Archive for the ‘Baruch-Letter of Jeremiah-2 Baruch’ Category

The Incomparable Sovereign God, with the First Servant Song   1 comment

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART IV

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 40:12-42:17

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

YHWH, who ended the Babylonian Exile, was unconquered, incomparable, sovereign, and formidable.  YHWH, the Creator, was the God of the world, not a tribal or national deity.  YHWH was with the Jewish exiles, the Chosen People.  YHWH put the nations on trial, on behalf of justice.

The poor and the needy

Seek water, and there is none;

Their tongue is parched with thirst.

I the LORD will respond to them.

I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

–Isaiah 41:17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Idolatry in the presence of YHWH is futile (41:21-29).

I affirm all of the above while noticing that I have read all of it in various Hebrew prophetic books since I started this long-term project, with the Book of Hosea.  I also recall the Letter of Jeremiah (Baruch 6), one of many tirades against idolatry in Hebrew literature.  Another such tirade awaits me in Isaiah 44:9-20.  These tirades, while mocking idolatry (as they should), frequently mischaracterize idols–the objects themselves–and what idolaters though the objects were.  These tirades after falsely accuse idolaters of believing these figures of wood or metal were gods.  Actually, idolaters believed that divine presences entered idols after complex rituals.

Isaiah 42:1-9 is the First Servant Song.  The servant, we read, will bring justice to the nations.  Who is–was–the servant?  Proposed identities include Jesus (of course), King Cyrus II of the Persian Empire, Second Isaiah, the faithful people within the Hebrew nation, and the Hebrew nation itself.  Isaiah 42:1-4, which borrows from Isaiah 11 and Jeremiah 31:31-36, anticipates an ideal future of justice and ecological harmony.  It also lends itself to identifying the servant as the covenant community (42:6)–Jews, in terms Second Isaiah knew.  I, as one who affirms God’s double covenant, add Christians to the ranks of covenant people.  The task of the covenant people (Jews and Christians) in 2021 is to bring justice to the nations, per Isaiah 42:1-4.  God equips and empowers us to do so.  How many of us accept the mission?

I the LORD, in My grace, have summoned you,

And I have grasped you by the hand.

I created you, and appointed you

A covenant people, a light of nations–

Opening eyes deprived of light,

Rescuing prisoners from confinement,

From the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

–Isaiah 42:6-7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Those words remain as applicable in 2021 as they were circa 540 B.C.E.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS TOLTON, PIONEERING AFRICAN-AMERICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN RUDOLPH AHLE AND JOHANN GEORG AHLE, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANISTS AND COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF GORKUM, HOLLAND, 1572

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GRANT, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT AND HYMN WRITER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Stoicism and Platonism in Fourth Maccabees   Leave a comment

Above:  Zeno of Citium

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART IV

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

4 Maccabees 1:1-3:18; 13:1-14:10; 18:20-24

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Fourth Book of the Maccabees, composed in 20-54 C.E., perhaps in Antioch, is a treatise.  It interprets Judaism in terms of Greek philosophy–Stoicism and Platonism, to be precise.  4 Maccabees elaborates on the story of the martyrdom of the seven brothers and their mother, covered relatively succinctly in 2 Maccabees 7:1-42, and set prior to the Hasmonean Rebellion.

Fourth Maccabees, composed by an anonymous Hellenistic Jew and addressed to other Hellenistic Jews, has two purposes:

  1. To exhort them to obey the Law of Moses (18:1), and
  2. To proclaim that devout reason is the master of all emotions (1:1-2; 18:2).

Cultural assimilation was a common temptation for Hellenistic Jews.  “Keep the faith,” the author urged more verbosely than my paraphrase.  For him, devout reason was a reason informed by the Law of Moses.  Devout reason, in the author’s mind, the highest form of reason was the sole province of faithful Jews.

