Archive for the ‘Tobit’ Category

False Significance and True Significance   Leave a comment

THE QUEST FOR FALSE SIGNIFICANCE IS A FORM OF IDOLATRY.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, “Master, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and take you in; or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison, and come to see you?”  “In solemn truth I tell you,” the King will answer them, “that inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you had done it unto me.”

–Matthew 25:37-40, Helen Barrett Montgomery, the Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

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And lo, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

–Luke 13:30, Helen Barrett Montgomery, the Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

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The ethics and morals of Jesus of Nazareth shape my ethics and morals.  I am a professing Christian, after all.  

The increase in political extremism defined by hatred, xenophobia, nativism, and conspiracy theories concerns me deeply.  This is a global problem.  As one hears in this video clip, the “quest for significance” is one of the “pillars of radicalization.”  

We are dealing with idolatry.  Sin, in Augustinian terms, is disordered love.  God deserves the most love.  Many people, activities, ideas, et cetera, deserve lesser amounts of love.  Others deserve no love.  To love that which one should not love or to love someone or something more than one ought to do is to deny some love to God.  One bears the image of God.  One is, therefore, worthy of much love.  In fact, Judaism and Christianity teach that one has a moral obligation to love others as one loves oneself, assuming that one loves oneself as one should (Leviticus 19:18; Tobit 4:15; Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 31:15; Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31).  After all, the other human beings also bear the image of God.  Judaism and Christianity also teach people to love God fully, and link love of God and love of other people (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Matthew 22:36-40).  Therefore, true significance comes from loving God fully and loving God, as God is present in human beings, especially the “least of these.”

Two stories from 1 Maccabees pertain to my theme.  

In 1 Maccabees 5:55-64, two Hasmonean military commanders named Zechariah and Azariah sought to make a name for themselves.  They succeeded; they caused military defeat and won ignominy to define their names.  However, in 1 Maccabees 6:42-47, Eleazar Avaran acted selflessly, in defense of his oppressed people and the Law of Moses.  He died and won an honored name from his people.  Those who sought honor earned disgrace.  He who sacrificed himself gained honor.

I could quote or mention a plethora of Biblical verses and passages about the folly of seeking false significance.  The Bible has so many of them because of the constancy of human nature.  I could quote or mention more verses and passages, but to do so would be triply redundant.

Simply, true human significance comes from God, compared to whom we are all insignificant.  That significance comes from bearing the image of God.  The sooner more of us accept that truth, the better off the rest of us will be.  The social, societal, economic, and political costs of the quest for false significance to extremely high.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Possession, Physical Illness, Mental Illness, and Exorcism   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ Exorcising Demons

Image in the Public Domain

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The Roman Catholic Church has the proper attitude toward demonic possession.  That attitude is that demonic possession is real, but that not everything that looks like demonic possession is that.  This is why mental and psychological examinations precede exorcisms, and not every request for an exorcism results in one.  Sometimes, the problem is a matter for doctors and/or therapists, not exorcists and their assistants.  Someone may actually have a mental illness, for example.  

I have heard hints and stories of possessions.  I have heard them from people I know to be credible, lucid, grounded in reality, and not given to flights of fantastical thinking.  I am content to take their word for it when they have described what they witnessed.

I used to be in a relationship with a woman who suffered from mental illness.  I knew from my culture and education that her problems were treatable via medications.  Unfortunately, she did not always take her pills.  At the end, her figurative demons overpowered her, and she died violently.  Having been so close for a about decade to one afflicted with mental illness, I understand how someone whose education and culture do not contain the category of mental illness may misidentify it as demonic possession.

Other conditions, such as epilepsy, have allegedly been symptoms of demonic possession, in the Bible, folk belief, and historical documents.

A partial list of Biblical citations that include references to exorcism or possession follows:

  1. 1 Samuel 16:14-16; 18:10; 19:9;
  2. Tobit 6:7, 16-17; 8:3;
  3. Matthew 8:16; 10:1; 12:28
  4. Mark 1:25; 5:8; 6:7; 9:25, 38; 16:17;
  5. Acts 16:18; 19:13-14.

