Archive for the ‘Wisdom of Solomon Other’ Category

The Death of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes   Leave a comment

Above:  The Punishment of Antiochus, by Gustave Doré

Image in the Public Domain





1 Maccabees 6:1-17

2 Maccabees 9:1-29


Retribution is a theme in 2 Maccabees.  Enemies of pious Jews died ignominiously in that book.  Consider:

  1. Andronicus, who had killed High Priest Onias III (4:34), died via execution (4:38).  “The Lord thus repaid him with the punishment he deserved.”–4:39, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)
  2. High Priest Jason “met a miserable end” (5:8, RSV II).  He, shunned, died in exile in Egypt.  Nobody mourned him after he died.  Jason had no funeral (5:9-10).
  3. High Priest Menelaus died via execution.  He, pushed off a tower about 73 feet high, died in a pit full of ashes.  Nobody held a funeral for Menelaus (13:3-8).
  4. Nicanor, who had commanded the siege of Jerusalem, died in combat.  This his severed head hung from the citadel of Jerusalem.  Furthermore, birds ate his severed tongue (15:28-36).

Is this not wonderful mealtime reading?

Then we come to King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, an infamous blasphemer, “a sinful root” (1 Maccabees 1:10), and “a little horn” (Daniel 7:8) who made “war with the saints” (Daniel 7:21).

When we left off in the narrative, King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, short on funds, was traveling in the eastern part of the Seleucid Empire and raising money to finance the struggle against Judas Maccabeus and his forces (1 Maccabees 3:27-37).  At the beginning of 1 Maccabees 6 and 2 Maccabees 9, the blasphemous monarch was in the area of Susa, in the region of Elam.  King Antiochus IV Epiphanes was engaging in one of his favorite fund-raising tactics–trying to plunder a temple full of valuable treasures.  (Read 1 Maccabees 1:54f and 2 Maccabees 5:15f, O reader.)  He failed this time.  News of the developments in Judea reached the king, whose world was collapsing around him.  He died, allegedly penitent, in the year 164/163 B.C.E. (149 on the Seleucid/Hellenistic calendar).

2 Maccabees elaborates on the account in 1 Maccabees.  2 Maccabees describes vividly the pain in the monarch’s bowels (9:5f), the infestation of worms (9:9), his rotting flesh (9:9), and his body’s stench (9:9).

So the murderer and blasphemer, having endured the most intense suffering, such as he had inflicted on others, came to the end of his life by a most pitiable fate, among the mountains of a strange land.

–2 Maccabees 9:28, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had appointed Philip the regent and the guardian of the new king, Antiochus V Eupator (reigned 164/163 B.C.E.).  There were two major problems, however:

  1. King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had previously appointed Lysias to both positions (1 Maccabees 3:32-33), and
  2. Lysias had custody of the young (minor) heir to the throne.

Philip attempted a coup d’état and failed (1 Maccabees 6:55-56).  Meanwhile, Lysias had installed the seven-year-old King Antiochus V Eupator on the Seleucid throne.  Philip, in mortal danger from Regent Lysias, fled to the protection of King Ptolemy VI Philometor (reigned 180-145 B.C.E.) in Egypt.  

1 and 2 Maccabees differ on the timing of the death of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes relative to the Temple in Jerusalem–the first Hanukkah.  1 Maccabees places the king’s death after the purification of the Temple.  2 Maccabees, however, places the death of the blasphemous monarch prior to the first Hanukkah.  Father Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., writing in The New Collegeville Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), 832, favors the relative dating in 2 Maccabees.  Harrington also proposes that news of the death of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes may have reached Jerusalem after the first Hanukkah.  That analysis is feasible and perhaps probable.

I agree with the evaluation of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 2 Maccabees.  I agree that his repentance was insincere and self-serving.  The monarch was like a criminal who regretted getting arrested and sentenced, not having committed a crime.

An interesting connection to the New Testament deserves comments here.  I start with the Wisdom of Solomon 4:17-20:

These [wicked] people [who look on, uncomprehending] see the wise man’s ending

without understanding what the Lord has in store for him

or why he has taken him to safety;

they look on and sneer,

but the Lord will laugh at them.

Soon they will be corpses without honour,

objects of scorn among the dead for ever.