Vicarious suffering is also a theme in 4 Maccabees.  In this book, the suffering and death of the martyrs purifies the land (1:11; 6:29; 17:21), vindicates the Jewish nation (17:10), and atones for the sins of the people (6:29; 17:22).  The last point presages Penal Substitutionary Atonement, one of several Christian theologies of the atonement via Jesus.

The blending of Jewish religion and Greek philosophy is evident also in the treatment of the afterlife.  The Second Book of the Maccabees teaches bodily resurrection (7:9, 11, 14, 23, and 29).  One can find bodily resurrection elsewhere in Jewish writings (Daniel 12:2; 1 Enoch 5:1-2; 4 Ezra/2 Esdras 7:42; 2 Baruch 50:2-3).  The Fourth Book of the Maccabees, however, similar to the Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-4, teaches instant immortality, with reward or punishment.  The martyrs achieve instant instant immortality with reward (4 Maccabees 9:9, 22; 10:15; 14:15; 15:7; 16:13, 25; 17:12, 18; 18:23).  Antiochus IV Epiphanes, however, goes to everlasting torment (9:9, 29, 32; 10:11, 15; 11:3, 23; 12:18; 18:5).

Stoicism, in the Greek philosophical sense, has a different meaning than the average layperson may assume.  It is not holding one’s feelings inside oneself.  Properly, Stoicism teaches that virtue is the only god and vice is the only evil.  The wise are indifferent to pain and pleasure, to wealth and poverty, and to success and misfortune.  A Stoic, accepting that he or she could change x, y, and z, yet not t, u, and v.  No, a Stoic works to change x, y, and z.  A Stoic, therefore, is content in the midst of difficulty.  If this sounds familiar, O reader, you may be thinking of St. Paul the Apostle being content in pleasant and in unpleasant circumstances (Philippians 4:11-12).

Stoicism shows up elsewhere in the New Testament and in early Christianity, too.  It is in the mouth of St. Paul in Athens (Acts 17:28).  Stoicism is also evident in the writings of St. Ambrose of Milan (337-397), mentor of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430).  Why would it not be in the writings of St. Ambrose?  Greek philosophy informed the development of early Christian theology.  Greek philosophy continues to exist in sermons, Sunday School lessons, and Biblical commentaries.  Greek philosophy permeates the Gospel of John and the Letter to the Hebrews.  Greek philosophy is part of the Christian patrimony.

Platonism was the favorite form of Greek philosophy in the Roman Catholic Church for centuries.  Platonism permeated the works of St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215) and his star pupil, Origen (185-254), for example.  Eventually, though, St. Albert the Great (circa 1200-1280) and his star pupil, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), successfully made the case for Aristotle over Plato.  Holy Mother Church changed her mind after the deaths of Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas. The Church, having embraced Aristotle over Plato, eventually rescinded the pre-Congregation canonization of St. Clement of Alexandria.  And the Church has never canonized Origen.  I have, however, read news stories of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland trying to convince The Episcopal Church to add Origen to the calendar of saints.  (The Episcopal Church already recognizes St. Clement of Alexandria as a saint.)

Platonism and Stoicism have four cardinal virtues–rational judgment, self-control, justice, and courage.  These appear in 4 Maccabees 1:2-4.  As I read these verses, I recognize merit in them.  Some emotions do hinder self-control.  Other emotions to work for injustice and obstruct courage.  News reports provide daily documentation of this.  Other emotions further the causes of justice and courage.  News reports also provide daily documentation of this.

I also affirm that reason should govern emotions.  I cite news stories about irrationality.  Emotions need borders, and must submit to objectivity and reason, for the best results.

4 Maccabees takes the reader on a grand tour of the Hebrew Bible to support this conclusion.  One reads, for example, of Joseph (Genesis 39:7-12; 4 Maccabees 2:1-6), Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:7; 4 Maccabees 2:19-20), Moses (Numbers 16:1-35; Sirach 45:18; 4 Maccabees 2:17), David (2 Samuel 23:13-17; 1 Chronicles 11:15-19; 4 Maccabees 3:6-18).

Reason can effect self-control, which works for higher purposes.  One of these higher purposes is

the affection of brotherhood.

