Archive for July 2020

Evaluation of King Josiah   Leave a comment

Above:  King Josiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART V

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1 Esdras 1:23-24

Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 49:1-6

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O my God, remember to my credit all that I have done for this people!

–Nehemiah 5:19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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And the deeds of Josiah were upright in the sight of the Lord, for his heart was full of godliness.  In ancient times the events of his reign have been recorded–concerning those who sinned and acted wickedly toward the Lord beyond any other people or kingdom, and how they grieved the Lord deeply, so that the words of the Lord fell upon Israel.

–1 Esdras 1:23-24, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That passage from 1 Esdras has no parallel in 2 Chronicles or 2 Kings.

Sirach 49:1-6 heaps more praise upon Josiah.  That passage lauds only three Israelite monarchs–David, Hezekiah, and Josiah.  The rest were wicked, verse 4 tells us.  Sirach 49:1-6 also tells us that Josiah’s name is like “blended incense” and that his memory is precious.  One also reads that Josiah “kept his heart fixed on God” and led a virtuous life during “times of lawlessness.”  Such lawlessness, one reads, led to the Babylonian Exile.

Sirach 49:1-6 comes from a section (Chapters 44-50) in which Ben Sira praises heroes, but not always in chronological order.  The standard English translation of Sirach 44:1 begins,

Let us now praise famous men….

I wonder if the author of Hebrews (definitely not St. Paul the Apostle) had Sirach 44-50 in mind when dictating or writing the roll call of faith in Chapter 11.

The story of King Josiah of Judah confirms what most people know already:  the wisdom and character of those who sit in positions of power changes the courses of nations and the world.  And even those who walk with God make foolish decisions.  At least these rulers are not evil, though.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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The Death of King Josiah   Leave a comment

Above:  King Josiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART IV

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2 Kings 23:28-30

2 Chronicles 35:20-27

1 Esdras 1:25-33

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For I am full of trouble;

my life is at the brink of the grave.

–Psalm 88:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Assyrian Empire had fallen in 612 B.C.E., despite the reference to the Assyrian king in 2 Kings 23:29.  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had conquered the Assyrian Empire.  The political situation was unstable in 609 B.C.E.  Some remnant of Assyrian power may have remained.  Pharaoh Neco II (r. 610-595 B.C.E.) sought to establish Egyptian power in Syria.  His route went through Judah.  Josiah wanted to extend his power, too.  Josiah died, either in Megiddo (2 Kings 23:29) or Jerusalem, of mortal wounds inflicted in Megiddo (2 Chronicles 35:24; 1 Esdras 1:31).  Neco II’s bid to extend Egyptian power into Egypt failed; Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian forces made sure of that.

Two recurring themes overlap in the readings for this post.  The first theme is that anyone may, at least once, speak for God.  In this case, the unlikely prophet (partly right) was Neco II, who encouraged Josiah to leave.  The other theme is that disregarding divine instructions, such as those even an unlikely prophet may speak, can lead to one’s death.  One may recall another example of this happening when an unnamed “man of God” from Judah died in 1 Kings 13.  One may also remember that Josiah left that prophet’s memorial intact in 2 Kings 23:15f.  Pulling these threads together may lead to great understanding of the texts.

People were correct to lament the passing of Josiah.  The Kingdom of Judah had about 22 years left.  His successors were terrible.

Even heroes have flaws.  What if Josiah had not acted foolishly in 609 B.C.E.?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARY, MARTHA, AND LAZARUS OF BETHANY, FRIENDS OF JESUS

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Posted July 29, 2020 by neatnik2009 in 1 Esdras 1, 1 Kings 13, 2 Chronicles 35, 2 Kings 23, Psalm 88

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King Josiah’s Great Passover   Leave a comment

Above:  Solomon’s Temple

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART III

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2 Kings 23:21-27

2 Chronicles 35:1-19

1 Esdras 1:1-22

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He struck down the firstborn of their land,

the firstfruits of all their strength.