The Lord will dash them down headlong, dumb.

He will tear them from their foundations,

they will be utterly laid waste,

anguish will be theirs,

and their memory shall perish.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This is the reference in the Lukan account of the death of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-20).  That account differs from the version in Matthew 27:3-10 (suicide by hanging, without his entrails bursting out), like that of Ahitophel (2 Samuel 17:23), during Absalom’s rebellion against King David.  (Ahitophel had betrayed King David.)  Both Acts 1:15-20 and 2 Maccabees 9:5-29 echo aspects of the Wisdom of Solomon 4:17-20.  The Lukan account of the death of Judas Iscariot purposefully evokes the memory of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

Obviously, one part of the Wisdom of Solomon 4:17-20 does not apply to King Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Judas Iscariot.  We know their names.

The evil that men do lives after them;

the good is oft interred with their bones.

–William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar

(I memorized that in high school, which was more years ago then I like to admit some days.)

In reality, we may know the names of evildoers in greater quantity than those of the righteous.  Think about it, O reader.  How many gangsters, serial killers, Nazis, Nazi collaborators, terrorists, dictators, would-be dictators, and genocidal dictators can you name?  And how many saints, humanitarians, and other kind-hearted people can you name?  Which category–evildoers or good people–has more names in it?

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had started down his destructive path by seeking to impose cultural uniformity–Hellenism–on his culturally diverse empire.  He was neither the first nor the last ruler to commit some variation of the error of enforced cultural homogenization.  He learned that defining unity as enforced cultural homogeneity increased disunity by inspiring rebellion.

Cultural diversity adds spice to communal life.  The world would be boring if we were all homogenous.  Mutual respect, toleration, acceptance, and tolerance maintains unity in the midst of cultural diversity.  When acceptance is a bridge too far, tolerance may suffice.  However, there are limits, even to cultural diversity.  Tolerance is a generally good idea.  A good idea, carried too far, becomes a bad idea.  Correctly placing the boundaries of tolerance amid cultural diversity is both necessary and wise.  On the left (where I dwell), the temptation is to draw the circle too wide.  On the right, the temptation is to draw the circle too small.

I am a student of history.  My reading tells me that many rulers of culturally-diverse realms have succeed in maintaining unity.  They have done so by practicing respect for diversity in matters of culture and religion, although not absolutely.  But these rulers have not insisted that everyone fellow a monoculture.  Therefore, very different people have peaceably found their places in those societies.









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





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.









Religious Persecution I: Causes and Consequences of Persecution   1 comment


Above:  The Stoning of Saint Stephen, by Paolo Uccello


The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave your only Son to take on our human nature

and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20


The Assigned Readings:

Wisdom of Solomon 4:7-15

Psalm 148

Acts 7:59-8:8


Some Related Posts:

Acts 7-8:


Kings of the earth and all peoples,

princes and all rulers of the world;

Young men and women, old and young together;

let them praise the name of the Lord.

–Psalm 148:11-12, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


Why do the righteous experience persecution?  That question gets to the point of human priorities of the negative sort.  Sometimes we humans know that doing x is wrong and do it anyway, so those who point this fact out to us prove terribly inconvenient and annoying.  And, on other occasions, we mistake evil for good, so we think that we are working righteousness when the opposite is true.  Self-delusions and corrupt cultural influences can explain much of that.  And there is the deeper question of violence, especially that committed for allegedly righteous purposes.  The stoning of St. Stephen, whose feast this is, was consistent with the penalty for leading people astray, according to the Law of Moses.  But he was not leading people astray.

The Wisdom of Solomon lection wrestles with the reality of righteous people dying prematurely.  God delivered them from wickedness, the text says.  The fact of such persecution does not mean that God does not watch over the holy ones, it tells us.  In other words, God is still all-powerful and will win in the end.  And, in Acts 7:59-8:8, God worked mightily through the church despite human attempts to disrupt the nascent movement.  God won.

It is difficult to hear that what one has assumed to be true, good, and righteous–from the Temple System to slavery to racial segregation to a host of other offenses–is actually neither.  Such an epiphany, should it dawn upon one, would disorientate one spiritually.  Courageous people correct their courses.  Merely tolerant ones reject the message yet refrain from committing or supporting reprisals against critics.  And small-minded, frightened people resort to violence to confirm their delusional notions of righteousness or approve of such violence on the part of others.

