Archive for the ‘Exodus 20’ Category

The Commissioning of Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Zechariah from the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo Buonaroti

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART III

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

Zechariah 1:1-6

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

King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (r. 559-530 B.C.E.) conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  The following year, he issued a decree permitting Jewish exiles to return to their ancestral homeland (Ezra 1:1-4).  The first wave of exiles to return to the ruined homeland (Ezra 1:5-2:70; 1 Esdras 2:8-30; 1 Esdras 5:1-73).  The old, prophetic predictions of the homeland being a verdant paradise of piety and prosperity did not match reality on the ground.  Grief and disappointment ensued.  The land was not as fertile as in the germane prophecies, and the economy was bad.

As of 520 B.C.E., proper worship, as had occurred before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.), had not resumed.  People had set up an altar–most likely in 520 B.C.E. (as 1 Esdras 5:47-55 indicates, not in 538 B.C.E. (as Ezra 3:1-8 indicates).

Construction of the Second Temple began (Ezra 3:10-13; 1 Esdras 5:56-65a).  Yet opposition to that effort caused a pause in construction (Ezra 4:1-23; 1 Esdras 5:65b-73).

Jerusalem, October (prior to October 17), 520 B.C.E.

Zechariah ben Berechiah reported that God had been angry with the previous generation of Judean Jews, and that God urged the current generation to repent.  Zechariah stood in line with the great majority of the Hebrew prophetic tradition to that point, starting with Hosea and Amos–some portion (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) of Second Isaiah excepted.  First Zechariah also stood in line with Ezekiel regarding individual responsibility before God (Ezekiel 3:18-21; 14:12-23; 18:1-32; 33:1-20), contrary to Exodus 20:5b-6 and Deuteronomy 5:9b-10.

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:  Turn back to me–says the LORD of Hosts–and I will turn back to you–said the LORD of Hosts.  Do not be like your fathers.

–Zechariah 1:3b-4a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The personal pronouns are plural, of course.  The message still applies to populations in 2021.  That message also applies to individuals.  I have to turn back to God daily–more than once, daily, in fact.  Perhaps you, O reader, resemble that remark.  If so, I do not judge you.  On what grounds would I judge you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, SWEDISH ECUMENIST AND ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID GONSON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1541

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GUALBERT, FOUNDER OF THE VALLOMBROSAN BENEDICTINES

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS SPROTT AND THOMAS HUNT, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1600

THE FEAST OF SAINT VALERIU TRAIAN FRENTIU, ROMANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 1952

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

The Rise and Fall of Judah’s Political Leaders   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING EZEKIEL, PART X

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

Ezekiel 17:1-24

Ezekiel 19:1-14

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

For this post, O reader, we focus on two allegories.

Ezekiel 17 is the allegory of the eagles, the vine, and the cedar.  For background, read 2 Kings 24-25; Jeremiah 21:14; Jeremiah 22:1-8, 20-30; Jeremiah 27-29; Jeremiah 34; Jeremiah 52; 2 Chronicles 36; 1 Esdras 1:43-58;

The allegory, by definition, uses symbols.  The allegory tells the story of King Jehoiachin of Judah allying with Egypt against the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, losing, and going into exile in 597 B.C.E.  The allegory continues to describe King Zedekiah‘s failed rebellion, and his fate.  The code of the allegory is as follows:

  1. The great eagle = King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (r. 605-562 B.C.E.) (v. 3).
  2. Lebanon = Jerusalem (v. 3).
  3. The topmost branch = Jehoiachin (r. 597 B.C.E.) (v. 3).
  4. The land of merchants = Babylon (v. 4).
  5. The native seed = Zedekiah (r. 597-586 B.C.E.) (v. 5).
  6. Another great eagle = Pharoah Psammetichus II (r. 595-589 B.C.E.) (v. 7).
  7. The vine = the Davidic Dynastry (vs. 7-8).

Ezekiel 17:18f and 2 Chronicles 36:13 argue that Zedekiah had violated his oath of vassalage by rebelling against King Nebuchadnezzar II, and thereby sinned against God.  These texts also argue that Zedekiah earned his punishment.  This position is consistent with the importance of oaths in the Bible (Genesis 24:7; Genesis 26:3, 28-31; Genesis 50:24; Exodus 13:5, 11; Exodus 20:7; Exodus 33:1; Leviticus 5:1-4; Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 5:17; Numbers 14:16, 30; Numbers 32:11; Deuteronomy 1:8, 35; Deuteronomy 6:10; Judges 11:11-40; 1 Kings 8:31-32; 1 Chronicles 12:19; 2 Chronicles 6:22-23; Psalm 16:4; Isaiah 62:8; Isaiah 144:8; Hosea 4:15; Amos 8:14; Matthew 5:36; et cetera).et cetera

Ezekiel 17 concludes on a note of future restoration (vs. 22-24).  One Jewish interpretation of the final three verses holds that the construction of the Second Temple, under the supervision of Zerubbabel, of the House of David, fulfilled this prophecy (Haggai 2:20-23).  That interpretation does not convince me.  The prophecy concerns the restoration of the Jewish nation.  My sense of the past tells me that one may not feasibly apply this prophecy to the events following 142 B.C.E. and 1948 B.C.E., given the absence of the Davidic Dynasty in Hasmonean Judea and modern Israel.

The emphasis on divine power and human weakness defines the end of Chapter 17.

Ezekiel 19, which uses the metaphors of the lion (the tribe of Judah; Genesis 49:9) and the vine (the nation of the Hebrews), is a lament for the fall of the Judean monarchy.  For Ezekiel, priests properly outrank kings (34:24; 45:7-8), so Kings of Judah are “princes.”  The first cub (v. 4) is King Jehoahaz of Judah (r. 609 B.C.E.).  The second cub may be either King Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, or Zedekiah of Judah.  The identity of the second cub is vague, but the prediction of the destruction of the monarchy of Judah is clear.

Leaders come and go.  Kingdoms, empires, and nation-states rise and fall.  All that is human is transitory.  But God lasts forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GERARD, ENGLISH JESUIT PRIEST; AND MARY WARD, FOUNDRESS OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

THE FEAST OF CLARA LOUISE MAASS, U.S. LUTHERAN NURSE AND MARTYR, 1901

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLUTARCH, MARCELLA, POTANOMINAENA, AND BASILIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, MARTYRS, 202

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA MARIA MASTERS, FOUNDRESS OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FACE

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM AND JOHN MUNDY, ENGLISH COMPOSERS AND MUSICIANS

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

This is post #2550 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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

Individual Responsibility Before God   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING EZEKIEL, PART III

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

Ezekiel 3:18-21

Ezekiel 14:12-23

Ezekiel 18:1-32

Ezekiel 33:1-20

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

For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for the ancestors’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but showing love down to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

–Exodus 20:5b-6; Deuteronomy 5:9b-10, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

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

Maybe not, not withstanding 1 Kings 21:29; Exodus 34:7; Nehemiah 9:17; Numbers 14:18; Psalm 103:9; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Jeremiah 11:21-23; Jeremiah 15:1; Jeremiah 35:18-19.  To the list of passages arguing against intergenerational reward and punishment I add Jeremiah 31:29-30.  (The Book of Jeremiah contains layers of composition and editing.  Parts of that book contradict each other, as in the cases of intergenerational reward and punishment, and whether the deadline for repentance has passed.)

Sin, responsibility, reward, and punishment, in the Bible, are both collective and individual.  The collective varieties are consistent with mutuality.  Individual varieties exist within the context of mutuality, too.

Intergenerational influences are real.  If you, O reader, know enough about yourself and your ancestors for a few generations, perhaps you can identify intergenerational influences, both positive and negative, in your life.  I can identify some in my life.

For the purpose of this post, I bring together four readings on the same theme.  Three of them predate the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B,B.E.).  Ezekiel 33 postdates the Fall of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 14:12-23 follows a section of threats against false prophets and diviners, and echoes Leviticus 26.  Certain individuals may be pious, but, if the population is rebellious against God, these holy people will save only themselves.  Divine punishment and reward are individual, we read.

I loved my father, now deceased.  He had his virtues and vices, like all human beings.  He was responsible for his actions.

I am responsible for my actions, not his.

This message of individual responsibility seems to have fallen primarily on deaf ears, despite repetition, within the Book of Ezekiel.

Imagine, O reader, that you were a Jew born an exile in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Think about how hearing these words would have resonated with you.  Imagine, perhaps, that this teaching would have given you hope that God would not judge you for what your ancestors had done wrong.  Imagine, maybe, that these words would have encouraged your spiritual journey.

Imagine, O reader, that you were a Jew born in Judea after the end of the Babylonian Exile.  Imagine how you may have welcomed the news that, as you strove to live piously, God would judge you based on yourself, not your ancestors.

I am a Christian.  As one, I read passages about individual responsibility, reward, and punishment through the prism of atonement via Jesus.  The atonement–three theories of which exist in Patristic writings–is the game-changer in my theology regarding the topic of this post.  Nevertheless, I affirm that what I do matters.  The atonement does not give me a license to act as I choose.  I am still morally accountable to God and other human beings.  Faithful response to grace is a constant moral principle in Judaism and Christianity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR, CIRCA 209 OR 305

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, DUTCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, AND CONTROVERSIALIST; SAINT JOHN FISHER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER, CARDINAL, AND MARTYR, 1535; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR, 1535

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESHCEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES ARTHUR MACKINNON, CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, 1965

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF NOLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NOLA

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

The Community’s Lament to the Lord   Leave a comment

Above:  $100 Trillion Bank Note, Zimbabwe

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING LAMENTATIONS, PART VI

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

Lamentation 5:1-22

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

The Book of Lamentations concludes on a thoroughly depressing note.  The prayer for restoration ends without hope.  Hope was for Chapters 3 and 4, not Chapter 5.

So much has gone wrong by Chapter 5:

  1. The family structure has broken down (verses 2-3).
  2. Foreign conquerors have overrun the country (verse 2).
  3. The people were defenseless (verse 3).
  4. The economy was and inflation was rampant (verses 4-5).
  5. The last Assyrian king had fallen from power in 609 B.C.E., but the point that trusting in in foreign powers, not in God, remained valid.
  6. The voice of the community accepted intergenerational guilt and punishment (Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9, contra Ezekiel 3:16-21; Ezekiel 14:12-23; Ezekiel 18:1-32; Ezekiel 33:1-20).
  7. Lackeys of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch governed Judah (verse 8).
  8. Food was scarce (verse 9).
  9. The social order had broken down.  Violence, indignity, rape, and abusive labor were rampant (verses 11-14).  Young men performed the work of women, prisoners, slaves, and animals (verse 13).
  10. Old men no longer administered justice at city gates (verse 14), as in Deuteronomy 22:15; Deuteronomy 25:7; Ruth 4:1-2, 11).
  11. Temple worship was impossible (verse 15).
  12. The Davidic Dynasty had ended (verse 16).
  13. The covenant relationship with God was broken (verses 21-22).

Take us back, O LORD, to Yourself,

And let us come back;

Renew our days as of old!

–Lamentations 5:22b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The Book of Lamentations concludes without a divine reply to that plea.  It ends without a comforting or easy answer.  It concludes with God present yet hiding.  Sit with that, O reader.  Give the Book of Lamentations its due.

Thank you, O reader, for accompanying me on this journey through the Book of Lamentations.  I invite you to remain with me as I move along to the Book of Ezekiel.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DALBERG ACTON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC HISTORIAN, PHILOSOPHER, AND SOCIAL CRITIC

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, EPISCOPAL PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION, AND ADVOCATE FOR PEACE

THE FEAST OF MICHEL-RICHARD DELALANDE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF VERNARD ELLER, U.S. CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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

Judah’s Infidelity to the Covenant, with Jeremiah’s First Lament   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING JEREMIAH, PART VII

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

Jeremiah 11:1-23

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

Jeremiah 11:1-23 takes a principle from earlier in Hebrew prophetic literature and applies it to the Kingdom of Judah.  This principle holds that, given human rejection of the covenant, grounded in the Law of Moses, God will reject the faithless people.  The text makes clear that the fault lies entirely with human beings.

Jeremiah’s preaching had aroused strong opposition.  Some men of Anathoth had plotted against Jeremiah, to kill him.  God protected Jeremiah’s life and punished those conspirators and their families, we read.  Yet Jeremiah’s difficult mandate remained.

This brings me to a potentially challenging theological question.  Exodus 20:5-6 teaches that God rewards subsequent generations of piety and punishes subsequent generations for impiety of their ancestors.  Yet the Book of Ezekiel (3:16-21; 14:12-23; 18:1-32; 33:1-20) teaches individual responsibility for actions and their consequences.  The Book of Ezekiel explicitly rejects the idea that God rewards or punishes anyone for something an ancestor did.  The Book of Jeremiah agrees with the Book of Exodus, not the Book of Ezekiel, on this point.

I agree with the Book of Ezekiel.  However, I recognize that intergenerational influences exist.  I know enough about my family and myself to identify both positive and negative influences reaching back to one great-grandfather, for example.  None of this absolves me of my individual responsibility for my decisions, of course.  Yet I admit that I am who I am partially because of my ancestors.  I would be a different person had they been different people.

Although I, like all people, depend entirely upon God, I also have free will.  This exists because of grace; everything comes back to grace.  I can use my free will to decide what kind of person I want to be.  I want to be someone defined by the love of God, and who lives and loves accordingly.  I can become that kind of person by grace.  I admit freely that I have progress to make toward achieving this goal.  That is fine; life is a journey.

May we all journey with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARA LUPER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND ALLEGED HERETIC; AND HIS DAUGHTER, EMILIE GRACE BRIGGS, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND “HERETIC’S DAUGHTER”

THE FEAST OF GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC POET AND JESUIT PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY DOWNTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MISSION STRATEGIST

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

The Martyrdom of the Fifth and Sixth Brothers   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Mother and Her Seven Sons

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XII

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

2 Maccabees 7:15-19

4 Maccabees 11:1-27

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

As usual, 2 Maccabees focuses on theology and is succinct.  Also as usual, 4 Maccabees gives up philosophy, theology, and graphic descriptions of torture.

A few main points stand out in my mind:

  1. Again, brothers about to die told King Antiochus IV Epiphanes he would suffer in the afterlife (2 Maccabees 7:17, 19; 4 Maccabees 11:3).
  2. Descendants of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes were also going to suffer divine punishment (2 Maccabees 7:17).  Is this an echo of intergenerational reward and punishment (Exodus 20:5-6)?  (Ezekiel 18 argues for individual responsibility before God and against intergenerational reward and punishment, by the way.)  Or were those descendants going to suffer for their sins?
  3. God has not abandoned the persecuted Jews (2 Maccabees 7:16).
  4. 2 Maccabees (in 6:12-17; 7:18)  teaches that this persecution was a form of divine punishment of Israel for sins.  I chose not to write about this point when I covered 2 Maccabees 6, for I was focusing on other matters.

Let us–you, O reader, and I–unpack this last theological point.  Who (plural) sinned to bring on this punishment, allegedly?  Were pious Jews, especially the ones who willingly suffered and died rather than violate kosher food laws in the Law of Moses–suffering because of the sins of impious Jews.  Or were these pious Jews suffering because of the perfidy of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes and those who did his bidding?

Rabbi HIillel quoted Rabbi Jose son of Rabbi Judah:

Precious are chastisements, for the name of God rests upon him to whom chastisements come.

