Archive for the ‘Daniel 3 with the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men’ Category

The Beginning of the Hasmonean Rebellion   1 comment

Above:  Mattathias and the Apostate, by Gustave Doré

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XV

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1 Maccabees 2:1-70

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How much is too much to tolerate?  When must one, in good conscience, resist authority?  The First and Second Books of the Maccabees are books about resistance to tyranny and about the political restoration of Israel (Judea).  These are not books that teach submission to all human governmental authority, no matter what.  The heroes include men who killed imperial officials, as well as Jews who ate pork–

death over a ham sandwich,

as a student of mine said years ago.

Mattathias was a Jewish priest zealous for the Law of Moses.  He and his five sons started the Hasmonean Rebellion after the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem by King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 B.C.E.  Mattathias, having refused an offer to become on the Friends of the King, launched the rebellion.  (Friend of the King was an official position.  Also, there were four ranks of Friends:  Friends (entry-level), Honored Friends, First Friends, and Preferred Friends.)  The sons of Mattathias were:

  1. John Gaddi–“fortunate,” literally;
  2. Simon Thassis–“burning,” literally;
  3. Judas Maccabeus–“designated by Yahweh” or “the hammerer,” literally;
  4. Eleazar Avaran–“awake,” literally; and
  5. Jonathan Apphus–“favorite,” literally.

The rebellion, under Mattathias, was against Hellenism.  Under Judas Maccabeus, the rebellion became a war for independence.

Mattathias died in 166 B.C.E.

The farewell speech in 2:49-70 contains references to the the following parts of the Hebrew Bible:

  1. Genesis 22 (Abraham; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 44:19-21, also);
  2. Genesis 39 (Joseph);
  3. Numbers 25 (Phinehas; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 45:23-26, also);
  4. Joshua 1 (Joshua; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 46:1-10, also); 
  5. Numbers 13 and 14 (Caleb; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 46:7-10, also);
  6. 2 Samuel 7 (David; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:2-12, also);
  7. 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 2 (Elijah; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:25-12, also); 
  8. Daniel 3 (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego); and
  9. Daniel 6 (Daniel).

The point is to remain faithful to God during difficult times.  I support that.  On the other hand, killing some people and forcibly circumcising others is wrong.  If I condemn Hellenists for committing violence, I must also condemn Hasmoneans for doing the same.

The text intends for us, the readers, to contrast the death of Mattathias with the death of Alexander the Great (1:5-6).  We read:

[Alexander’s] generals took over the government, each in his own province, and, when Alexander died, they all assumed royal crowns, and for many years the succession passed to their descendants.  They brought untold miseries on the world.

–1 Maccabees 1:8-9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The agenda of 1 Maccabees includes the belief that renewal of Jewish traditions followed the death of Mattathias , however.

I have a habit of arguing with scripture, off-and-on.  I may recognize a text as being canonical yet disagree with part of it.  Arguing with God is part of my patrimony, inherited from Judaism.  Sometimes I seek to adore and thank God.  Arguing with God (as in Judaism) contrasts with submitting to God (as in Islam).  Perhaps the combination of my Protestant upbringing and my inherent rebelliousness keeps showing itself.  If so, so be it; I offer no apology in this matter.

As much as I engage in 1 and 2 Maccabees and find them interesting, even canonical–Deuterocanonical, actually–they disturb me.  Violence in the name of God appalls me, regardless of whether an army, a mob, or a lone civilian commits it.  I may recognize a given cause as being just.  I may, objectively, recognize the historical importance of certain violent acts, including those of certain violent acts, including those of rebellious slaves and of John Brown.  I may admit, objectively, that such violence may have been the only feasible option sometimes, given the circumstances oppressors had created or maintained.   Yet, deep down in my soul, I wish I could be a pacifist.

So, the sacred violence in 1 and 2 Maccabees disturbs me.  I understand the distinction between civilians and combatants.  The violence against civilians in 1 and 2 Maccabees really offends me morally.  These two books are not the only places in the Old Testament I read of violence against civilians.  It is present in much of the Hebrew Bible proper, too.  I object to such violence there, also.

