which a person lives.  The Beatitudes are counter-cultural.  And Luke 6:24-26 (the Woes) goes beyond anything Matthew 5:3-12 indicates.  If one really reads them, one should recognize that the Beatitudes and Woes remain political hot potatoes.

One part of the honest–not autopilot–interaction with the Bible I like is that we must wrestle with texts and reconsider aspects of our opinions, culture, politics, and economics–even ones which we like and which benefit us.  This is healthy to do.  We will do it if we take the Bible seriously and seek to cut through confirmation bias and defense mechanisms.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHERINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/devotion-for-the-forty-ninth-day-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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One response to “Wrestling With Biblical Texts

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  1. Pingback: Devotion for the Forty-Ninth Day of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary) | LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS

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