Sometimes I read one of these passages or another one that belongs on this list and quickly arrive at a non-demonic or non-ghostly explanation for the problem.  Someone may have been under too much stress, for example.  (In some cultures, ghostly possession is the understanding of what my culture calls too much stress.)   Or perhaps I just read a description of an epileptic seizure.  Maybe I read a description of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or multiple personalities disorder.  In Biblical times, of course, people ascribed these afflictions to possession, so the texts they wrote did, too.  

When I read such a text, I seek to understand what was really going on in that text.  I apply the cultural, medical, and psychiatric categories I have learned.  Doing so does not always yield a clear answer to my question, though.  I affirm that that the demonic exists.  I reject the label “supernatural” for it, for I reject that label, period.  That which we humans usually call “supernatural” is merely natural, but not in the same way as ponds, rocks, and kittens.  That which we mere mortals often label supernatural is part of God’s created order.  It is, therefore, natural.  That which is angelic or demonic is natural.  And I do not always know, when reading certain Biblical texts, what kind of natural phenomenon of which I read.  My categories are not those of the ancient authors of canonical books.  

However, sorting out what caused the predicament in a given Biblical story may not necessarily be the main point anyway.  If I read a story of Jesus exorcising/healing (whatever) someone, the main point may be that Christ restored him or her to health, wholeness, and his or her family and community.  Or the main point may be that the Kingdom of God was present in the activities of Jesus.  

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 31, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREDERICK MACKENZIE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF NYASALAND, AND MARTYR, 1862

THE FEAST OF ANTHONY BÉNÉZET, FRENCH-AMERICAN QUAKER ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF LANZA DEL VASTO, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE ARK

THE FEAST OF MENNO SIMONS, MENNONITE LEADER

THE FEAST OF MARY EVELYN “MEV” PULEO, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHOTOJOURNALIST AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

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Divine and Human Authority   Leave a comment

Above:  Conscientious Objectors at Camp Lewis, Washington, United States of America, November 18, 1918

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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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)

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Absolve, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy people from their offenses;

that from the bonds of our sins which, by reason of our frailty,

we have brought upon us, we may be delivered by thy bountiful goodness;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 228

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Isaiah 32:1-8

Psalm 146

Romans 13:1-7

Luke 13:23-30

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Don’t get me started about submission to government authority (Romans 13:1-7).  Okay, now that I have started, I am off to the proverbial races.

The Bible is inconsistent regarding submission to and resistance to civil authority.  Romans 13:1-7 represents one strain.  One may think of Shiphrah and Puah (Exodus 1:15-22), who let newborn Hebrew boys live, in violation of a royal order.  One may also recall the Book of Daniel, with more than one instance of remaining faithful to God by violating a royal decree.  Perhaps one recalls 1, 2, and 4 Maccabees, in which fidelity to the Law of Moses required disobedience to Seleucid kings, such as Antiochus IV Epiphanes and other  (1 Maccabees 1:15-9:73; 2 Maccabees 6:1-15:37; 4 Maccabees 4:15-18:24) .  I would be remiss to forget about Tobit, who violated a royal order yet obeyed the Law of Moses by burying corpses (Tobit 1:16-20).  Finally, the Revelation of John portrays the government of the Roman Empire as being in service to Satan.  In this strain, Christians should resist agents of Satan.

When one turns to Christian history, one finds a long tradition of civil disobedience within Christianity.  Accounts of Quakers, Anabaptists, and other pacifists suffering at the hands of governments for refusing to fight in wars properly arouse moral outrage against those governments.  The Third Reich presents a stark example that evokes apocalyptic depictions of Satanic government.  Anti-Nazi heroes included Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and a plethora of Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant martyrs, among others.

Furthermore, the Third Reich has continued to inform a strain of German Christian theology since the 1930s.  When to obey and when to resist authority has remained especially prominent in German circles, for obvious reasons.

Governments come and go.  God remains forever.  Wrong is wrong, regardless of whether one commits it independently or as part of one’s official duties.

Isaiah 32:1-8 depicts an ideal government at the end of days.  In Christian terms, this text describes the fully realized Kingdom of God.  That is not our reality.

Psalm 146 reminds us:

Put no trust in princes

or in any mortal, for they have no power to save.

When they breathe their last breath,

they return to the dust;

and on that day their plans come to nothing.