The Wisdom of Solomon, a book roughly contemporary with 2 Maccabees, disagrees somewhat with the interpretation of the suffering of pious Jews in 2 Maccabees:

By acting thus you have taught a lesson to your people

how the virtuous man must be kind to his fellow men,

and you have given your sons the good hope

that after sin you will grant repentance.

If with such care and such indulgence you have punished

the enemies of your children,

when death was what they deserved,

and given them time and room to rid themselves of wickedness,

with what attention have you not judged your sons,

to whose ancestors you made such fair promises by oaths and covenants.

Thus, while you correct us, you flog our enemies ten thousand times harder,

to teach us when we judge, to reflect on your kindness

and when we are judged, to look for mercy.

–Wisdom of Solomon 12:19-22, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Furthermore, according to the Wisdom of Solomon 11:1-14, the righteous receive benefits through punishments.  Adding the Wisdom of Solomon 12:9-10 to the mix, we read that God permits pagan nations time to repent.  However, according to the Wisdom of Solomon 12:23-27, divine mercy follows divine judgment.  And as Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 5:4-9 warns us, do not assume divine indulgence to be an entitlement.

I recognize Deuteronomic theology of collective suffering when I read it.  That theology exists in 2 Maccabees and the Wisdom of Solomon.  That theology is the Hebrew Biblical party line regarding the causation of the Babylonian Exile.  And that theology may not apply in all circumstances.

We who identify as devout have a responsibility to be careful in how we think, speak, and write about God.  On one hand, we ought never to try to domesticate God.  On the other hand, we must refrain from depicting God as a monstrous figure worthy of our dread and unworthy of praise and adoration.  We have an obligation not to depict God as being abusive.  How can we draw people to the sole deity if we present that deity as an abuser?  Theodicy, poorly executed, quickly devolves into idiocy.

Perhaps the Jews suffered under King Antiochus IV Epiphanes because he was a bastard intolerant of cultural diversity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPHINE BAKHITA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEROME EMILIARI, FOUNDER OF THE COMPANY OF THE SERVANTS OF THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF MATHA AND FELIX OF VALOIS, FOUNDERS OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPHINA GABRIELLA BONINO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF MITCHELL J. DAHOOD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

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

In Vain   2 comments

Above:  Christ and the Adulteress, by Rocco Marconi

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

The Assigned Readings:

Acts 19:1-20

Psalm 97

3 John

John 8:1-11

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

The name of Jesus has power, but only when people who believe in him use it.  Consider, O reader, the hilarious scene in Acts 19:11-20 and the serious issue (division of a congregation by one man) in the Third Letter of John.  God is the king and the earth should exult, as Psalm 97 reminds us.  However, some people still use religion self-servingly.

John 7:53-8:11 is a floating pericope.  Some ancient copies of the Gospel of Luke place it in different locations.  The final version of the Gospel of Luke lacks it.  And one can jump from John 7:52 to 8:12 without missing a beat.  This floating pericope is a compelling story–originally part of the Gospel of Luke–that has settled down as John 7:53-8:11.

Those who sought to entrap Jesus (yet again) used an adulteress as their pawn.  They seemed unconcerned about the whereabouts of the man with whom she had sinned.  Where was he?  His absence was conspicuous.

These Pharisees had distorted the Law of Moses to attempt to entrap Jesus.  They had focused on the death penalty (Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22) for one sinner and not the other one.  These Pharisees had also ignored the real issue at work in the Law of Moses vis-à-vis adultery:  the protection and stability of a man’s property.  Whatever Jesus wrote, he compelled the accusers to leave.  He reversed the trap.

Then Jesus forgave the woman.

The Law of God is not a blunt weapon to manipulate for one’s purposes.  Neither is the name of Jesus.

This point leads me back to Exodus 20:7:

You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not leave unpunished anyone who misuses his name.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Robert D. Miller, II, of The Catholic University of America, offers a germane analysis of this commandment in his Understanding the Old Testament course (2019) for The Great Courses.  He explains:

This is a warning that there is no possibility of involving the name of God without something happening.