–4 Maccabees 13:19, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

In the case of the seven martyred brothers, as the author of 4 Maccabees told their story, these holy martyrs used rational judgment and self-control to remain firm in their faith.  Those brothers did not

fear him who thinks he is killing us….

–4 Maccabees 13:14, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

That is the same courage and conviction present in Christian martyrs, from antiquity to the present day.

One may think of another passage:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

–Matthew 10:28, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Not surprisingly, many persecuted Christians derived much comfort and encouragement from 4 Maccabees.  These Christians had to rely on each other, just as the seven brothers did in 4 Maccabees.

Mutuality is a virtue in the Law of Moses and in Christianity.

I have spent the first four posts in this series laying the groundwork for the First, Second, and Fourth Books of Maccabees.  I have provided introductory material for these books.

Next, I will start the narrative countdown to the Hasmonean Rebellion.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIUS THE CENTURION

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Idolatry, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Marduk

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING BARUCH AND THE LETTER OF JEREMIAH

PART V

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Baruch 6:1-72

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Letter of Jeremiah is the sixth chapter of Baruch sometimes.  Otherwise, the letter stands on its own.

The Letter of Jeremiah not a letter, despite its title.  Rather, it is a polemic against idolatry.

The Letter of Jeremiah, superficially from the prophet Jeremiah to exiles in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, borrows and recycles from Jeremiah 10:1-16. The Letter of Jeremiah, dating to the 200s B.C.E., reminds us that idolatry is a timeless problem.

The text of the Letter of Jeremiah is tedious and repetitive.  Stylistically, it is a low point in the canon of Christian scripture.

Walter J. Harrelson, writing in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), offered a succinct analysis of the meaning of the text:

What was the danger of idolatry to which this text and others point?  The danger is that the worshiper may come to believe that the deity is manageable, subject to the control of the worshiper, able to be won over, placated.  Israel’s God is sovereign and utterly free, and Israel is called to hear, obey, and adore.

–1531

That danger remains relevant.  The temptation to think one can control or placate God continues to be ubiquitous.  I admit to falling prey to it many times.  I confess to having committed this variety of idolatry.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 22, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK AND WILLIAM TEMPLE, ARCHBISHOPS OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CHAEREMON AND ISCHYRION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, CIRCA 250

THE FEAST OF CHICO MENDES, “GANDHI OF THE AMAZON”

THE FEAST OF HENRY BUDD, FIRST ANGLICAN NATIVE PRIEST IN NORTH AMERICA; MISSIONARY TO THE CREE NATION

THE FEAST OF ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Consolation and Encouragement   Leave a comment

Above:  Road Through Desert

Image in the Public Domain

Photographer = Gentry George, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING BARUCH AND THE LETTER OF JEREMIAH

PART IV

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Baruch 4:5-5:9

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Take courage, my children; call out to God!

The one who brought this upon you will remember you.

As your hearts have been disposed to stray from God,

so turn now ten times the more to seek him;

For the one who has brought disaster upon you

will, in saving you, bring your eternal joy.

–Baruch 4:27-29, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The story of the Book of Baruch continues with assurance of divine deliverance.  Baruch 5:9 reads:

For God is leading Israel in joy

by the light of his glory,

with the mercy and justice that are his.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The poem in Baruch 4:5-5:9 is beautiful.  Part of it is an Advent reading every three years.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  As I keep writing, I do not pretend to know what that balance is or should be.  I insist, however, that keeping the balance of divine judgment and mercy in mind is crucial to having a balanced theology.  Hellfire-and-damnation theology is heretical.  So is love without standards.  This is why I affirm the existence of Hell while arguing that God has never sent anyone there.  As C. S. Lewis wrote, the doors to Hell are locked from the inside.

The author of Baruch 4:5-5:9 understood Israel alone to be the people of God.  He lived before the time of Christ and the rise of the Church.  The author of Baruch 4:5-5:9 died before the birth of St. Paul the Apostle.  I, as a Gentile and a Christian, stand outside the people of God, as the author of Baruch 4:5-5:9 defined them.