–Psalm 105:36, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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First, let us get the Books of Esdras straight, so that we may know what I mean by 1 Esdras 1:1-22.  The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha contains a useful chart explaining the names of all the Books of Esdras.  Depending on how one counts, there are as many as five Books of Esdras.  The Douay Old Testament lists Ezra as 1 Esdras and Nehemiah as 2 Esdras.  The Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, The New English Bible, and The Revised English Bible call the Apocryphal or Deuterocanonical (depending on one’s theological orientation) paraphrase of 2 Chronicles 35-35, Ezra, and part of Nehemiah  (with the tale of three young bodyguards in the court of King Darius I) as 1 Esdras and the apocalypse as 2 Esdras.  The Orthodox Study Bible (2008) lists 1 Esdras as 1 Ezra, Ezra as 2 Ezra, and Nehemiah as Nehemiah.  The apocalypse (2 Esdras) is, according to various sources, alternatively 3 Esdras, 4 Esdras, and, compositely, 2, 4, and 5 Esdras.  For my purposes, Ezra is Ezra, Nehemiah is Nehemiah, 1 Esdras is the paraphrase, and 2 Esdras is the apocalypse.  This is the naming system according to most English translations.

1 Esdras, originally in Greek, dates to no later than 100 B.C.E.  It opens with King Josiah’s great Passover and concludes with Ezra reading the Law to the people.  The focus of 1 Esdras is the Temple in Jerusalem–rather, both of the Temples.  And, just as chronology is not the organizational principle in Ezra and Nehemiah, neither is it the organizational principle in 1 Esdras.

The great Passover of Josiah was part of the monarch’s religious reform policy.  That policy pleased God yet did not prevent the coming judgment, 2 Kings reminds us.

Some minor discrepancies exist between texts.

  1. 1 Esdras 1:10 (originally Greek) reads, in part, “…having the unleavened bread.”  This is a bad translation of 2 Chronicles 35:10 (originally Hebrew), which reads, in part, “by the king’s command.”
  2. 2 Chronicles says that there were 5,000 small cattle and 500 large cattle for the Levites.  1 Esdras says there were 5,000 sheep and 700 calves for the Levites.  If I were a literalist, I would care.
  3. Chronology remains an issue.  As I wrote in the first post in this series, 2 Kings 22 establishes the beginning of Josiah’s religious reforms in the eighteenth year of his life.  In 2 Kings 23, therefore, the great Passover occurred that year.  However, 1 Esdras follows the chronology from 2 Chronicles  34 and 35, placing these events in the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign instead.
  4. Differences in names may count as discrepancies yet not contradictions.  A careful student of the Bible should be able to think of more than one example of a character with names.  For the record, Conaniah (2 Chronicles 35:9) is reasonably close to Jeconiah (1 Esdras 1:9).  Jeiel and Jozabad (2 Chronicles 35:9) could easily be Ochiel and Joram (1 Esdras 1:9).  And Heman and Jeduthun (2 Chronicles 35:15) could be alternative names for Zechariah and Eddinus (1 Esdras 1:15).

Josiah was trying–really trying.  Kings had staged grandiose Passovers at the Temple prior to this Passover.  For example, Hezekiah, Josiah’s great-grandfather, had staged a grand Passover in 2 Chronicles 30.  Yet this was the first Passover on such a grand scale since the time of Samuel, prior to the monarchy.

However, a portent hung over the glorious occasion.  Josiah was mortal.  His successors were terrible.  The Kingdom of Judah fell.  Exile began.  Yet hope remained, even then.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARY, MARTHA, AND LAZARUS OF BETHANY, FRIENDS OF JESUS

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King Josiah’s Religious Reforms   Leave a comment

Above:  King Josiah Hearing the Book of the Law

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART II

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2 Kings 23:1-20

2 Chronicles 34:19-33

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I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

–Psalm 119:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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If one pays attention to 2 Kings 22-23 and compares their contents to 2 Chronicles 34, one notices some irreconcilable differences, chiefly the rearrangement of material from 2 Kings 22-23.  The chronologies differ.  Some of the material from 2 Kings 22 shows up in 2 Chronicles 34:19-33.  Furthermore, 2 Kings 23 tells the story of Josiah’s religious reforms starting after the rediscovery of the Book of the Law in the Temple.  In contrast, the narrative in 2 Chronicles 34 is that Josiah had begun his reforms prior to the finding of the Book of the Law.

I generally consider the accounts in the Books of Samuel and Kings more reliable than those in 1 and 2 Chronicles.  I do this regardless of the internal contradictions present in the Books of Samuel and Kings due to the editing of different, sometimes mutually exclusive sources into one narrative.  Yet the Books of Samuel and Kings are brutally honest about the moral failings of characters who are supposed to be heroes.  However, 1 and 2 Chronicles put the best possible faces on heroes.  1 Chronicles 11 omits the civil war between Kings David and Ishbaal (2 Samuel 2:8-4:12) after the death of King Saul (1 Samuel 31; 2 Samuel 1; 1 Chronicles 10).  Also, 2 Samuel 11 and 12 tell of David and Bathsheba, a story absent from 1 and 2 Chronicles.