But God will win.  Thanks be to God!







Longing for the End of Days is Counterproductive   1 comment

Above:  Judgment Day May 21 Vehicle

Image Source = Bart Everson



Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Wisdom of Solomon 13:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

What born fools were all who lived in ignorance of God!  From the good things before their eyes they could not learn to know him who is , and failed to recognize the artificer though they observed his handiwork!  Fire, wind, swift air, the circle of the starry signs, rushing water, or the great lights in heaven that rule the world–these they accounted gods.  It was through delight in the beauty of these things that people supposed them gods, they ought to have understood how much better is the Lord and Master of them all; for it was by the prime author of all beauty they were created.  It was through astonishment at their power and influence, people should have learnt from these how much more powerful is he who made them.  For the greatness and beauty of created things give us a corresponding idea of their Creator.  Yet these people are not greatly to be blamed, for when they go astray they may be seeking God and really wishing to find him.  Passing their lives among his works and making a close study of them, they are persuaded by appearances because of the beauty of what they see.  Yet even so they do not deserve to be excused, for with enough understanding to speculate about the universe, why did they not sooner discover its Lord and Master?

Psalm 19:1-4 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

Luke 17:26-37 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said to his disciples,]

As it was in the days of Noah, will it be in the days of the Son of Man.  They ate and drank and married, until the day that Noah went into the ark and the flood came and made an end of them all.  So too in the days of Lot, they ate and drank, they bought and sold, they planted and built; but on the day that Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained from the sky and made an end of them all.  it will be like that on  the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

On that day if anyone is on the roof while his belongings are in the house, he must not go down to fetch them; and if anyone is in the field, he must not turn back.  Remember Lot’s wife.  Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life will gain it.

I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed:  one will be taken, the other left.  There will be two women grinding corn:  one will be taken, the other left.

When they heard this they asked,

Where, Lord?

He said,

Where the carcass is, there will the vultures gather.


The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


A Related Post:

Matthew 24 (Similar to Luke 17):


Consider this:

Ah, you who wish

For the day of the LORD!

Why should you want

The day of the LORD?

It shall be darkness, not light!–

As if a man should run from a lion

And be attacked by a bear;

Or if he got indoors,

Should lean his hand on the wall

And be bitten by a snake!

Surely the day of the LORD shall be

Not light, but darkness,

Blackest night without a glimmer.

–Amos 5:18-20, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Here I am, following a lectionary and writing nearly six months ahead of schedule.  And, on May 20, 2011, one day before the alleged Judgment Day Harold Camping has announced, news of which I cannot evade, I get this reading from Luke 17.  The dark and apocalytic reading is appropriate for late Ordinary Time, near the First Sunday in Advent, during which many Lutherans, depending on their denominational affiliation, identify as either a sub-season (Propers 26-29, the four Sundays before Advent), as the Missouri Synod does, or the End Time Season (Reformation Sunday-Last Judgment-Saints Triumphant-Christ the King), as the Wisconsin Synod does.  Indeed, this Canadian Anglican lectionary in Year 1 will end with the apocalyptic Luke 21 and readings from Daniel.

The reading from the Wisdom of Solomon speaks of idolatry.  I am convinced that longing for the apocalyptic end constitutes a form of idolatry, for an idol is anything that distracts us from God.  An icon, on the other hand, is something through which we see God.  We are here on planet Earth to be good stewards of it, to love God fully, and love ourselves and each other as we love God–in other words, to live the Golden Rule, and to glorify and enjoy God.  We ought not give up on the world.  Yet those who have given up on the world, who have abandoned hope, are often likely to long for the dreaded day of judgment.

God is in charge of such matters, and I have neighbors to love.  That will occupy my time quite sufficiently, with no space left over for longing for the apocalypse.  No, I need to look around more often and see Christ in those around me and feel God in the breeze.  Count me among the optimists.  God is in charge; I need not concern myself with many details.






