Archive for the ‘Revelation of John 22’ Category

“Come, Lord Jesus.”   Leave a comment

Above:  Alpha and Omega

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING REVELATION, PART XVI

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

Revelation 22:6-21

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

How soon is soon?  We read that, in a text from the 90s C.E., that Christ will return “soon.”  We may safely assume that John of Patmos understood “soon” be within the lifetimes of many members of the original audience.

The passage of time has handed down a verdict on that expectation, as well as many other expectations regarding the timing of the Second Coming of Jesus.

If we assume Amillennialism to be true (see Revelation 20), we accept that the “millennium” has been in progress for thousands of years.  Given that numbers are symbolic in Revelation (except in the case of the seven churches in the first three chapters), why not interpret “millennium” is a non-literal way?

Details of the Second Coming reside with God.  I am content to leave them there.  In the meantime, I have faithful living in which to engage.  Trying to understand how to live faithfully in concrete terms, can prove challenging sometimes.  I suspect that God cares about how I live faithfully, within circumstances, than about how I understand any detail of an ancient apocalyptic text.

I do focus on broad strokes, though.  Serve only God, who is sovereign.  Reject the bad value systems (exploitation, militarism, slavery, et cetera) of “Roman Empires.”  Stick close to Jesus.  Resist evil.  Trust in the faithfulness of God.

God will handle the rest.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through Revelation.  May something you read along the way have benefited you spiritually.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE MCGOVERN, U.S. SENATOR AND STATESMAN; AND HIS WIFE, ELEANOR MCGOVERN, HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF DAVID MORITZ MICHAEL, GERMAN-AMERICAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF EMILY GARDINER NEAL, EPISCOPAL DEACON, RELIGIOUS WRITER, AND LEADER OF THE HEALING MOVEMENT IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURA OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, FOUNDER OF THE WORKS OF THE INDIANS AND THE CONGREGATION OF MISSIONARY SISTERS OF IMMACULATE MARY AND OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA

THE FEAST OF WALTER SISULU AND ALBERINA SISULU, ANTI-APARTHEID ACTIVISTS AND POLITICAL PRISONERS IN SOUTH AFRICA

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

The New Heaven and the New Earth   Leave a comment

Above:  The Celestial City and the River of Bliss, by John Martin

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING REVELATION, PART XV

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

Revelation 21:1-22:5

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

God’s creative destruction finally complete, the fully-realized Kingdom of God may arrive.  The language of the Kingdom of God in the New Testament is simultaneously present tense and future tense.  The partially-realized Kingdom of God is here and has been here for a long time.  Yet much remains to come.

In Revelation 21:1-22:5, finite language speaks of infinite grace and a new world order.  Death, grief, pain, chaos, and other causes of suffering are no more.  The New Jerusalem is a new, renewed creation.  It is paradise restored, after Genesis 3.  Mythological language, best suited to describe the fully-realized Kingdom of God.

Presbyterian minister Ernest Lee Stoffel, writing in The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), proposed:

The re-creating power of Christ’s suffering love is time-less.  The reign of Christ’s suffering love is time-less.  The re-creating power of suffering love can happen “in time” and “beyond time.”

–103

He was, I suppose, channeling C. H. Dodd’s Realized Eschatology–the Kingdom of God does not come; it is.  God is time-less.  Our perspectives are time-bound, however.  Therefore, certain events make the reality of the Kingdom of God more evident than before.

I recognize much of merit in the case Dodd made.  Maybe the temporal perspective of this student of the past is too strong for Realized Eschatology to satisfy me fully.  Nevertheless, I admit that my point of view is limited.

Stoffel’s case makes much sense.  In Genesis 1:1, God began to create.  God continues to create.  God continues to re-create.