Anthony J. Saldarini wrote:

We (in the churches) must complement the punishment for sin that Baruch promises to the nations with the story of God’s mercy and ongoing relationship with all nations in history.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI (2001), 982

The love of God does extend to all people, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-THIRD DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In Praise of Wisdom   Leave a comment

Above:  Jackson Mine, Negaunee, Michigan, 1912

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING BARUCH AND THE LETTER OF JEREMIAH

PART III

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Baruch 3:9-4:4

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

My recent Bible study and reading programs have brought me back to Job 28 twice in short order.  This has been serendipitous.  Job 28 was the model for much of Baruch 3:9-4:4.

Wisdom is inaccessible to human beings, Job 28 tells us.  Job 27 flows into Job 29.  Chapter 28 sits between for some reason.  Job 28 concludes with:

And [God] said to man,

“Wisdom?  It is fear of the Lord.

Understanding?–avoidance of evil.”

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Baruch 3:9-4:4 embraces the Deutronomic teaching that God punishes sins and rewards righteousness.  The text urges people to obey God’s commandments, to keep the Law of Moses.  This is a prominent motif in the Bible:  Love God; keep divine commandments.

How, then, should exiles–or just people living under occupation–live while they wait for divine deliverance?  They ought to keep God’s laws?  They must hold God in awe and avoid evil.  The beginning of evil is the false idea that one can do whatever one wants and God will not care.  Evil also falsely assumes that one can and must act on one’s power, given the assumption that God either does not exist or does not care.

To quote Anthony J. Saldarini:

We either acknowledge and obey God in harmony with the world or reject God with a disobedience that leads to chaos.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI (2001), 970

Without rejecting science and cultural tolerance, both of which are valuable, I take Saldarini’s point.  I take the point of the author of Baruch 3:9-4:4.  Divine wisdom is 

the book of the precepts of God.

–4:1

Monotheism is uncompromising.  It stakes its claim and rejects other deities.  Ethical monotheism proposes standard that may prove daunting to many people.  So be it.

As we stand firm, may we do so lovingly.  May we never be obnoxious as we assert the truth.  As we proclaim God, may we avoid erecting barriers to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-SECOND DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF BATES GILBERT BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF D. ELTON TRUEBLOOD, U.S. QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MICHAL PIACZYNSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Prayer of Confession and Repentance   1 comment

Above:  Norman Vincent Peale, 1966

Photographer = Roger Higgins

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-126496

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING BARUCH AND THE LETTER OF JEREMIAH

PART II

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Baruch 1:15-3:8

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

See, today we are in exile, where you have scattered us, an object of reproach and cursing and punishment for all the wicked deeds of our ancestors, who withdrew from the LORD, our God.

–Baruch 3:8, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

N. T. Wright, in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996), explored one meaning of exile.  A population living under occupation in its homeland may experience a form of exile, he wrote.  That dynamic informed Baruch 1:5-3:8.  The original audience lived under Syrian/Seleucid occupation.  The text used the language and imagery of the Babylonian Exile.

Knowing this opens up the text.  Did the author believe that foreign occupation constituted divine punishment for persistent, collective sin?  The answer seems to be affirmative.  However, the author had confidence that God was about to end the oppression.

The prayer addresses difficult issues of sin, forgiveness, and repentance.  It contrasts human sinfulness with divine faithfulness.  The prayer accepts collective responsibility.

A disturbing thread runs though much of American Christianity, whether liberal or conservative.  That is what Norman Vincent Peale called in a book, The Power of Positive Thinking.  Peale’s acolytes are legion.  This fact, combined with human ego defenses, contributes to widespread unwillingness to admit error and seek forgiveness.  Also, the excessive individualism rife in American Christianity does not understand collective responsibility.

The author of Baruch 1:15-3:8 did, however.