Jennifer Wright Knust, a seminary professor and an an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches USA, wrote Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire (2011).  She said in an interview on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio that she has detected a disturbing pattern in many of her students.  Knust has said that many of her pupils think they must hold positions they would otherwise regard as morally repugnant.  They believe this, she has explained, because they interpret the Bible as supporting these positions.

As Mark Noll (a historian, a University of Notre Dame professor, and a conservative Presbyterian) has written, the U.S. Civil War was a theological crisis.  The authority of scripture was a major part of proslavery arguments that quoted the Bible, chapter and verse.  The counterargument was, therefore, allegedly heretical.  That argument rested mainly on a few verses–the Golden Rule, mainly.  And the abolitionist argument was morally superior.

I encourage you, O reader, to go all-in on the Golden Rule.  Questions of orthodoxy or heresy be damned.  Just follow the Golden Rule.  Leave the rest to God.  Do not twist the authority of scripture into an obstacle to obeying the Golden Rule.  I do not believe that God will ever condemn any of us for doing to others as would have them to do to us.

I offer one other thought from this chapter.  Read verses 29-38, O reader.  Notice that even those zealous for keeping the Law of Moses fought a battle on the Sabbath, instead of resting on the day of rest.  Know that, if they had rested, they may have lost the battle.  Know, also, that relativizing commandments within the Law of Moses was a Jewish practice.  (Remember that, so not to stereotype Judaism, as in stories in which Jesus healed on the Sabbath then faced criticism for having done so.)  Ideals clash with reality sometimes.

To return to Knust’s point, one need not believe something one would otherwise consider repugnant.  One need not do so, even if one interprets the Bible to support that repugnant belief.  The recognition of the reality on the ground takes one out of the realm of the theoretical and into the realm of the practical.  May we–you, O reader, and I–properly balance the moral demands (real or imagined) of the theoretical with those (also real or imagined) of the practical.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DANNY THOMAS, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC ENTERTAINER AND HUMANITARIAN; FOUNDER OF SAINT JUDE’S CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTO TO ALTOMUNSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF BRUCE M. METZGER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN TIETJEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, ECUMENIST, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PORFIRIO, MARTYR, 203

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Daniel and Susanna   Leave a comment

Above:  Susanna and the Elders

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART XI

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Daniel 13:1-64

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Daniel and Susanna, according to study Bibles I consulted, hails from either the second or the first centuries B.C.E.  A standard description of Daniel 13 is that it is the oldest surviving detective story.  I prefer to think of it as the oldest surviving Perry Mason story.

The cast of named characters is:

  1. Joakim, husband of Susanna;
  2. Susanna, daughter of Hilkiah and wife of Joakim;
  3. Hilkiah, father of Susanna; and
  4. Daniel.

The story does not name the two wicked elders.

This is a story about the miscarriage of justice.  We read that the beautiful and pious Susanna, wife of the wealthy and pious Joakim, refused the sexual advances of the lecherous and homicidal elders, who had hidden in her garden.  The story describes the two elders as predators.  We also read of their perjury and of Susanna’s false conviction, followed by her sentence of death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:21-22).

This is also a story about justice.  We read of Susanna’s prayer (verses 42-43) and of God’s reply:  sending Daniel to rescue her.  We read of Daniel’s Perry Mason routine, by which he exposed the two elders’ lies with an arborial question:  

Now, if you really saw this woman, then tell us, under what tree did you see them together?”

–Verse 54, The Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha (1989)

We also read of the elders’ execution, in accordance with the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 19:16-21).  In the Law of Moses, the punishment for committing perjury to convict someone falsely is to suffer the fate one intended for the accused.

The suffering of the innocent and the pious is a major theme in the Book of Daniel.  We also read of God delivering such victims in Daniel 2 and 3.  Yet Daniel 10-12 wrestles with the realities of martyrdoms.