Adapted from this post:


“Wisdom Is More Beautiful Than the Sun, And Surpasses Every Constellation.”–Wisdom of Solomon 7:29   1 comment

Above:  Mystic Mountain, Carina Nebula

Image Source = NASA


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Wisdom of Solomon 7:21-8:1 (Revised English Bible):

I learnt it all, hidden or manifest, for I was taught by wisdom, by her whose skill made all things.

In wisdom here is a spirit intelligent and holy, unique in its kind yet made up many parts, subtle, free-moving, lucid, spotless, clear, neither harmed nor harming, loving what is good, eager, unhampered, beneficent, kindly towards mortals, steadfast, unerring, untouched by care, all-powerful, all-surveying, and permeating every intelligent, pure, and most subtle spirit.  For wisdom moves more easily than motion itself; she is so pure she pervades all things.  Like a fine mist she rises from the glory of the Almighty; so nothing defiled can enter into her by stealth.  She is the radiance that streams from everlasting light, the flawless mirror of the active power of God, and the image of his goodness.  She is but one, yet can do all things; herself unchanging, she makes all things new; age after age she enters into holy souls, and makes them friends of God and prophets, for nothing is acceptable to God but the person who makes his home with wisdom.  She is more beautiful than the sun, and surpasses every constellation.  Compared with the light of day, she is found to excel, for day gives place to night, but against wisdom no evil can prevail.  She spans the world in power from end to end, and gently orders all things.

Psalm 119:89-96 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

89  O LORD, your word is everlasting;

it stands firm in the heavens.

90  Your faithfulness remains from one generation to another;

you established the earth, and it abides.

91  By your decree these continue to this day;

for all things are your servants.

92  If my delight had not been in your law,

I should have perished in my affliction.

93  I will never forget your commandments,

because by them you give me life.

94  I am yours; oh, that you would save me!

for I study your commandments.

95  Though the wicked lie in wait for me to destroy me,

I will apply my mind to your decrees.

96  I see that all things come to an end,

but your commandment has no bounds.

Luke 17:20-25 (Revised English Bible):

The Pharisees asked Jesus,

When will the kingdom of God come?

He answered,

You cannot tell by observation when the kingdom of God comes.  You cannot say, “Look, here it is,” or “There it is!”  For the kingdom of God is among you!

He said to the disciples,

The time will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man and will not see it.  They will say to you, “Look! There!” and “Look! Here!”  Do not go running off in pursuit.  For like a lightning-flash, that lights up the earth from end to end, will the Son of Man be in his day.  But first he must endure suffering and be rejected by this generation.


The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The personification of divine wisdom as feminine was one of the features of post-Exilic Judaism.  One can find prime examples of this in Proverbs, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus, and the Wisdom of Solomon.  My studies in the history of theology reveal a link between Sophia, or wisdom personified, and the Logos, as in John 1:1-5, which, in the Revised Standard Version, reads:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There is a point at which one needs approach the mysteries of the divine with more poetry than prose, more wonder than understanding.  This is the realm of metaphors.  I will be concise in this post:  embrace the metaphors.  Learn from them.  And, finally, look through them to the divine reality behind them.  God is there.






Adapted from this post:


Leaving Judgment to God, Part II   2 comments

Above:  Tares



Genesis 28:10-19a (New Revised Standard Version):

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the LORD stood beside him and said,

I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said,

Surely the LORD is in this place– and I did not know it!

And he was afraid, and said,

How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel.

Psalm 139:1-11, 22, 23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

6 Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me

and your right hand hold me fast.

10 If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,

and the light around me turn to night,”

11 Darkness is not dark to you;

the night is as bright as the day;

darkness and light to you are both alike.

22 Search me out, O God, and know my heart;

try me and know my restless thoughts.

23 Look well whether there be any wickedness in me

and lead me in the way that is everlasting.


Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

For neither is there any god besides you,

whose care is for all people,

to whom you should prove that you have judged unjustly….

For your strength is the source of righteousness,

and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all.

For you show your strength when people doubt the completeness of your power,

and you rebuke any insolence among those who know it.

Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness,

and with great forbearance you govern us;

for you have power to act whenever you choose.

Through such works you have taught your people

that the righteous must be kind,

and you have filled your children with good hope,

because they give repentance for sins.