The prayer concludes with waiting for God to deliver his people again.  Waiting for God can be difficult.  Yet we have no feasible alternative.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF RAOUL WALLENBERG, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF FRANCESCO ANTONIO BONPORTI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT KAZIMIERA WOLOWSKA, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MARTYR, 1942

THE FEAST OF ROBERT CAMPBELL, SCOTTISH EPISCOPALIAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCAL ADVOCATE AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HOWARD BISHOP, FOUNDER OF THE GLENMARY HOME MISSIONERS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Introduction to the Book of Baruch   Leave a comment

Above:  A Map Showing the Seleucid Empire Circa 188 B.C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING BARUCH AND THE LETTER OF JEREMIAH

PART I

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Baruch 1:1-14

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Book of Baruch derives its name from Baruch, the scribe of the prophet Jeremiah.  Superficially the Book of Baruch seems to have come from the Babylonian Exile.  That is impossible, though.  Baruch 1:15-2:19, for example, is a rewritten version of Daniel 9:4-19, composed after 150 B.C.E.

The Book of Baruch, with at least four authors, uses exile as a literary device.  Consider, O reader, the feeling of being a Jew of the diaspora during the second and first centuries B.C.E.  Living in the diaspora must have felt like being in exile.  Think also, O reader, of the suffering and repression many Jews of the diaspora experienced, occasionally or constantly.  The Babylonian Exile functioned as a metaphor for their reality.

How should faithful Jews live under Syrian/Seleucid rule?  That was the question of the hour.

The pseudo-historical setting of Baruch 1:1f is the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire circa 582 B.C.E.  The text names King Jehoichin/Jeconiah/Coniah of Judah (2 Kings 24:6-17; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10; Jeremiah 24:1).

The scene in Baruch 1:5 is one of priests continuing to offer sacrifices to God at the ruins of the First Temple.  This is consistent with Jeremiah 41:5.

The Book of Baruch accepts the Deutronomic theology of the Babylonian Exile:  it was punishment for the nation’s sins.  Notice also, O reader, the prayer for King Nebuchadnezzar II.  To pray for one’s oppressor may be difficult.  However, one’s fate still depends on the oppressor’s decisions.

The Book of Baruch emphasizes continuity in the context of great difficulty.  It stresses the continuity of ritual, faith, community, and worship.  Kings come and go, the Book of Baruch teaches us, but God remains constant.  The Jewish community must cleave to God and hold together, the Book of Baruch insists.

This is an example of mutuality in God, a value from the Torah.  We all depend entirely on God.  We also depend on each other and are responsible to and for each other.  Western individualism, despite its positive aspects, is alien to the Torah.  The attitudes that anyone can be a self-made person and can act without having consequences for others are heresies.

Excesses of Western individualism lead easily into “God-and-me” religion.  The Bible does contain material about individual responsibility, of course.  However, talk of an individual relationship with God apart from or at the expense of faith community is alien to Biblical spirituality.  “God-and-me” religion is heretical.  The proper context for a personal relationship with God is “God and us.”

The Book of Baruch understands this.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, FRENCH REFORMED MINISTER AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF ALICIA DOMON AND HER COMPANIONS, MARTYRS IN ARGENTINA, 1977

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUILIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF JOHN DARWALL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HENRY DRAPER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezra and More Exiles Arrive in Jerusalem   2 comments

Above:  Ezra

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

PART XXII

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Esdras 8:1-9:36

Ezra 7:1-10:44

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights;

look to the east and see your children

Gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One,

rejoicing that they are remembered by God.

–Baruch 5:5, The New American Bible (1991)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Many Jewish exiles remained outside their ancestral homeland after Cyrus II permitted Jews to return (Ezra 1).  Many exiles never returned; they belonged to the diaspora.  Cyrus II permitted Jews to return, starting in 538 B.C.E..  Artaxerxes I reigned from 465 to 424 B.C.E., during which the events of 1 events of 1 Esdras 8:1-9:36 and Ezra 7:1-10:44 occurred.  Decades had passed between the times of Cyrus II and Ezra.