–Verses 3-4, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The bottom line, O reader, is this:  Love God fully.  Keep divine commandments.  Live according to the Golden Rule.  If doing so is legal, you are fortunate.  If doing so is illegal, love God fully, keep divine commandments, and live according to the Golden Rule anyway.  God remains forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LYDIA, DORCAS, AND PHOEBE, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Tobit’s Final Counsel, with the Deaths of Tobit and Anna   Leave a comment

Above:  How Ahikar Outwitted the King of Egypt, by Henry Justice Ford

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART XI

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Tobit 14:1b-15

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The novella of Tobit ends as it beings–with historically inaccurate details.  Nevertheless, the theology of the book is what really matters.

Superficially, the end of the Book of Tobit resembles the conclusion of the Book of Job. Within that structure, we read “prophecies” projected backward into an anachronistic time.  We also read reiteration of major themes of the Book of Tobit.  Just in case one forgets about almsgiving, Tobit 14:9 tells one again.  And we, in that context, read an allusion to The Story of Ahikar in 14:10-11a.

I have refrained from summarizing The Story of Ahikar so far.  This is an appropriate post in which to provide that summary.

Ahikar/Ahiqar was a childless royal official in the court of Kings Sennacherib and Esarhaddon.  Ahikar adopted his nephew, Nadin/Nadab, whom he groomed to succeed him in royal service.  The ungrateful Nadin/Nadab falsely accused his uncle of treason.  Ahikar, condemned to die, survived when the executioner, whom he had saved earlier, rescued him.  Ahikar lived in a cave under his (Ahikar’s) house until he accepted a challenge to compete in a contest of wisdom in Egypt.  Ahikar received his honor back.  Nadir/Nadab died in prison.

The Story of Ahikar also contained proverbs, such as

For he who digs a pit for his brother shall fall into it;

and he who sets up traps shall be caught in them.

–7:58b

Tobit and Anna died.  Then Tobias, Sarah, and their children moved in with Raguel and Edna, paying off the Chekovian gun in 10:12.

The Book of Tobit concludes with the wicked perishing and the righteous flourishing.  Given that I have already covered the Book of Retribution in this series, I will not repeat myself much in this post.  I do wish that more of the wicked would repent, that the unrepentant wicked would fall on their faces and meet with unending frustration, and that more of the righteous would flourish.  Alas, that is not the world in which I live.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 5, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, FATHER OF CHRISTIAN SCHOLARSHIP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF NELSON MANDELA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF PETER MORTIMER, ANGLO-GERMAN MORAVIAN EDUCATOR, MUSICIAN, AND SCHOLAR; AND GOTTFRIED THEODOR ERXLEBEN, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICOLOGIST

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Tobit’s Thanksgiving to God   Leave a comment

Above:  Judas Maccabeus

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART X

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Tobit 13:1-14a

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There is much going on in this reading.  Quickly, the Theory of Retribution, prominent in the Book of Tobit, recurs.  So does the Biblical theme of divine judgment and mercy being in balance.  Also, Tobit has two final testaments (Tobit 4:3-21 and 14:3-11), reminiscent of Moses in Deuteronomy 31-32 and 33.  Community and repentance are other evergreen themes.

I am most interested, however, in another aspect of this reading.  Jerusalem (Tobit 1:3-9) returns to the story.  I read the verses about Jerusalem in the Book of Tobit in the context of the Hasmonean rebellion (contemporary or nearly so to the composition of the Book of Tobit), not in the context of the Babylonian Exile.  I detect echoes of Hebrew prophecy and ponder how pious Jews living in the Hellenistic world related prophecy from prior centuries to their present day.  I also wonder if the anonymous author of the Book of Tobit expected the restoration of Jerusalem or wrote after the rededication of the Temple.

The Book of Tobit teaches the importance of faithful community.  Christian fundamentalism tends to be hyper-individualistic.  It teaches Jesus-and-Meism.  The Bible is not hyper-individualistic, though.  No, it teaches mutuality.  I cannot become my best self unless you, O reader, can become your best self, and vise versa.

The purpose of the book[of Tobit] is to move its readers from despair to prayer.

The Catholic Study Bible (1990), RG210

Sinking into despair is easy.  Hoping for better times can seem like setting oneself up for disappointment.  Trusting God can seem like a fool’s errand.  In other words,

Blessed are those who expect nothing;

they will not be disappointed.

Yet the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12; Luke 6:20-26), on which that quote riffs, teach lived prayer, not despair.  They teach hope.  They teach trust in God.

So does the Book of Tobit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF DAMASCUS AND COSMAS OF MAIUMA, THEOLOGIANS AND HYMNODISTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER HOTOVITZKY, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1937

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF PARMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR; AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST; AND FRANZ GRUBER, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC TEACHER, MUSICIAN, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Restoration and Revelation   Leave a comment

Above:  The Healing of Tobit, by Bernardo Strozzi

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART IX

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Tobit 11:7-12:22

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Tobit had the money he needed.  He also had a new daughter-in-law (Sarah) and the restoration of his eyesight.  He did not expect these blessings.  Tobit, being pious, praised God at the top of his voice.  He, prepared to die, had new, better life.  Even Ahikar (1:21-22; 2:10) joined the celebration (11:18).

Tobias, assuming that his guide was a mere mortal, paid “Azarias” handsomely and attributed the success of the journey to him.  “Azarias,” really the archangel Raphael, gave all the credit to God then revealed his identity and departed.  I guess the dog did, too.  If the canine was also an angel in disguise, why not?

Anyway, the last mention of the dog occurs in 11:4.  The dog may indeed be a remnant from folklore.  The author of the Book of Tobit seems to have had little interest in the canine.

According to Judeo-Christian angelology, there are seven archangels (Tobit 12:15; 1 Enoch 20:1-8).  We have the names of all of them:

  1. Raphael (Tobit 3:16-17/18, depending on versification; Tobit 5-4-8:3); Tobit 9:1-6; Tobit 11:1-12:22; 1 Enoch 20:3);
  2. Gabriel (Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:21; 1 Enoch 20:7; Luke 1:19, 26);
  3. Michael (Daniel 10:13, 21; Daniel 12:1; 1 Enoch 20:5; Jude 9; Revelation 12:7);
  4. Uriel (2 Esdras 4:1; 2 Esdras 5:20; 2 Esdras 10:28);
  5. Raguel (1 Enoch 20:4);
  6. Saraqael (1 Enoch 20:6); and
  7. Suruel (1 Enoch 20:2).

A Greek fragment of 1 Enoch adds another name:  Remiel, perhaps an alternative name for Uriel, and definitely not an alternative name for any of the other six archangels.

In the story, Raphael insisted that he was merely performing God’s bidding, so God deserved all the praise and glory.  The angel, who could not exist apart from God, was an agent of God.

May we also be agents of God, by grace.  And may we glorify God, not ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF AMILIE JULIANE, COUNTESS OF SCHWARZBURG-RUDOLSTADT, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL TAIT, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY TO THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF SOPHIE KOULOMZIN, RUSSIAN-AMERICAN CHRISTIAN EDUCATOR

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This is post #2400 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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The Journey Home   Leave a comment

Above:  Raguel’s Blessing of His Daughter Sarah Before Leaving Ecbatana with Tobias, by Andrea Vaccaro

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART VIII

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Tobit 10:1-11:6

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Raguel and Edna (8:8-11) were not the only anxious parents in the story.  Let us not forget Anna (5:18-22; 6:1).  Tobit 10:1-7 tells us of the anxieties of Tobit and Anna.  One may recall that Tobit was comforting Anna in Chapter 5.  We read of him trying to console her and himself in Chapter 10.

We in the reading audience know what Tobit and Anna did not.  We know that an elaborate two-week-long wedding celebration delayed the return of Tobias.  Furthermore, we read of Tobias and Sarah, with Raphael/Azariah/Azarias and the dog (a second angel in disguise) arriving in Nineveh.

Sometimes events do not play out as we expect.  Sometimes they play out better than we expect.  God’s blessings frequently exceed our expectations.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MAURA CLARKE AND HER COMPANIONS, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN EL SALVADOR, DECEMBER 2, 1980

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF GERALD THOMAS NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER; HIS BROTHER, BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ENGLISH BAPTIST EVANGELIST, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS NIECE, CAROLINE MARIA NOEL, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HORMISDAS, BISHOP OF ROME; AND HIS SON, SAINT SILVERIUS, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 537

THE FEAST OF SAINT RAFAL CHYLINSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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The Marriage of Tobias and Sarah, with the Routing of Asmodeus and the Recovery of the Money   Leave a comment

Above:  The Marriage of Tobias, by Giovanni Antonio Guardi

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART VII

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Tobit 7:1-9:6

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The betrothal of Tobias and Sarah (Tobit 7:3-5) follows models from Genesis.  The models are the betrothals of Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 24) and of Jacob to Rachel (he thought) in Genesis 29:4-6.   Other examples of links to Genesis exist in Tobit.  Cataloging them, however, does not interest me.  Besides, I can read that catalog in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume III (1999).

Raguel hoping for the best yet having an eighth grave dug overnight was an ironic scene.  Given the fates of the first seven husbands, this precaution was necessary.

Upper Egypt, according to folk belief, was the home of demons, therefore the proper place for Asmodeus to go.

Tobit 7-9 tells us a story of two families uniting and of the vanquishing of an evil entity.  There is more good news to come.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ALBERT BARNES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, ABOLITIONIONST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF DOUGLASS LETELL RIGHTS, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD TIMOTHY MICKEY, JR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP AND LITURGIST

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Posted December 1, 2020 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 24, Genesis 29, Tobit

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

Above:  Tobias and the Angel, by Wenceslas Hollar

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART VI

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

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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

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Tobit’s Instructions to Tobias   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Neo-Assyrian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART V

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Tobit 4:1-20

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Samuel L. Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, explained that the difference between reality and fiction is that people expect fiction to make sense.  Often, as cliché tells us, reality is stranger than fiction.  After all, solar-powered submarines exist.

The Book of Tobit is a work of fiction, of course.  Yet its main human characters are realistic.  I can believe that, in real life, one may suddenly remember, after years of dependency, that a vast sum of money far away exists.  Human memory works in odd ways much of the time.

Tobit’s instructions to his son, Tobias, reflect piety.  We read again of the importance of proper burial and of giving alms to the poor.  Other morals pertain to honoring parents, keeping divine commandments, avoiding fornication, choosing a Jewish wife, paying workers promptly, keeping the Golden Rule, not getting drunk, and praising and trusting God.

The importance of alms in the Book of Tobit is about more than helping the poor.  Jews living in exile and the diaspora lacked the option of offering sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem.  Almsgiving substituted for offering sacrifices.

A brief survey of almsgiving in the Bible follows:

  1. One should give alms willingly.  (Deuteronomy 16:17; Tobit 4:8, 16; Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 18:15-18)
  2. One should give alms in proportion to one’s income.  (Deuteronomy 15:14; Deuteronomy 16:17; Tobit 4:8, 16; Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 35:9-10)
  3. One should restrict alms to within one’s community.  (Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 16:14; Tobit 4:17; Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 12:1-7)
  4. Almsgiving saves the giver from sins.  (Tobit 12:9-10; Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 3:30-31)
  5. Almsgiving is a worthy offering before God.  (Tobit 4:11; Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 34:18-35:4)
  6. Almsgiving saves the giver from premature death and destruction.  (Tobit 4:10; Tobit 12:9; Tobit 14:10; Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 29:10-13; Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 40:17, 24)

The Bible places a priority on works as an expression of faith.  May we leave Reformation theology of faith and works out of this, for the time being, at least.  May we admit that Second Temple-era Jews were not Lutherans.  And may we remember Matthew 25:40:

And the king will say to them in reply, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

In other words, such works matter to God.  We cannot love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love people, whom we can see.

The principle is clear.  The execution is not always obvious, however.  It depends on circumstances, such as who one is, where one is, and when one is.  For example, should one give money to a panhandler standing on a street corner?  Or should one instead give those funds to organizations that help the poor and homeless?  I favor a local charity that helps battered women.  In my community, churches pool their funds to help the poor into a central distribution point.  Wisdom in almsgiving is essential.  May we–collectively and individually–be wise in this way more often than we are foolish.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST DAY OF ADVENT:  THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK COOK ATKINSON, ANGLICAN CHURCH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JENNETTE THRELFALL, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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