That satisfies me fully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PHILIP SCHAFF AND JOHN WILLIAMSON NEVIN, U.S. GERMAN REFORMED HISTORIANS, THEOLOGIANS, AND LITURGISTS

THE FEAST OF FRIEDRICH FUNCKE, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, COMPOSER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES W. C. PENNINGTON, AFRICAN-AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST AND PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND ABOLITIONIONIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN HARRIS BURT, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF OHIO, AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF MARY A. LATHBURY, U.S. METHODIST HYMN WRITER

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

Introduction to the Apocalypse of John   Leave a comment

Above:  Revelation Title (French)

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from a copy of the Louis Segond revised translation (1910) of the Bible

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

READING REVELATION, PART I

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

Revelation 1:1-20

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

Rev[elation] is widely popular for the wrong reasons, for a great number of people read it as a guide to how the world will end, assuming that the author was given by Christ detailed knowledge of the future he communicated in coded symbols.

Father Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (1997), 773

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

…Revelation does not speak about our time, it does speak to it.

–M. Eugene Boring, Revelation (1989), 62

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

THE APOCALYPTIC GENRE

Reading a book within its genre matters.

Consider the apocalypse in Daniel 7-12, for example, O reader.  The author wrote in the first century B.C.E.  He mostly wrote history as prophecy.  But when the author started writing about the future (relative to him), he got details wrong.  This was par for the course, given the genre.

Apocalyptic literature, written in images and symbols, is politically subversive of tyranny.  The genre offers hope during difficult times, encourages the faithful to remain faithful, and contrasts the world order with the divine order.  Apocalyptic literature uses the future as away to address the present.

I lay my theological cards on the table at the beginning of this project, O reader.

  1. I am a left-of-center Episcopalian.
  2. I am a student of history.
  3. I am an intellectual.
  4. I know the historical record of failed predictions of Christ’s Second Coming and failed identifications of the Antichrist.
  5. I tell you, O reader, that the rapture is a fiction from the mind of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882).
  6. I know that Darby’s Dispensationalism, popularized further in C. I. Scofield‘s study Bible, the “manual of fundamentalism,” remains a widespread interpretive system.
  7. I affirm that Christ will eventually return, but only once.  The rapture requires two Second Comings.
  8. I have no interest in prophecy conferences, but care deeply about loving like Jesus daily.

Apocalyptic literature has much to say about our present.  This content remains politically subversive.  That is fine.  I approve of subverting injustice, tyranny, slavery, economic exploitation, and needless violence.  They are antithetical to the Kingdom of God.

Apocalyptic literature is also optimistic.  In the darkness, the genre proclaims hope that God and good will triumph in the end.  Apocalyptic literature, therefore, stiffens the spines of discouraged, faithful people.  Good news of the deliverance of oppressed people doubles as judgment of the oppressors.  The genre invites us to ask ourselves:

Whose side am I on?

In summary, apocalyptic literature immediately moves past preaching and gets to meddling.

THE APOCALYPSE OF JOHN AND RESISTANCE TO TYRANNY

Certain passages of the Old and New Testaments, in their contexts, support submission to earthly authority.  The Apocalypse of John has none of that.  Revelation tells us that the Roman Empire was evil, antithetical to the Kingdom of God.  This is the message that made the text treasonous long ago and still inspires many people to resist tyranny.  One may read, for example, of Christian opponents of Apartheid (in South Africa) drawing inspiration from the Apocalypse of John, even as the national government prosecuted and persecuted them.  Today, in dictatorships, certain Christians are reading Revelation as they emerge in their struggles for justice.

REVELATION IN THE BIBLE AND LECTIONARIES

Revelation is a liturgical hot potato.  The major lectionaries include little of it.  The Eastern Orthodox lectionary excludes the Apocalypse of John.  The Orthodox Study Bible (2008) explains:

While seen as canonical and inspired by God, the Revelation is the only New Testament book not publicly read in the services of the Orthodox Church.  This is partly because the book was only gradually accepted as canonical in many parts of Christendom.  In addition, in the second and third centuries Revelation was widely twisted and sensationally misinterpreted, and the erroneous teachings brought troublesome confusion to Christians–a trend that continues to this day.

Genesis and Revelation constitute fitting bookends of the Christian Bible.  Genesis opens with mythology–the creation of an earthly paradise, followed by the end of that paradise–to be precise (Genesis 1-3).  Revelation concludes with a vision of God, having finally defeated evil once and for all, restoring that earthly paradise and establishing the fully-realized Kingdom of God (Revelation 21-22).

THE ORIGIN OF THE APOCALYPSE OF JOHN

Revelation came from 92 to 96 C.E., at the end of the reign of the Emperor Domitian.  Emperor-worship and the worship of the goddess Roma (Rome personified) were parts of conventional Roman patriotism and civic life.  The Christian refusal to participate in these cults made Christians seem unpatriotic at best and treasonous at worst.  Persecution was generally sporadic and regional at the time, but it was a constant threat.  “John of Patmos” (whoever he was) wrote to seven churches in commercial cities in western Asia Minor.

The elaborate symbolism–including numerology–in apocalyptic literature prevented the uninitiated–in this case, Roman censors–from understanding the texts.

SYMBOLISM AND MEANING IN REVELATION 1

The only instance in which to interpret any number in the Apocalypse of John literally pertains to the seven churches in western Asia Minor.

Revelation 1 plunges us into the symbolic aspect of apocalyptic literature immediately.  Stars (at the end of the chapter) represent angels and lamp-stands represent churches.  Earlier in the chapter, Jesus has white hair, indicating holiness.  His eyes, like a burning flame, pierce to the heart of all things.  Christ’s “feet like burnished bronze” are stable and steadfast.  His voice, “like the sound of the ocean,” is the convergence of the truth of God in the Hebrew Bible.  Jesus holds the Church–then a vulnerable group of house congregations–in his hand.  From Christ’s mouth emerges a two-edged sword (speech).  His face shines like the sun.  Christ is victorious, resurrected, ascended, and priestly.

The Roman Empire may have seemed to have had all the power and glory.  It did not.  The Roman Empire had executed Jesus.  Yet he had risen; his tomb was empty.  The power of the Roman Empire was nothing compared to the power of God in Christ.

That was treasonous, for, according to Roman coinage, the emperor was the “Son of God.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 6, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE EDWARD LYNCH COTTON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CALCUTTA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH ALBERT, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND POET

THE FEAST OF HERBERT G. MAY, U.S. BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN ERNEST BODE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM TYNDALE, ENGLISH REFORMER, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND MARTYR, 1536; AND MILES COVERDALE, ENGLISH REFORMER, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND BISHOP OF EXETER

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

False Teachers, Part II   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART XI

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

2 Peter 1:1-21

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

The pseudonymous author, of the second century C.E., presenting himself as St. Simon Peter, followed a practice his culture accepted.  This author, in the first chapter of Second Peter, made some timeless points.

I like the translation of verse 4 in The Jerusalem Bible (1966):

…to escape corruption in a world that is sunk in vice.

The variation of this line, in the Vulgate, translated as:

…the corruption of the vice that is in the world.

My survey of other translations yields mostly “lust” in lieu of “vice.”  However, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) offers:

…after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.

In textual context and the cultural context of Hellenistic Judaism, the soul that escapes from this corruption participates in the divine nature and becomes incorrupt.  Christians, therefore, escape the fate of those who abuse their freedom and fall prey to corruption.

“Lust,” “vice,” or “evil desire,” depending on the translation one reads, indicates desire for the forbidden.  This desire may be sexual some or much of the time, but is not solely sexual in nature.  “Evil desire” is a fine translation, in this context.  Forbidden fruit is frequently the most popular kind of fruit.  My experience teaches me that forbidden fruits become boring relatively quickly.  The satisfying path for the long term is the road of the godly and the merely decent.  It is the road 1:5-11 explains.  Divine law does not forbid building up each other in mutuality.

The targets of 1:19-21 were false teachers.  Their class of people has existed at least since the days of the Hebrew Bible; prophets of God clashed with false prophets.  In the context of eschatology, apocalyptic expectations, “Peter” condemned false teachers who argued against the parousia.  The scriptural context of 2 Peter 1:19-21, replete with allusions to Numbers 24:17, Revelation 2:28, Revelation 22:16, Jeremiah 23:16-22, Ezekiel 13:1-7, Genesis 40:8, and 2 Esdras/4 Ezra 10:43, made the points of eschatology and the divine source of prophecy plain.

False teachers and prophets persist.  Many identify themselves as orthodox Christians.  Some of these retain audiences despite having made predictions of the Second Coming and lived long enough to witness the failure of their predictions.  I leave details of the parousia entirely to God.  Trying to live properly one day at a time can prove sufficiently challenging much of the time.  I have no time to spare to obsess about prophecy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS

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

Living with Integrity, and Some Troublesome Texts   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART VIII

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

1 Peter 2:1-3:17

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

Whenever Christians to my right speak or write about what the Bible says about various matters, I invariably roll my eyes, at least metaphorically.  Literalists overlook a documented fact:  the Bible contradicts itself.  Reading the germane texts for what they are reveals that context is key.  If one mistakes St. Paul the Apostle for a systematic theologian, one may overlook the cultural contexts in which he ministered.

The cultural and geographical context of First Peter was northern Asia Minor, the Roman Empire, 70-90 C.E.  The culture was hostile to Christianity, a young, small, and growing religion.  Slavery, and patriarchy were cultural norms.  The author bought into these norms, although he moderated them.  The attitude of submission to civil authority (the Roman Empire, in this case) contrasted with the attitude of “John of Patmos,” who wrote Revelation.  According of Revelation, the Roman Empire was in league with Satan, so submission to the empire was submission to Satan.  Such submission was sinful, according to Revelation.  Not surprisingly, the attitude of submission to the empire (in 1 Peter) has long been more popular with governments than the contrasting attitude in Revelation.

As always, context is crucial.

I argue with much of 1 Peter 2:1-3:17.  I oppose all forms of slavery at all times and in all places.  I affirm equality within marriage.  I contend that one can belong to a powerless minority in a society and still say,

X is wrong.  The social and cultural norms are askew.

I hold that living the Golden Rule, individually and collectively, is a divine mandate, not a suggestion.  Living reverently in Christ (1 Peter 3:15) requires nothing less.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL VI, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK WILLIAM FABER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BRIGHT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN BYROM, ANGLICAN THEN QUAKER POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LANCELOT ANDREWES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER THEN OF ELY THEN OF WINCHESTER

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

Ezekiel’s Vision of the Destruction of Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING EZEKIEL, PART VI

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

Ezekiel 8:1-11:23

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

Ezekiel 8:1-11:13, the product of more than one person, contains some unusual editorial choices and odd shifts of attention.  I mention that matter to get it out of the way, so that nobody can legitimately claim that I do not know it.  Now that I have gotten that matter out of the way, I focus on themes, details, and the application thereof.

The figurer who looked like a man (or fire, depending on translation) in 8:2 is the divine Presence, Ezekiel’s guide.  This figure recurs in 40:3f.

The date of the vision in 8:1-11:13 is September 592 B.C.E.

Idolatry recurs as a sin of the people of Judah.

We read that, contrary to what many people think, God has not abandoned Judah–yet–and does see what people are doing (9:9).

Above:  Ezekiel’s Vision, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

Chapter 10 reads like a redux of Chapter 1, with some differences.

God departs Judah in Chapter 11.

We read of the divine promise of restoration and cleansing of exiles already in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  We read that those still in Judah are doomed (11:41-21).  We read that God has moved to the exiles in Babylon (11:23).

Ezekiel 11:21 cautions that divine renewal of the exiles is not automatic; it requires human vigilance.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Ezekiel 11:17-21 is thematically similar to Jeremiah 31:33-34; Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 36:26.  We read that, in an ideal future, by divine action, disobedience to God will cease to be an option.