2 Kings 23:1-20 details how far folk religion had fallen during the reigns of Josiah’s grandfather (Manasseh) and father (Amon).  The text even mentions prostitution at the Temple in Jerusalem.  The text describes a folk religion that had assimilated with the cultures of neighboring peoples.  If one pays close attention to the Hebrew Bible, one knows that syncretism was an old pattern.  One may also recall that Elijah, after mocking Baal Peor in 1 Kings 17:20f, slaughtered the prophets of the Canaanite storm god.  Josiah resembles Elijah in 2 Kings 23:20.

2 Kings 23:15f refers to 1 Kings 13, in which an unnamed prophet, a “man of God,” from the southern Kingdom of Judah traveled to the northern Kingdom of Israel to condemn the altar in Bethel during the reign (928-907 B.C.E.) of Jeroboam I.  Shortly thereafter, we read, that prophet died because he disobeyed divine instructions.  That is an important detail, one to which I will return in another post before I finish writing about Josiah’s reign.  We also read that Josiah honored the memory of the unnamed “man of God.”

One theme present in both 2 Kings 23:1-20 and 2 Chronicles 34:19-33 yet more prominent in the latter is communal commitment to God.  This is imperative.

Raymond Calkins wrote in The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume III (1954):

The people might perform acts of worship as prescribed, yet go their way as before, living lives of greed and selfishness.  True reform, in a word, is the reformation of inward motives, impulses, desires.  We must begin there.  No outside scheme of salvation will avail so long as men themselves remain self-seeking, materially minded, unbrotherly, indulgent.  The world for which we wait depends not on outward organizations but upon the revival of a true religion in the hearts of men.  Precisely what we are, the world will become.  The reformation of the world depends upon the reformation of the soul.  Such are the lessons taught us by the reforms of Josiah.

–323-324

No theocracy can effect this reformation and make it last, keeping in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles.  However, the imperative of spiritually-healthy collective action, paired with individual action, remains.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARY, MARTHA, AND LAZARUS OF BETHANY, FRIENDS OF JESUS

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The Finding of the Book of the Law   1 comment

Above:  King Josiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART I

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2 Kings 22:1-20

2 Chronicles 34:1-18

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How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

–Psalm 84:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The parallel readings from 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles are similar yet different.  Many of the details are identical.  Yet contradictions exist.  A Biblical literalist must, for example, perform mental gymnastics to attempt to reconcile the different chronologies.  2 Kings 22:3, for example, places the discovery of an early version of Deuteronomy (probably) about a decade into King Josiah’s reign–the eighteenth year of his life–630 B.C.E. or so.  However, 2 Chronicles 34:8 places that discovery when Josiah was 26 years old–in the eighteenth year of his reign.  Furthermore, each account is the product of different theological concerns.  And the version from 2 Chronicles 34, consistent with the pro-Davidic Dynastic tone of 1-2 Chronicles, contains a portrayal of Josiah more flattering than the positive portrayal in 2 Kings 22.  Other differences may prove simply that one author chose not to use certain details the other one did.

If one consults three study Bibles, one may find three different ranges for the reign of King Josiah.  The reason for this is that working with ancient sources and working out dates on the B.C.E. scale (which did not exist until our 500s C.E.) is complicated.  Reasons for this intellectual-historical exercise being complicated are not germane to this post.  In this series of posts I use dates from The Jewish Study Bible.

If one backs up several Kings of Judah, one finds essential background.  King Hezekiah (r. 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.), the previous monarch to receive a positive evaluation in scripture, had died.  Two terrible king followed and Judah became an Assyrian vassal state.  Even Manasseh (r. 698/687-642)–see 2 Kings 21:1-18 and 2 Chronicles 33:1-20–received better press in 2 Chronicles than in 2 Kings.  Much of the apocryphal Prayer of Manasseh (based on 2 Chronicles 33:12f) has become a canticle in Morning Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  The next monarch, Amon (r. 641-640 B.C.E.)–see 2 Kings 21:19-26 and 2 Chronicles 33:21-25–unlike his father Manasseh, died in his palace, not as a prisoner in a foreign land.  However, Amon died during a palace rebellion almost certainly related to anti-Assyrian politics.

Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.), king from eight years of age, came to the throne of Judah as a vassal of Assyria.  Manasseh and Amon had allowed the Temple in Jerusalem to fall into a severe state of disrepair.  Josiah, finally of age to exercise authority, cared enough to begin repairs on the Temple.  Meanwhile, Assyrian influence waned.  The circumstances for reformation were in place.

Two major theological differences between the accounts jump out at me.  2 Kings 22:14-20 speaks of delayed and inevitable divine judgment.  The time to avert the fall had passed.  2 Chronicles 34 emphasizes the collective responsibility to maintain the Temple.  Both theological emphases focus on collective responsibility.

Rugged individualism is not a Biblical virtue.  No, mutuality in the context of recognition of complete dependence on God is a Biblical virtue.  Actions have consequences.  Good rulers make a positive difference.  Bad rulers make a negative difference.  People suffer because of the foolish decisions others make and benefit from the wise decisions others make.  And sometimes the train has left the station, so to speak, with regard to the collective neglect of duty before God and to the negative consequences thereof.  Yet even then a good ruler can make a positive difference, at least for a while.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARY, MARTHA, AND LAZARUS OF BETHANY, FRIENDS OF JESUS

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Becoming   Leave a comment

O God, you are God–

it is you I seek!

For you my body yearns;

for you my soul thirsts,

In a land parched, lifeless,

and without water.

I look to you in the sanctuary

to see your power and glory.

For your love is better than life;

my lips shall ever praise you!

–Psalm 63:2-4, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

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One’s life is the continuous process of becoming the next version of oneself.  Former versions of oneself are legion; the next version of oneself awaits.  We all change in a plethora of ways throughout life.  Hopefully, we improve.  Hopefully, we deepen in faith.  Hopefully, we become kinder and more forgiving.  Hopefully, we become more knowledgeable.  Hopefully, we become more compassionate.  Hopefully, we become better at work.  Hopefully, we improve at all worthwhile pursuits.  Hopefully, our language skills will improve.  Hopefully, we will improve (in a number of activities) with practice.  Hopefully, we become more grateful.  Hopefully, we become more loving and less judgmental.  Hopefully, we become more aware of social injustice and refuse to turn a blind eye to it and to defend it any longer.  Hopefully, we practice the Golden Rule more often.

I can speak and write only for myself.  That is all I try to do in this post.

I have noticed changes in myself.  Times of loss and great stress have led to spiritual and emotional growth.  Even during times loss and great stress have not defined, I have changed spiritually.  I have, for example, started growing into mysticism.  Nobody has found this more surprising than I have.  I have also shifted theologically; I have moved toward the center, overall.  I have retained my propensity to ask questions and understand doubts as gateways to deeper faith, though.  When I was an undergraduate at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, one of the other residents in the dormitory told me I would go to Hell for asking too many questions.  I have never changed my mind about her; she did not ask enough questions.  God, who gave us brains, does not intend for us to check our intellects at the church door.  Healthy faith is never anti-intellectual.  I could name some people who do not consider me a Christian, but I will not do so in this post.  To them I say, “You know who you are.”

I am becoming the next version of myself.  Who will he be?  May he be the person God wants him to be.  Those to whom I say, “You know who you are,” will think what they will think.  So be it; I do not answer to them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONAVENTURE, SECOND FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF FRIARS MINOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS I OF NAPLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, SR.; AND HIS SON, DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, JR.; EPISCOPAL BISHOPS OF MISSISSIPPI AND ADVOCATES FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF GEORGE TYRRELL, IRISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT SWITHUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF WINCHESTER

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A Prayer Regarding Donatism   1 comment

Above:  Donatus

Image in the Public Domain

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Loving God, for whom to exist is to care,

may we refrain from being judgmental jerks in your name.

May our zeal for the truth, as we understand it,

not transform us into theologically rigid, off-putting people.

May we, without excusing the inexcusable,

not behave, write, speak, and think inexcusably and judgmentally,

thereby creating division and unpleasantness needlessly.

May we not imagine that we know more than we do.

May our imagined wisdom not feed our private forms of Donatism.

If we commit Donatism, please forgive us and help us to repent.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONAVENTURE, SECOND FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF FRIARS MINOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS I OF NAPLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, SR.; AND HIS SON, DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, JR.; EPISCOPAL BISHOPS OF MISSISSIPPI AND ADVOCATES FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF GEORGE TYRRELL, IRISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT SWITHUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF WINCHESTER

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Originally published at GATHERED PRAYERS

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Posted July 15, 2020 by neatnik2009 in Prayers on Various Topics

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