God delivers the innocent and the pious some of the time.  This tension is evident in the Book of Psalms.  Some of those texts sound like Elihu, as well as Job’s alleged friends:  Suffering results from sins, and God delivers the righteous.  Yet other Psalms come from the perspective of the suffering righteous.  The former position fills Proverbs, the Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus/Sirach/the Wisdom of Ben Sira, too.  Ecclesiastes functions as a counter-argument to that excessive optimism.

Why does God deliver some of the righteous and not all of them?  I have no pat answer for such a challenging question.  In Revelation 6:9-11, even the martyrs in Heaven are not always happy.

We who struggle with this vexing question belong to an ancient tradition.  We are the current generation in a long train.  We have reasons to rejoice, at least; God delivers some of the innocent and the pious.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF CASPAR FRIEDRICH NACHTENHOFER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MISSIONARY

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The Madness of King Nebuchadnezzar II   Leave a comment

Above:  King Nebuchadnezzar II as a Wild Animal

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART IV

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Daniel 4:1-34

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My graduate school training is in history.  I, therefore, recognize and accept that Daniel 4 is ahistorical.  According to ancient historical sources, King Nebuchadnezzar II was never away from office for any extended period of time.  We do know, however, that King Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.), the last Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch, spent a decade (553-543 B.C.E.) on the Arabian peninsula.  We also know that Crown Prince Belshazzar exercised power in his father’s stead during those years.  When we read Daniel 4, we read folklore and theology, not history.

As I keep writing in this series, the Book of Daniel includes elements of satire.  The depiction of King Nebuchadnezzar II as a blustery, dangerous fool in Chapters 2 and 3 fits into this theme.  The image of him insane, naked, and animalistic in a field (Chapter 4) takes the satire one more step.

The sovereignty of God is a prominent theme in the Book of Daniel, as we have seen in Chapters 1-3.  That theme is evident in Chapter 4.  Once more, we read of King Nebuchadnezzar II acknowledging the sovereignty of God.

The sovereignty of God pertains to another theme I have also addressed in the previous post.  To quote Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, corrected for the standards of The Elements of Style (Strunk and White) to remove “the fact that” and create a gerund to make the sentence make sense:

The book of Daniel suggests that…Christians finding themselves under the rule of an oppressive state (whether over or more subtle) does mean that they need to bow to its authority.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VII (1996), 76

God is in charge.  Even potentates are subject to divine judgments and standards.  When the laws of God and the laws of governments conflict, one still has a moral duty to obey the laws of God.  One also retains the moral duty to do so by proper methods.

This point–civil disobedience–can easily lead into difficult territory.  I am neither an anarchist nor a right-wing law-and-order, my-country, right-or-wrong partisan.  My moral compass is the Golden Rule, with Jesus as the exemplar.  Therefore, I applaud the conductors of the Underground Railroad–criminals, according to federal law–as moral giants.  I also regard the U.S. federal policy of separating families at the border with moral outrage.  Nobody who supports that policy has any moral standing to lecture me on being pro-life, having family values, and/or keeping the Golden Rule.

One mistake many who seek to follow divine law commit is obnoxiousness.  One ought to act courageously, boldly, and sincerely.  And one should proceed from love.  God is love, after all.  At the end, all must stand before God.  May we, by grace, acquit ourselves as well as possible until then.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET OF SCOTLAND, QUEEN, HUMANITARIAN, AND ECCLESIASTICAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIUSEPPE MOSCATI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN

THE FEAST OF IGNACIO ELLACURIA AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS IN EL SALVADOR, NOVEMBER 15, 1989

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES KEPLER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ASTRONOMER AND MATHEMATICIAN

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Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace, with the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART III

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Daniel 3:1-31 (Jewish, Protestant, and Anglican)

Daniel 3:1-100 (Roman Catholic)

Daniel 3:1-97 (Eastern Orthodox)

The Song of the Three Young Men

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Satire is a feature of the Book of Daniel.  Satire is evident in the uses of humor and in the exaggeration of pomp, circumstance, and numbers.  The portrayal of kings as pompous, blustery, and dangerous people is another feature of Biblical satire.  The two main examples who come to my mind are Nebuchadnezzar II (the version from Daniel 1-4), the fictional Darius the Mede (Daniel 6, 9, and 11), and Ahasuerus from the Book of Esther.