Or This First Reading:

Isaiah 44:6-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the LORD, the king of Israel,

and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts;

I am the first and I am the last,

besides me there is no god.

Who is like me?  Let them proclaim it,

let them declare and and set if forth before me.

Who has announced from of old the things to come?

Let them tell us what is yet to be?

Do not fear, or be afraid;

have I not told you from of old and declared it?

You are my witnesses!

Is there any god besides me?

There is no other rock; I know not one.

Then This:

Psalm 86:11-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 Teach me your way, O LORD,

and I will walk in your truth;

knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.

12 I will thank you, O LORD my God, with all my heart,

and glorify your Name for evermore.

13 For great is your love toward me;

you have delivered me from the nethermost Pit.

14 The arrogant rise up against me, O God,

and a band of violent men seeks my life;

they have not set you before their eyes.

15 But you, O LORD, are gracious, and full of compassion,

slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth.

16 Turn to me and have mercy upon me;

give your strength to your servant;

and save the child of your handmaid.

17 Show me a sign of your favor,

so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed;

because you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.


Romans 8:12-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

Brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh– for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry,

Abba! Father!

it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ– if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.


Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus put before the crowd another parable:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying,

Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.

He answered,

The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The reading from Genesis occurs also here:  I refer you, O reader, to that post for a different emphasis.


The tares were probably darnel, a species of plant parasitic to wheat.  Darnel looks very much like wheat, with the distinction becoming clear beyond a shadow of a doubt when the ear develops.  So premature weeding of a wheat field containing darnel will lead to the destruction of wheat.

During the First Crusade (1096-1099) against the Muslims, many Crusaders killed Jews in Europe and Christians in Asia, as well as Muslims in many cities.  These Crusaders did all this in the name of God and Jesus.  They had a “kill them all and let God sort them out” mentality,” which is antithetical to divine compassion.

In 2002, in Statesboro, Georgia, I saw a horrifying bumper sticker.  It said,


Indignation over the attacks of September 11, 2001, was and is understandable, but nothing justifies the attitude in that bumper sticker.

Or shall I mention the Albigensian Crusade of 1209-1213, in which the Pope authorized mercenaries to slaughter the Cathar (Gnostic) heretics in France?  Men killed many people (not just Cathars and each other) and fought over land claims, to enrich themselves.  They did this in the name of God.

Who is darnel and who is wheat?  Do we even know which we are?  The parable from Matthew contains a powerful corrective lesson for those who presume to know the mind of God and to think they have the right to persecute and/or kill those they deem to be darnel.  Puritans in Seventeenth-Century New England hanged Quakers as a threat to society.  I think that the Quakers were the wheat and their executioners the darnel, but the Puritan authorities thought otherwise.  Alas, those who need to learn the lesson of this parable are the least likely to do so.

The Biblical texts, including those read this day, speak of divine judgment and mercy.  Both are attributes of God, who knows far more than we ever will.  And I dare say that God’s targeting is more exact than ours.  We tend to write people off when God gives them second, third, fourth, and fifth chances.  Consider Jacob, a schemer too clever for his own good and that of some people around him.  He had mystical encounters with God and matured spiritually, becoming the patriarch Israel, for whom the people and nation-state are named.  God did not write him off.  Jacob/Israel was wheat, not darnel, despite early appearances to the contrary.

There is great virtue in religious toleration and the separation of the state mechanisms and religious establishments.  When the church and the state (or the mosque and the state) become united, one becomes an arm of the other, which is detrimental.  James Madison, Father of the U.S. Constitution, believed fervently in the separation of church and state, mainly for the protection of the churches.  And theocracy is notoriously detrimental to dissenters, whom the establishment considers darnel.  But the theocrats act more like darnel than wheat–and always in the name of God.

As the Wisdom of Solomon 12:19 says,

…the righteous must be kind….

A great part of righteousness consists of loving our neighbors as ourselves and leaving divine judgments to God alone.  Otherwise, we run the risk of doing more harm than good.  We need not pretend to agree with others when we disagree with them, but civilized people can differ without resorting to persecution and bloodshed.  Besides, we are mistaken about some points, too, and those with whom we disagree are partially correct as well.  The judgment in this matter resides only with God.