–Course Guidebook, 39

That something may involve ricochet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF WEARMOUTH

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY PUCCI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, ANGLICAN PRIEST, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, LITERARY TRANSLATOR, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2021/01/12/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-d-humes/

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

Sarah’s Plight and Her Prayer for Death   Leave a comment

Above:  Asmodeus, by Louis Le Breton

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING TOBIT

PART IV

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

Tobit 3:7-16

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

Tobit had endured ridicule and was suffering from blindness (2:8f).  Then he had falsely accused his wife Anna of having stolen a kid (2:12f) and prayed for death (3:1-6).  Themes repeated in the case of Sarah, falsely accused of having killed seven husbands while remaining a virgin (3:7f) and who also prayed for death (3:11-15).  The demon Asmodeus had killed the seven husbands on those wedding nights.

God assigned the archangel Raphael (“God has healed”) to solve the problems of Sarah and Tobit.

Various elements are at work in these verses.

  1. Seven is the number of completeness and fullness.  By the standards of her culture, Sarah would not marry again.
  2. The disgrace of suicide is a theme.  This theme occurs also in 1 Samuel 31:4-5; 2 Samuel 17:23; 1 Kings 16:18; and 2 Maccabees 14:41-46.  The prohibition against committing suicide is implicit in Genesis 9:4-6 and Exodus 20:13.
  3. Asmodeus is a reference to Aeshma Daeva, the Persian “demon of wrath.”  The Book of Tobit bears a resemblance to the Persian folktale “The Monster in the Bridal Chamber.”  In this folk tale, a serpent emerges from the mouth of the bride-princess on her wedding night and kills her husband.  Finally, after a series of husbands has perished, a stranger marries her and kills the serpent.
  4. God answers prayers.

Suicide is an emotionally difficult subject.  I have never accepted that people who commit suicide automatically go to Hell.  If suicide is a sin, it is not the unpardonable sin.  And those who, not in their right minds, commit suicide, are not responsible, at least not in the way one in one’s right mind is.

This matter is real, not theoretical, for me.  I am in my right mind.  I used to be in love with a woman who struggled with mental illnesses.  The mental illnesses overpowered her.  She was not in her right mind at the end.  Now I am, in my words, “not quite a widower.”  I pray that my beloved has found her peace.  I have yet to find mine.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN THE YOUNGER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

THE FEAST OF ALBERT GEORGE BUTZER, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF KAMEHAMEHA IV AND EMMAR ROOKE, KING AND QUEEN OF HAWAI’I

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AND MICHAEL HOFER, U.S. HUTTERITE CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS AND MARTYRS, 1918

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

The Rape of Tamar and the Murder of Amnon   3 comments

Above:  Amnon Forces Tamar to Leave in Humiliation

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XL

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

2 Samuel 13:1-39

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

Thus said the LORD:  “I will make a calamity rise against you in your own house….”

–2 Samuel 12:11a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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

King David had a large, dysfunctional family.  He had seventeen children by seven women.

For the purposes of this post, one needs to know the following:

  1. Tamar and Absalom were children of David and Maacah.  One may remember Maacah from 2 Samuel 3:3 and 1 Chronicles 3:2.
  2. Amnon was the son of David and Ahinoam.  One may remember Ahinoam from 1 Samuel 25:43; 1 Samuel 27:3; 1 Samuel 30:5; 2 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 3:2; and 1 Chronicles 3:1.

This story assumes intergenerational punishment, consistent with Exodus 20:5-6 and contrary to Ezekiel 18.

Amnon was a sick puppy.  He lusted after and raped his half-sister, Tamar.  Then he sent her away, forcing her to remain unmarried for the rest of her life.  Amnon disobeyed Deuteronomy 22:28-29, which secured a rape victim’s social position by requiring her rapist to marry her.  As Amy-Jill Levine has said about certain aspects of the Hebrew Bible, people did things differently then.