As I have written repeatedly in this series, consistent chronology is not the organizing principle in 1 Esdras, Ezra, and Nehemiah.  This is why Ezra 7-10 follow Nehemiah 9 and 10 chronologically.  One may notice that Ezra benefited from Nehemiah’s political maneuvering of Artaxerxes I (Nehemiah 1 and 6).  One man’s work made another man’s work possible.

The lists in 1 Esdras 8:24-40 and Ezra 8:1-14 are not identical.  If I were a Biblical literalist, I would care.  One can identify other differences between the two versions.  If I were a Biblical literalist, I would care.

According to Covenental Nomism, Jews received salvation via grace–birth really.  They, born into the covenant, had the obligation to keep the Law of Moses as best they could.  Nobody could keep the Law of Moses perfectly, but everybody could repent of having violated it.  The consistent failure to repent constituted self-exclusion from the covenant.  Following God meant doing, to the best of one’s ability, what God commanded.

This understanding was part of the theological context of Nehemiah and Ezra.  Ezra learned what Nehemiah knew already; mixed marriages with foreigners (with their own deities) was a serious problem and a national sin.  Nehemiah had begun to address the issue from his position as governor (Nehemiah 13).  Ezra the scribe and priest approached the issue from his position of religious power.

Intermarriage, as a moral problem, related to idolatry.  The Law of Moses forbade both.  The Law forbade intermarriage (Deuteronomy 7:3; 20:16-18).  Examples of monarchs whose foreign wives were negative influences upon them included Solomon (1 Kings 11) and Ahab (1 Kings 16, 19-22).  Malachi 2:11 repeated the prohibition against intermarriage.

Starting over properly is essential.  One may not know that x is wrong, and therefore commit x.  Yet when one learns that x is wrong, how does one respond?  One should respond by confessing and repenting.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC OF NEOCAESAREA; AND ALEXANDER OF COMONA, “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 252, AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT EQUITIUS OF VALERIA, BENEDICTINE ABBOT AND FOUNDER OF MONASTERIES

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS LOY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR’ AND CONRAD HERMANN LOUIS SCHUETTE, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAURICE TORNAY, SWISS ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY TO TIBET, AND MARTYR, 1949

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Reign of King Jehoiachin/Jeconiah, With His Subsequent Life in Babylon   9 comments

Above:  Jehoiachin

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

PART VIII

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

2 Kings 24:8-17; 25:27-30

2 Chronicles 36:9-10

1 Esdras 1:43-46

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For we consume away in your anger:

and we are terrified by your wrath.

–Psalm 90:7, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jehoiachin was the second King of Judah also known as Jeconiah.  The first Jeconiah was Jehoahaz/Shallum (2 Kings 23:31-35; 2 Chronicles 36:1-4; 1 Esdras 34-38).  Jehoiachin was Jeconiah Esther A:4; Esther 2:6; Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 27:20; Jeremiah 28:4; Jeremiah 29:2; and Baruch 1:3 and 1:9.

Jehoiachin (r. 597 B.C.E.) held office for just over three months.  He was either eight years old (2 Chronicles 36:9) or eighteen years old (2 Kings 24:8; 1 Esdras 1:43) at accession.  (That decade makes a big difference.)  The son of Jehoiakim/Eliakim became the third consecutive King of Judah to go into foreign exile and the second one to die in exile in Babylon.  And Nebuchadnezzar II took more sacred vessels from the Temple in Jerusalem off to Babylon.  Furthermore, the first stage of the Babylonian Exile began.

Cuneiform tablets confirm part of 2 Kings 25:27-30.  They do not mention Jehoiachin’s release from prison after 37 years per se.  However, tablets document food rations delivered to the royal household of “Iaukin.”

Jehoiachin ended his days as a leader of his people in exile.  Yes, there was hope, even during the Babylonian Exile.

 

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 5, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED TENNYSON, ENGLISH POET

THE FEAST OF ADAM OF SAINT VICTOR, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ALBRECHT DÜRER, MATTHIAS GRÜNEWALD, AND LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER, RENAISSANCE ARTISTS

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREDERICK ROOT, POET AND COMPOSER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Four Banquets   2 comments

St. Edward's, Lawrenceville

Above:  St. Edward’s Episcopal Church, Lawrenceville, Georgia, October 19, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children

a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth.

Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven

and share this bread with all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 25:6-10a

Psalm 111

Mark 6:35-44

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

He has provided food for his worshippers;

he remembers his covenant for ever.

–Psalm 111:5, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This is a post about four banquets:  the divine coronation feast in Isaiah 25:6-10a, the sordid feast of Herod Antipas in Mark 6:14-29, the Feeding of the 5000 (Plus) in Mark 6:30-44, and the Holy Eucharist.

The reading from Isaiah 25 speaks of a time immediately after Yahweh has defeated pride, evil, and sorrow, and established the Kingdom of God, in its fullness, on the Earth.  This is a time in our future.  All people are welcome at Yahweh’s coronation feast, to take place on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem.  All is well, except for those whom God has vanquished, namely the Moabites (25:10).

Our next two banquets, which stand is stark contrast to each other, come from Mark 6.  The first is a sordid event, with Herod Antipas lusting after the seductive Salome (whose name and image come to us via archaeology, not the Bible) and making a hasty promise which leads to the execution of St. John the Baptist.  The Herodian family tree was complicated, for both Herodias and her daughter, Salome, were granddaughters of Herod the Great via different women.  Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great via a third woman, married Herodias, who had been the wife of a half-brother of Herod Antipas.  Thus Salome was the step-daughter and a cousin of Herod Antipas.

I will not attempt to explain the Feeding the 5000 (Plus) rationally, for doing that constitutes seeking an answer to the wrong question.  (And I am more of a rationalist than a mystic.)  Neither will I try to explain Jesus walking on water (next in Mark 6) logically, for the same reason.  No, I am interested in answering the question which compelled one of my spiritual mentors whenever he studied any passage of scripture:

What is really going on here?

The Markan account of the Feeding of the 5000 men (no word about the number of women and children) uses imagery from elsewhere in the Bible.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd feeding the flock.  His feeding of the multitude exceeds Elisha’s feeding of 100 men (2 Kings 4:42-44) and Elijah’s miracle of the refilling jug of oil (1 Kings 17:8-16).  The messianic banquet, an echo of Isaiah 25:6-10a, recurs in the wilderness motif in subsequent pseudipigraphal works, such as in 2 Baruch 29:4 and 4 Ezra 6:52.  Two main ideas stand out in my mind:

  1. Jesus is greater than Elijah and Elisha (see Mark 6:15, in which some people thought that Jesus was Elijah), and
  2. Nothing we bring to Jesus is inadequate in his capable hands.  There will be leftovers after he has finished working with it.  We are insufficient by ourselves yet more than sufficient in Christ.  That is what grace can effect.

The eucharistic imagery in Mark 6 points to the fourth banquet, which I, as an Episcopalian, celebrate at least once weekly.  The Holy Eucharist has constituted the core of my spiritual life since childhood.  One reason I left the United Methodism of my youth was to have the opportunities to partake of the sacrament more often.  In the Holy Eucharist I meet Jesus in the forms of bread and wine and swear loyalty to him again.  No, I am not worthy on my merit (such as it is) to do this, but I rely on his merits to make me worthy to do so.  The first step to becoming worthy is acknowledging one’s unworthiness.

The contrast between human systems built on the foundation of violence, exploitation, and oppression on one hand and the Kingdom of God on the other hand is clear.  Injustice and artificial scarcity characterize the former, but justice and abundance for all distinguish the latter.  We can experience a foretaste of the Kingdom of God, which is partially present already, but we await the fullness of the Kingdom.  Until then we can, at least, leave the world better off than we found it.  No effort toward this goal is too little in Christ’s capable hands.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-12-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++