Adapted from this post:


“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear….”   1 comment

Above:  Constellation Perseus (February 1, 2011)

Image Source = Jet Propulsion Laboratory



Wisdom of Solomon 18:14-16; 19:6-9 (Revised English Bible):

(Context = The Exodus from Egypt, beginning with the last plague)

All things were lying in peace and silence, and night in her swift course was half spent, when your all-powerful word leapt from your royal throne in heaven like a relentless warrior, bearing the sharp sword of your inflexible decree; with his head touching the heavens and his feet on earth he stood and spread death everywhere.

The whole creation, with all its elements, was refashioned in subservience to your commands, in order that your servants might be preserved unscathed.  They gazed at the cloud that overshadowed the camp, at dry land emerging where before was only water, at an open road leading out of the Red Sea, and a grassy plain in place of stormy waves, across which the whole nation passed under the protection of your hand, after witnessing amazing portents.  They were like horses at pasture, like skipping lambs as they praised you, O Lord, by whom they were rescued.

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of his marvelous works.

Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

Remember the marvels he has done;

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O childrenof Jacob his chosen.

37 He led out his people with silver and gold;

in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.

38 Egypt was glad of their going,

because they were afraid of them.

39 He spread out a cloud for a covering,

and a fire to give light in the night season.

40 They asked, and quails appeared,

and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.

41 He opened the rock, and water flowed,

so the river ran in dry places.

42 For God remembered his holy word

and Abraham his servant.

43 So he led forth his people with gladness,

his chosen with shouts of joy.

44 He gave his people the lands of the nations,

and they took the fruit of others’ toil,

45 That they might keep his statutes

and observe his laws.


Luke 18:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus told them a parable to show that they should keep on praying and never lose heart.

In a certain city there was a judge who had no fear of God or respect for man, and in the same city there was a widow who kept coming before him to demand justice against her opponent.  For a time he refused; but in the end he said to himself, “Although I have no fear of God or respect for man, yet this widow is so great a nuisance that I will give her justice before she wears me out with her persistence.”  The Lord said, “You hear what the unjust judge says.  Then will not God give justice to his chosen, to whom he listens day and night?  I tell you, he will give them justice soon enough.  But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?


The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Tradition holds that Jesus was born at midnight, hence Christmas Eve midnight masses.  Indeed, these are lovely services, and Christmas for me lacks something crucial without having attended one.  The midnight timeframe comes from a conflation of the Wisdom of Solomon 18:14-16, which speaks of the angel of death leaving to kill firstborn Egyptian sons, with the Lukan version of the birth narrative of Jesus.

“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” the great Christmas carol, features the traditional timeframe in its title.  This hymn dates to 1849, when Edmund Hamilton Sears, a U.S. Unitarian pastor who believed in the deity of Jesus, wrote the words.  (He published them the following year.)  Reverend Sears, who opposed recently-completed U.S.-Mexican War, included an antiwar message in the hymn:

And man, at war with man, hears not

The tidings which they bring;

O hush the noise, ye men of strife,

And hear the angels sing!

Focusing on this Christmas carol is appropriate here, due to the timing of this devotional–one day before Proper 28 and eight days prior to the First Sunday of Advent.  And, after Advent comes Christmas, of course.

The God of the Exodus and the Incarnation is active in human history.  This is the God who cares.  Psalm 14, in most English translations, states that a fool says, “There is no God.”  Yet TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, the current translation from the Jewish Publication Society, renders that text to say that the fool states that “God does not care.”  I have concluded that caring is part of the divine character.  But, you might ask, why the difference in translations?  The rabbinical notes in The Jewish Study Bible mention that atheism was quite rare in the ancient Near East.  And a Presbyterian minister I know has mentioned to me the difficulty in translating much Hebrew.  ”Translating Hebrew is a bear,” he said.

And God cares very much in the reading from Luke 18.  The judge was corrupt, rendering verdicts in response to bribes.  But the woman got her justice by merely threatening him with violence.  Jesus says, however, that we need not worry about whether God cares about us and will listen to us.  Indeed, the fact of our Lord’s existence in human form (the Incarnation) constitutes evidence of divine caring.  Maybe God says “no” or “not yet,” answers we might not like, but there is an answer.  Nevertheless, good things happen to good people.  The reality of the existence of God does not change that fact, but neither does it change the reality that God cares, that for God to exist is for God to care.