The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego surviving the fiery furnace unsinged and in the company of a mysterious fourth man is familiar.  It is one of the more commonly told Bible stories.  If one overlooks the references to Nebuchadnezzar II, one misses some satirical and theological material.

The story portrays King Nebuchadnezzar II as a blustery, dangerous fool who defeats his own purposes.  (Aren’t we glad such people no longer exist?  I am being sarcastic.)  Verse 15 depicts the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch accidentally invoking YHWH, not any member of the Chaldean pantheon.  And, implausibly, the end of the chapter portrays the king deliberately blessing YHWH.  In other words, King Nebuchadnezzar II was no match for YHWH.

Who was the fourth man?  The Jewish Study Bible suggests that he was an angel.  Much of Christian tradition identifies him as the pre-Incarnate Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity.  I prefer the first option.  Besides, Daniel 3 is a work of fiction.  It is folklore, not history.  And the authors were Jews who died before the birth of Christ.

The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men fall between Daniel 3:23 and 3:24, depending on versification and one’s preferred definition of the canon of scripture.  Set inside the fiery furnace, the additional, Greek verses identify the fourth man as an angel.  

  • The Prayer of Azariah links the suffering of the three pious Hebrews to the sins of their people.  The text expresses communal remorse for and repentance of sin.  God’s punishments are just, the prayer asserts.
  • The Song of the Three Young Men is one of the literary highlights of the Old Testament.  Two canticles from Morning Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) come from this Greek addition.  I adore the John Rutter setting of part of the Song of the Three Young Men (“Glory to you, Lord God of Our Fathers,” S236 in The Hymnal 1982).  The Song of the Three Young Men calls on all of nature to praise God and celebrates God’s deliverance of the three pious Hebrews.

The question of submission to authority is a thorny issue in the Bible, which provides us with no unified answer.  Many people cite Romans 13:1-7 to justify obedience to authority no matter what.  However, one can point to passages such as Exodus 1:15-22 (Shiphrah and Puah the midwives), Daniel 3, Daniel 6 (Daniel in the lions’ den), Tobit 1:16-22 (burying the dead in violation of a royal edict), and Luke 6:22-26 (from the Woes following the Beatitudes) to justify civil disobedience.  Perhaps the best way through this comes from Matthew 22:15-22.  We owe God everything.  We bear the image of God.  And we ought not to deny God that which belongs to God.  The proper application of that timeless principle varies according to circumstances.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 8:  THE TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULÉN AND HIS PROTÉGÉ AND COLLEAGUE, ANDERS NYGREN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN BISHOPS AND THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT MAKER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH PIGNATELLI, RESTORER OF THE JESUITS

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King Nebuchadnezzar II’s Dream of the Composite Statue   Leave a comment

Above:  The Composite Statue

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART II

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Daniel 2:1-49

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The internal chronology of the Book of Daniel goes awry again in 2:1.  One may recall the passage of three years in Chapter 1.  Chapter 2 occurs after the events of Chapter 1.  So, how could the events of Chapter 2 have occurred in the second year of the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II?  If I were a fundamentalist, I would try to rationalize that contradiction.  Yet I am not, so I do not.  Instead, I ask myself,

What is really going on here?

This is a story about the sovereignty and power of God.  The courtiers (“Chaldeans”) could not interpret the king’s dream vision.  So, he nearly killed them all, including Daniel and his Judahite friends.  Daniel, by the power of God, provided the correct interpretation.  People continued to live.  Daniel became the governor of the province of Babylonia.  His friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (introduced in Chapter 1 and prominent in Chapter 3) administered the province under Daniel’s guidance.

I have found two proposed lists of the four empires in the dream vision.  They repeat in Chapter 7, the vision of the four beasts.  The first list, in order, is:

  1. the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire;
  2. the Median Empire of “Darius the Mede,” a fictional character (Daniel 6, 9, and 11);
  3. the Persian Empire; and
  4. the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III “the Great.”

The minority, alternative list is:

  1. the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire;
  2. the Persian Empire;
  3. the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III “the Great;” and
  4. the Roman Empire.

According to Daniel 6, 9, and 11, “Darius the Mede” conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and preceded King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.).  In reality, however, Cyrus II conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.

Anyhow, the bottom line in the dream vision is that, after a sequence of increasingly inferior empires, God would finally inaugurate the fully-realized Kingdom of God on Earth.  This has yet to happen.

Civilizations, nation-states, kingdoms, and empires have risen.  Many have also fallen.

Nothing human lasts forever.  To go full Augustinian on you, O reader, much of that which is temporary (even if long-term) is worthy of love.  But we have an obligation to love God the most.  To love something or someone more than we ought is to take love away from God.  It is to commit idolatry.  We may love our countries, but we should never deify them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL SEABURY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF CONNECTICUT AND PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINTS NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1391

THE FEAST OF PETER WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP, ORGANIST, AND COMPOSER; THEODORE FRANCIS WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND JOHN FREDEREICK “J. FRED” WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND CHOIR DIRECTOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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The Food Test   Leave a comment

Above:  Daniel and His Three Friends Refusing the King’s Food

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART I

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Daniel 1:1-21

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The Book of Daniel is an intriguing portion of the Bible.  

  1. Depending on how one defines the canon of scripture, it has either 12 or 14 chapters.  (For the purpose of this series, I have read the long version.)
  2. Most of the book hails from the time of the Hasmonean rebellion, in the second century B.C.E.  Theological developments, historical references, and linguistic clues confirm this conclusion.  Chapters 1-12, except for the Greek additions in Chapter 3, come from the time of the Hasmonean rebellion.  Chapters 13 and 14 are more recent, from either the second or first centuries B.C.E.
  3. The nonsensical internal chronology of the Book of Daniel contradicts ancient historical records and the rest of the Hebrew Bible.  The Book of Daniel is what it is.  It is not history.

So, what is the Book of Daniel? 

  1. It is partially a collection of folklore. 
  2. It is partially a collection of apocalyptic visions. 
  3. It is a book that teaches how to remain faithful to God in the Jewish diaspora during the second and first centuries B.C.E. 
  4. It is a book that affirms many Gentiles. 
  5. In other words, the Book of Daniel is true without being historically accurate.  Truth and accuracy are different concepts.

Daniel 1:1 provides a fixed point within the narrative of the Book of Daniel.  That fixed point is 605 B.C.E., the third year of the reign (608-598 B.C.E.) of King Jehoiakim/Eliakim of Judah.  (For more about King Jehoiakim, read 2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8; and 1 Esdras 1:39-42.)  Daniel 1:1 also provides the name of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian king, Nebuchadrezzar/Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 605-562 B.C.E.).  The chronological problem is that Nebuchadnezzar II captured Jerusalem in 597 B.C.E.  If I were a fundamentalist, this would disturb me.  I am not, and it does not.

To quote a spiritual and theological mentor of mine in the 1990s, 

What is really going on here?

What is really going on in Daniel 1?

  1. Daniel and his fellow Judahite servants refused the food King Nebuchadnezzar II offered.  They obeyed the dietary food laws in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.  The young men also thrived on a diet of vegetables and water.
  2. God also granted Daniel and his fellow Judahite servants more intelligence and wisdom than they had already.  The ability to interpret dreams proved crucial in subsequent chapters.
  3. Daniel and his fellow Judahite servants received new names–identities–yet retained their Hebrew identities.

People base their identities on different standards.  This is a choice one needs to make wisely.  Psychologists and experiences tell us that many people cling to ideas that are objectively false and proven to be so.  These people cling to these falsehoods and ignore evidence because admitting error and changing their minds would threaten their egos.  This is a serious problem.  Whatever one does or does not do affects other people.  If, for example, one votes for Candidate A over Candidate B because one clings to ego defenses and ignores objective reality, one may hinder the common good.  Or, if one, acting out of ego defenses, ignores objective reality and refuses to behave responsibly by having one’s children vaccinated, one can cause other people’s children to become ill.  As I type these words during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people believe misinformation, cling to conspiracy theories, and refuse to wear masks in public places.  They endanger themselves and others.  Facts should matter.

I seek to acknowledge objective reality and to act accordingly.  I also seek to follow my own advice regarding the proper basis of human identity.  The sole proper basis of human identity is the image of God; every human being bears it.  For we Christians, the particular shading is that Jesus, whom we profess to follow.  Despite my advice, I continue to found my ego mainly on my education and intellect.  Education and intellect are wonderful.  They are blessings.  I, like St. Paul the Apostle, know what I ought to do and frequently do something else.

Psychological identity is a complicated, frequently treacherous matter.  If we are spiritually wise, we will have a healthy ego, which we will maintain without excluding anyone God includes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

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Glorifying God VI   1 comment

Above:  The Four Men in the Fiery Furnace

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 3:1, 4-28

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Mark 10:32-45

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These three readings testify that suffering is frequently part of a faithful life, and that the suffering faithful enjoy the presence of God.

The readings from Daniel 3 and 2 Timothy 1 speak for themselves, but the lesson from Mark 10 needs some unpacking.

James and John, sons of Zebedee, were also sons of Mary Salome, sister of St. Mary of Nazareth.  They were, therefore, first cousins of Jesus.  In an alternate version (Matthew 20:20-38) this story, Mary Salome made the request on their behalf.  At that point James and John had yet to grasp certain key points, such as the impending crucifixion of Jesus, which our Lord and Savior predicted more than once.  They sought glory; Jesus called for carrying one’s cross and following him.

The call to Christian discipleship is the call to follow Jesus, even through times of persecution and suffering.  God will glorify as God sees fit; we ought not to seek glory for ourselves.  No, we should glorify God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AUGUSTUS SEISS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRIEDRICH HERTZOG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/20/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-b-humes/

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So What?   Leave a comment

Above:   Supper at Emmaus, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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For Easter Sunday, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, who through the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead hast given us a living hope:

keep us joyful in all our trials, and guard our faith that we may receive

the heavenly inheritance which thou hast prepared for us;

through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

or

Mighty God, who raised up Jesus from the dead:

give us such trust in thee, that all our days we may rejoice,

looking to that perfect day when we shall feast in paradise with Christ our Lord,

to whom be praise and glory evermore.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 122

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First Service:

Isaiah 26:1-8

Colossians 3:1-4

Mark 16:1-8

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Second Service:

Daniel 3:13-125

Acts 1:1-5

Luke 24:13-32

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The original ending of the Gospel of Mark was terrified disciples fleeing the empty tomb.  Then various people composed other, uplifting conclusions.

There is something more powerful about ending Mark with 16:8.  The stark, uncertain abruptness feels real in a way with which we humans experience life frequently.  We recall hearing that we should trust God, but we are afraid.  Nobody has a moral right t belittle that feeling, which we all experience more often than we like.  God is present with us in that darkness.  Whenever we cry out to God from the depths, we may be screaming to one who, unknown to us, is actually walking beside us, and doing so without castigating us.

The Resurrection of Jesus functions on two levels in Pauline theology.  It is simultaneously a literal event and a metaphor, as in Colossians 3:1-4–death to sin and resurrection to life in Christ.

In the study of history one question every scholar needs to answer one question:

So what?

Assuming that one is accurate, so what?  When one applies this question to the Resurrection of Jesus, the best answer comes from St. Paul the Apostle, in 1 Corinthians 15:

…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is pointless and you have not, after all, been released from your sins.  In addition, those who have fallen asleep in Christ are utterly lost.  If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are of all people the most pitiable.

–Verses 17-19, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That is “so what.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Proclaiming God Among the Peoples   1 comment

Above:  The Fiery Furnace

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Daniel 3:19-30

Psalm 57:8-11

Revelation 11:15-19

Luke 1:5-20, 57-66

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Wake up, my spirit;

awake, lute and harp;

I myself will waken the dawn.

I will confess you among the peoples, O LORD;

I will sing praise to you among the nations.

For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens,

and your faithfulness reaches the clouds.

Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God,

and your glory over all the earth.

–Psalm 57:8-11, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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In Revelation 11 we read the announcement that

Sovereignty over the world has passed to our Lord and his Christ, and he shall reign for ever.

–Verse 15b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Nevertheless, we must wait until Chapter 21 for that sovereignty to become apparent.

The sovereignty of God is indeed a challenging concept.  In the Gospels the Kingdom of God is already partially present.  The Roman Empire and its agents, one of whom goes on to order the execution of St. John the Baptist, born in Luke 1, is fully present.

Truly bad people who wield authority always seem to present somewhere.  Nebuchadnezzar II, hardly a nice man, is a figure of ridicule in the Book of Daniel.  He is fickle and seems unaware of the extent of his authority at times.  He is willing to send people to die for refusing to serve the gods, so how nice can he be? He, as monarch, can change the law, too.  Later in the Book of Daniel (Chapter 4) he goes insane.  Also troubled and in one of the readings (sort of) is King Saul, a disturbed and mentally unwell man.  The not attached to Psalm 57 contextualizes the text in 1 Samuel 22-24 and 26, with David leading a group of outlaws while on the run from Saul.  In the story David saves the life of the man trying to kill him.  (Aside:  Chapters 24 and 26 seem to be variations on the same story.  The Sources Hypothesis explains the duplication of material.)

One might detect a certain thread common to three of the readings:  The lives of the faithful are at risk.  That theme is implicit in Luke 1.  God will not always deliver the faithful, hence the martyrs in Revelation 14.  The sovereignty of God will not always be obvious.  But we who claim to follow Christ can do so, by grace, and proclaim God among the peoples in a variety of circumstances.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BOSA OF YORK, JOHN OF BEVERLEY, WILFRID THE YOUNGER, AND ACCA OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY REES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-advent-ackerman/

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Resisting the Darkness with Light   1 comment

Candle Flame and Reflection

Above:  Candle Flame and Reflection

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

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 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 3:19-30

Psalm 63:1-8

Revelation 2:8-11

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O God, you are my God, I seek you,

my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

beholding your power and glory.

Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;

I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,

and my mouth praises you with joyful lips

when I think of you on my bed,

and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

for you have been my help,

and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.

My soul clings to you;

your right hand upholds me.

–Psalm 63:1-8, The Book of Worship of the Church of North India (1995)

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Psalm 63:1-8 is the happy pericope for this day.  The author praises God for divine, steadfast love and provisions.  The other readings encourage readers and listeners to trust in God during extremely trying times.  That is a positive and timeless message, but each of the other pericopes presents its own difficulties.

The story from Daniel 3 is ahistorical.  That fact presents no problem for me, for I am neither a fundamentalist nor an evangelical.  No, my difficulty with the account is that the monarch threatens anyone who blasphemes YHWH with death by dismemberment.  I oppose blasphemy, but temporal punishment for it is something I refuse to support.  Besides, one person’s religious expression is another person’s idea of blasphemy.  I know of cases of (Christian) religious expression in foreign (majority Muslim) countries leading to charges of blasphemy and sometimes even executions (martyrdoms).  Religious toleration is a virtue–one much of the Bible frowns upon severely.

The pericope from Revelation 2 comes from an intra-Jewish dispute.  Non-Christian Jews were making life very difficult for Christian Jews at Smyrna.  The Christian invective of “synagogue of Satan” (verse 9) is still difficult to digest, even with knowledge of the historical contexts.  Passages such as these have become fodder for nearly two millennia of Christian Anti-Semitism, one of the great sins of the Church.

As we who call ourselves follow Jesus, may we cling to him during all times–the good, the bad, and the in-between.  And may we eschew hatred, resentment, and violence toward those who oppose us.  Christ taught us to bless our persecutors, to fight hatred with love and darkness with light.  This is difficult, of course, but it is possible by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHN STONE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR TOZER RUSSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILDA OF WHITBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF JANE ELIZA(BETH) LEESON, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/devotion-for-thursday-before-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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