In Hebrew prophetic literature, as well as in the Revelation to John, divine faithfulness is never in doubt, from the author’s perspective.  Also, divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  Creative destruction by God makes way for the establishment for the new, divine order.  In Christian terms, God must destroy the old, corrupt order before the fully-realized Kingdom of God can become visible on the Earth, from a human perspective.  As C. H. Dodd reminds me from the printed page and his grave, the Kingdom of God is; it does not come.  Yet, from a human point of view, certain events make its presence more palpable than it used to be.

Another idea, frequently repeated in the Bible–especially Hebrew prophetic books–is that human sins have consequences.  We human beings condemn ourselves.  We leave God.  We are the faithless ones.  We are arrogant; we do not stand in awe of God.  We read what he have sown.

Yet grace remains.  As the great Southern Baptist theologian Will Campbell said:

We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

And our only hope is in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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

Judgment and Mercy, Part XXII   1 comment

Above:  The New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

Genesis 24:34-67 or Zechariah 9:9-12, 16-17

Psalm 145:10-21

Revelation 22:1-7, 12-17

John 16:16-33

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

This life is a mix of pleasure, joy, love, and hardship.  Nevertheless, we read, keep the faith; God will win in the end.  God will destroy the unrepentant wicked, wipe out the oppressive and corrupt world order, and inaugurate the fully realized Kingdom of God.  That is a fine note to go out on one week prior to Christ the King Sunday.

Stereotypes of God in the Old Testament and the New Testament exist.  The God of the Hebrew Bible is supposedly harsh, judgmental, and temperamental.  He is allegedly not gracious.  And the God of the New Testament is supposedly all love, sunshine, puppies, and kittens.  Anyone who has read the Old and New Testaments closely knows or should know that divine judgment and mercy exist in balance throughout the Bible.  The God of Revelation is not all love, sunshine, puppies, and kittens, for example.

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/02/02/devotion-for-proper-28-year-d-humes/

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

In the Beginning Was the Word….   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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

For the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year 2

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

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)

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

Stir up, O Lord, we beseech thee, thy power, and come,

with great might to succor us, that by the help of thy grace

whatsoever is hindered by our sins may be speedily accomplished,

through thy mercy and satisfaction;

who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

ever, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 111

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

Isaiah 2:2-5

Psalm 97

Revelation 22:1-21

John 1:1-18

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

The apocalyptic hope of the first three readings remains unfulfilled.  The darkness remains ignorant of the light.  The darkness cannot overcome the light, however.

This series of four Advent devotions has been consistent in repeating the themes of the kingship, reliability, and sovereignty of God, as well as the balance of divine judgment and mercy.  After having written thousands of devotional posts, including four in longhand in two days, I find myself at a loss for much else to contribute in this post.

I do challenge you, O reader, to complete one task, however.  I challenge you to read or to listen to someone read John 1:1-18 aloud.  Use a translation that renders that glorious prose poetry majestically.  (Some translations butcher the Prologue to the Gospel of John both stylistically and theologically.  I am pointing my finger at you, The Message!)  Really listen.  Then ponder those glorious verses.  May the Holy Spirit lead you to do what you should afterward.  I am not qualified to say what that may be.  I assure you, however, that healthy faith is active.  Deeds reveal creeds.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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

Tobias and the Angel, On the Road Together   Leave a comment

Above:  Tobias and the Angel, by Wenceslas Hollar

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING TOBIT

PART VI

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

Tobit  5:1-6:17/18 (depending on versification)

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

The Book of Tobit is a novella with faulty history and geography.  Regarding geography, making the journey from Nineveh to Ectabana (about 450 miles) in a mere two days thousands of years ago would have been miraculous.  I realize that Azariah/Azarias means “God has helped,” but the geography in the story remains erroneous.

The dog is an odd detail, starting in Tobit 6:2 and again in 11:4.