One of the major effects of prayer is to change the one who prays.  And prayer, of course, is far more than “talking to God;” it is also listening to God and acting according to divine commands.  In other words, prayer is responding positively to God.  Some years ago I heard an interview with a Roman Catholic priest on National Public Radio.  The good Father had taken Jesus at his word; the priest decided to visit a man in prison.  The priest chose to visit a death row inmate, a violent man who, in time, died by the authority of the state.  The inmate was just as violent and vile on the day he died as he was when the priest began to visit him, but the priest was a much better person for the visits.  He had followed his Lord.

Jesus breaks into our lives in ways and at times we might not expect.  We might not get a choir of angels, but, if we are sufficiently perceptive, we will hear and know the voice of God speaking.  God has not ceased to speak, and we ought to listen more often than we do.






Adapted from this post:


Heeding Wisdom’s Call   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator



Proverbs 1:20-33 (New Revised Standard Version):

Wisdom cries out in the street;

in the squares she raises her voice.

At the busiest corner she cries out;

at the entrance of the city she speaks;

How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?

How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?

Give heed to my reproof;

I will pour out my thoughts to you;

I will make my words known to you.

Because I have called you and you refused,

have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,

and because you have ignored all my counsel

and would have none of my reproof,

I also laugh at your calamity;

I will mock when panic strikes you,

when panic strikes you like a storm,

and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,

when distress and anguish come upon you.

They will not call upon me, but I will not answer;

they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.

Because they hated knowledge

and did not choose the fear of the LORD,

would have none of my counsel,

and despised all my reproof,

therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way

and be sated with their devices.

For waywardness kills the simple,

and the complacency of fools destroys them;

but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.

Psalm 19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

5  In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;

it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;

it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

6  It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens

and runs about to the end of it again;

nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults?

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.


Wisdom of Solomon 7:26-8:1 (Revised English Bible):

She [Wisdom] is the radiance that streams from everlasting light, the flawless mirror of the active power of God, and the image of his goodness.  She is but one, yet can do all things; herself unchanging, she makes all things new; age after age she enters into holy souls, and makes them friends of God and prophets, for nothing is acceptable to God but the person who makes his home with wisdom.  She is more beautiful than the sun, and surpasses every constellation.  Compared with the light of day, she is found to excel, for day gives place to night, but against wisdom no evil can prevail.  She spans the world in power from end to end, and gently orders all things.


Isaiah 50:4-9a (New Revised Standard Version):

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher,

that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.

Morning by morning he wakens–

wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.

The Lord GOD has opened my ear,

and I was not rebellious,

I did not turn backward.

I gave my back to those who struck me,

and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;

I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.

The Lord GOD helps me;

therefore I have not been disgraced;

therefore I have set my face like flint,

and I know that I shall not be put to shame;

he who vindicates me is near.

Who will contend with me?

Let us stand up together.

Who are my adversaries?

Let them confront me.

It is the Lord GOD who helps me;

who will declare me guilty?

Psalm 116:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I love the LORD, because he has heard the voice of my supplication,

because he has inclined his ear to me whenever I called upon him.

2 The cords of death entangled me;

the grip of the grave took hold of me;

O came to grief and sorrow.

3 Then I called upon the Name of the LORD;

“O LORD, I pray you, save my life.”

Gracious is the LORD and righteous;

our God is full of compassion.

5 The LORD watches over the innocent;

I was brought very low, and he helped me.

Turn again to your rest, O my soul,

for the LORD has treated you well.

7 For you have rescued my life from death,

my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling.

8 I will walk in the presence of the LORD

in the land of the living.


James 3:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

My friends, not many of you should become teachers, for you may be certain that we who teach will ourselves face severer judgement.  All of us go wrong again and again; a man who never says anything wrong is perfect and is capable of controlling every part of his body.  When we put a bit into a horse’s mouth to make it obey our will, we can direct the whole animal.  Or think of a ship:  large though it may be and driven by gales, it can be steered by a very small rudder on whatever course the helmsman chooses.  So with the tongue; it is small, but its pretensions are great.