Anyway, I refuse to defend Deuteronomy 22:28-29.

Tamar wore an ornamented tunic, which wound up torn.  This was a garment a high-status person wore.  The only other mention of such a garment in the Hebrew Bible was in Genesis 37.  Joseph also became a victim of family violence and perfidy.  And his ornamented tunic became torn, too.

Why did David not punish Amnon and sympathize with Tamar?

Absalom served up the cold dish of revenge; he ordered Amnon’s murder two years after the rape of Tamar.  Then Absalom fled.  He spent several years in exile as David grieved for Amnon.

This story presents David in an unflattering light.  It makes clear that the monarch did not punish Amnon for raping Tamar.  The story also depicts David as yielding to Absalom in verses 24-27.

Although I reject intergenerational punishment by God, I acknowledge both positive and negative intergenerational influences.  Children learn what they live.  Based on what I have read in 1 and 2 Samuel, I do not know how one could grow up in David’s family and not be warped.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES DE SALES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GENEVA; SAINT VINCENT DE PAUL, “THE APOSTLE OF CHARITY;” SAINT LOUISE DE MARILLAC, COFOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY OF SAINT VINCENT DE PAUL; AND SAINT CHARLES FUGE LOWDER, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SCUDDER, U.S. UNITARIAN THEN EPISCOPALIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF MELANESIA, 1864-2003

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

The Intersection of the Spiritual and the Physical II   Leave a comment

Above:  Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, by Giovanni Antonio Sogliani

Image in the Public Domain

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

For the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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

Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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

Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things:

graft in our hearts the love of thy Name,

increase in us true religion;

nourish us with all goodness,

and of thy great mercy keep us in the same;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 194

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

Exodus 20:1-17

Psalm 28

Romans 6:3-11

Mark 6:31-44

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

I detect a contrast between the scene in Exodus 20 and the scene in Mark 6:31-44.  The scene in Exodus 20, the giving of the Ten Commandments, was one in which the people at the base of the mountain had orders to keep their distance (19:21f).  The scene in Mark 6:31-44 (one of the four accounts of the Feeding of the 5000) is one in which Jesus was close to the people.  May we remember, O reader, that the same Jesus was the instrument of the Atonement, which St. Paul the Apostle mentioned in Romans 6:3-11.

God is our strong shield, Psalm 28 tells us.  We read in Mark 6:31-44, among other segments of the Gospels, that Jesus cared about both spiritual and physical needs.  Indeed, people must eat.

Physical and spiritual needs are related to each other.  We are physical beings, for we have bodies.  We are mainly spiritual, though.  We are spiritual beings having spiritual experiences, not physical beings having spiritual experiences.  The image of God in me recognizes the image of God in you, O reader.  And physical experiences often have spiritual components.

I have heard of Christian missionaries who have found that meeting physical needs has been necessary before they could preach effectively.  Medical supplies and equipment for drilling wells have paved the ways for the proclamation of the Gospel many times.  Why not?  Tending to physical needs, as able, is living according to the Golden Rule.

On other occasions, however, physical needs may seem to work against spiritual needs.  I write these words during the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.  My bishop has acted responsibly; he has forbidden in-person services for a while.  I am one of the churchiest people around, so I miss attending services.  Furthermore, the Holy Eucharist is one of the pillars of my spiritual being.  My week does not go as well when I do not take communion.  Maintaining faith community can be difficult during a time of isolation.  My faith does not falter, for I do not imagine that a pandemic negates the existence and mercy of God.  I do become lonely and pine for the Holy Eucharist, though.

The physical and the spiritual overlap considerably.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

FRIDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF DANIEL SYLVESTER TUTTLE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF EMILY COOPER, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF LUCY LARCOM, U.S. ACADEMIC, JOURNALIST, POET, EDITOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAX JOSEF METZGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1944

THE FEAST OF WILBUR KENNETH HOWARD, MODERATOR OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

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