  1. Dogs were unclean animals and not pets.  Biblical texts mentioned them in negative terms.  (Exodus 11:7; Judith 11:9; Luke 16:21; Proverbs 26:17; 2 Peter 2:22; Exodus 22:31; I Kings 14:11; 1 Kings 16:4, 21; 1 Kings 19:23-24; 1 Kings 22:38; 2 Kings 9:10, 36; Psalm 68:23-24; Jeremiah 15:3).
  2. “Dog” was a term of contempt for a human being.  (1 Samuel 17:43; 2 Kings 8:13; Matthew 15:26; Mark 7:27)
  3. Sometimes “dog” referred to the wicked.  (Isaiah 56:10-11; Philippians 3:2; Revelation 22:15)
  4. Sometimes “dog” also referred to a male temple prostitute.  (Deuteronomy 23:18-19)
  5. Mentioning a dog in positive terms in Tobit 6:2 and 11:4 was, therefore, odd.  Perhaps it was a remnant of an older folk tale.  In the context of the Book of Tobit, the dog was a second angel in disguise.  

The reference to the fish (Tobit 6:3) that tried to swallow Tobias’s “foot” is one aspect of the story one can explain easily.  We are in the realm of euphemism.  As elsewhere “feet” are really genitals.  (Exodus 4:25; Ruth 3:7; Isaiah 6:2)

The fish-related cure for blindness and method of repelling demons are fascinating aspects of this folklore.  What a fish!

In these two chapters we read of God indirectly setting the healing of Tobit and Sarah into motion.  We also read of Raphael preparing Tobias to marry Sarah.  God has a hidden hand in the Book of Tobit.  God works subtly in this story.  Many of us can cite examples of God’s subtle, hidden hand in our lives and in the lives of others.

The Book of Tobit is partially about wellness.  In this reading, Tobit, Anna, and Sarah are not well.  Tobit is blind, Anna is overwhelmed, and Sarah is at the end of her rope.  By the end of the book, all of them are well.

But what is true wellness?  The best answer I can find comes from Irene Nowell, O.S.B., writing in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume III (1999):

True wellness is a consequence of humility, the recognition that life and health are gifts from God.

True wellness is heavily spiritual.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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

The Kingdom of God and the Law of Love   Leave a comment

Above:  The Last Judgment, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Image in the Public Domain

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

FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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

O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly:

Grant us, in all doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask for what you would have us to do,

that the spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices,

and that in your light we may see light and in your straight path may not stumble;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 153

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

1 Chronicles 29:10-18

Psalm 27

Revelation 19:1, 4, 6-8

Matthew 25:31-40

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

In Jewish and Christian theology, when they are what they ought to be, one of the great overreaching commandments of God is to love God fully.  A second is to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.  So said Rabbi Hillel.  The rest of the Torah is commentary, he continued; go and learn it.  Many people have repeated the first part of the quote (“the rest is commentary”) but not the second (“go and learn it”).  Jesus obviously knew teachings of Hillel, as Matthew 22:34-40 demonstrates.

The term “Kingdom of God” has more than one meaning in the canonical Gospels.  On occasion it refers to Heaven, as in afterlife with God.  Sometimes the translation more accurate than “kingdom” is “reign,” without a realm.  On other occasions, however, the reference is to a realm, so “kingdom” is a fine translation from the Greek.  This is the case of “Kingdom of Heaven,” which the Gospel of Matthew uses all but four times.  As Jonathan Pennington argues convincingly, “Kingdom of Heaven” is not a reverential circumlocution–a way of not saying God, out of reverence–but rather a reference to God’s rule on the Earth.  Thus the Kingdom of Heaven and the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21 and 22) have much in common.  Furthermore, frequently the language of the Kingdom of God in the canonical Gospels indicates that the kingdom belongs simultaneously in the present and future tenses; the kingdom is here, but not in its fullness.

The commandment to love is essential.  The historical record is replete with shameful examples of professing Christians defending chattel slavery while quoting the Bible and tying themselves into logical knots while giving lip service to the law of love.  There is never a bad time to live according to the law of love, as difficult as doing so might be sometimes.  The commandment is concrete, not abstract.  It is to meet the needs of others as one is able.  The list in Matthew 25:31-46 is partial yet sufficient to make the point plainly.  A modern-day expanded list might include such tasks as mowing an elderly person’s lawn and washing, drying, and putting away a disabled person’s dishes.  When we help each other, we do it for Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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