What a vast amount of timber can be set ablaze by the tiniest spark!  And the tongue is a fire, representing in our body the whole wicked world.  It pollutes our whole being, it sets the whole course of our existence alight, and its flames are fed by hell. Beasts and birds of every kind, creatures that crawl on the ground or swim in the sea, can be subdued and have been subdued by man; but no one can subdue the tongue.  It is an evil thing, restless and charged with deadly venom.  We use it to praise our Lord and Father; then we use it to praise our Lord and Father; then we use it to invoke curses on our fellow-men, though they are made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and curses.  This should not be so, my friends.  Does a fountain flow with both fresh and brackish water from the same outlet?  My friends, can a fig tree produce olives, or a grape vine produce figs?  No more can salt water produce fresh?


Mark 8:27-38 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi, and on the way he asked his disciples,

Who do people say that I am?

They answered,

Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, others one of the prophets.

He asked,

And you, who do you say that I am?

Peter replied,

You are the Messiah.

Then he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him; and he began to teach them that the Son of Man had to endure great suffering, and to be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes; to be put to death, and to rise again three days afterwards.  He spoke about it plainly.  At this Peter took hold of him and began to rebuke him.  But Jesus, turning and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter.

Out of my sight, Satan!

he said.

You think as men think, not as God thinks.

Then he called the people to him, as well as his disciples, and said to them,

Anyone who wants to be a follower of mine must renounce self; he must take up his cross and follow me.  Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel’s will save it.  What does anyone gain by winning the whole world at the cost of his life?  What can he give to buy his life back?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this wicked and godless age, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle (January 18):

Isaiah 50:

Wisdom of Solomon 7-8:

James 3:

Mark 8:

Matthew 16 (Parallel to Mark 8):

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 8):

Thou Art the Way:

Be Thou My Vision:


The lessons from Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon personify divine wisdom as a woman.  The Greek word for wisdom gives us a female name, Sophia.  As one who admires (yet does not understand) womankind, I find the idea of wisdom as feminine (while sheer might is masculine) sensible.  These are metaphors, of course, so we ought to look through them to the truth behind them.  God exists beyond our notions of sexuality and gender, but we do not.

Anyhow, the theology of Sophia did influence that of the Logos, which the Johannine Gospel identifies with Jesus.  That is a summary of part of the history of Christian thought.  Just making objectively lineage does not interest me, however.  The implications of the Sophia-Logos connection do fascinate me, but I leave those for another day.  The existence of that connection does provide me with a beginning point for theological rumination.

If people knew what was good for them and acted accordingly, they obeyed the words of divine wisdom, a figure which the Wisdom of Solomon describes as

a reflection of eternal light,

a spotless mirror of the working of God,

and an image of his goodness.

–7:26, New Revised Standard Version

Thus we read, for example, of the afflictions of the suffering servant in Isaiah 50, the dangers of the wrong uses of the tongue in James 3, and the impending suffering and execution of Jesus in Mark 8.  If more people knew what is good for them and were to act accordingly, they would heed the words and example of Jesus, the Logos of God.  If more historical figures, long since dead, had known what was good for them and acted accordingly, they would not have crucified Jesus or consented to his execution.  There would have been less suffering.  The suffering servant did not have to suffer, but the combination of his fidelity and the perfidy of others caused that suffering.

I like to study the lives of the saints, canonized and/or beatified or not.  In my tradition, Anglicanism, history makes saints.  And, as the keeper of my own Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, I do not depend on even my own ecclesiastical authorities to define who is a saint worthy of recognition.  So, as I research church history, I read about many people I have come to admire.  A vast number of them are martyrs and many others have suffered greatly due to their Christian faith.  Often the persecutors have belonged to other religions or have been Atheists, but sometimes professing Christians have oppressed and even killed each other.  I wonder how I would have acted had I been in the places of the saints I admire.  The honest answer in my conscience troubles me; I would most likely have used my tongue to curse, not bless.  I have done done so in less trying situations.

I have much yet to learn from divine wisdom and the Logos.  In this I am far from alone.  So, setting aside all recrimination, especially self-condemnation, may we, aware that we are in the same boat, support each other in our journeys toward lives of increased wisdom.







Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 20, 2011

Adapted from this post: