Archive for the ‘Alexander the Great’ Tag

Arrogant Assyria and the Repentant Remnant of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Assyrian Empire and Its Neighbors

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART IX

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Isaiah 10:5-34; 14:24-27; 29:1-34; 30:27-33; 33:1-24

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One of the motifs in Hebrew prophetic literature condemns haughtiness, arrogance, and impiety before God.  This motif applies to the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, both of which neglected the Law of Moses, therefore committed idolatry and practiced institutional social injustice, especially economic injustice and judicial corruption.  This motif also applies to nations outside of the covenant.  They are still accountable to God for violating basic standards of human decency.  If you, O reader, have been following my posts here at BLOGA THEOLOGICA since I started blogging on May 12, 2021, the contexts of this paragraph should be a mere refresher course.

I bring up this motif because we revisit it in Isaiah 10:5-34.

The Assyrian Empire boasted of its cruelty.  This empire, to that time the latest in a line of Mesopotamian empires, followed in a tradition of official, unrepentant cruelty.  Isaiah ben Amoz may have understood the Assyrian Empire to be an instrument of God, for a time, at least.  The perspective of the final draft of First Isaiah did, at least.  And the Assyrian Empire may have been an instrument of God, for a time, at least.  It was certainly never exempt from accountability to God.

The Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians conquered the Assyrian Empire.  Then the Persians and the Medes conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Then Alexander the Great of Macedonia conquered the Persian Empire.  Then he died and that vast Macedonian Empire broke up.  Much of Alexander’s realm eventually became part of the Roman Empire.  Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

One should not trust excessively in human political structures, which rise and fall.

Divine judgment and mercy remained in balance.  A remnant survived.  Exiles eventually returned to Judea after the Babylonian Exile.

A close reading of Isaiah 10:5-34 reveals layers of authorship, as well as chronological leaping back and forth.  For example, 10:27b-34 and 29:1-34 refer to Assyrian King Sennacherib’s failed invasion of Judah in 701 B.C.E. (See 2 Kings 18:17-19:27; 2 Chronicles 32:1-33; Isaiah 37:8-20.)  Yet 10:20-23 refer to the end of the Babylonian Exile, centuries later.  There is a method to the editorial madness, though; the conclusion of Chapter 10 leads directly into the opening of Chapter 11.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH TO SAINT ELIZABETH

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From Alexander the Great to Antiochus IV Epiphanes   Leave a comment

Above:  Map Showing Asia Minor, the Seleucid Empire, and the Ptolemaic Empire, 188 B.C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART I

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1 Maccabees 1:1-19

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Reading the Bible in more than one translation is a positive spiritual and literary practice.  One may decide that a particular translation is best for reading a certain book or certain books of the Bible.  For example, I propose that Job reads best in The Jerusalem Bible (1966), that the Song of Songs reads best in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), and that First Maccabees reads best in The Revised English Bible (1989).

I am an Episcopalian with strong Roman Catholic and Lutheran tendencies.  I am an also an Episcopalian who grew up a Low Church Protestant and a preacher’s kid–Southern Baptist for my first seven years, followed by United Methodist for the next eleven years.   I tell you, O reader, this so that you will appreciate the significance of my affirmation of the Roman Catholic definition of the canon of scripture.  The first two books of the Maccabees are Deuterocanonical, not Apocryphal.

First Maccabees probably dates to about 100 B.C.E.  The anonymous author’s composition is contemporary with Tobit, Judith, and most of Daniel.  The agenda of 1 Maccabees is the affirmation of the Hasmonean Dynasty.  After all, why were members of the Davidic Dynasty not on the throne of independent Judea?  That was the question of political legitimacy the author of 1 Maccabees addressed.

1 Maccabees 1:1-19 establishes the historical and cultural context:  Hellenism.  The passage names Alexander the Great (d. 323 B.C.E.) then moves along quickly to Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164/163 B.C.E.), King of the Seleucid Empire, one of the successors to Alexander’s expansive Macedonian Empire.  One may or may not recall the references to Antiochus IV Epiphanes in Daniel 7, 8, 9, and 11.  One may or may not also remember the allusion to the notorious monarch in 3 Maccabees 2-4.

The struggle against imposed Hellenism formed the backdrop of the Hasmonean Rebellion.  To make matters worse, some Jews turned apostate.

1 Maccabees 1:16-19 lays down another historical marker.  It mentions the successful Seleucid invasion of the Ptolemaic Empire during the reign (180-145 B.C.E.) of King Ptolemy VI Philometor in 169 B.C.E.  The reader who may be unfamiliar with this part of ancient history ought to know that the Seleucid and Ptolemaic Empires, successors to the sprawling Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great, fought each other.  Such a reader should also understand that ancient Palestine kept changing imperial masters, depending on the most germane military victory.  

Palestinian Jews still lived under occupation  Antiochus IV Epiphanes was an especially cruel imperial master.

How could Jews, even those dwelling in their ancestral homeland, live faithfully under the Seleucid Empire?

I clue you, O reader, in on a recurring motif in 1 Maccabees.  Keeping the divine covenant and the Law of Moses is essential, as the book teaches.  So is being pragmatic in faithful communal life.  But when does pragmatism cross the line over into the territory of unjust and faithless compromise?  This is a timeless question and a quandary.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIUS THE CENTURION

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The Battle of Raphia, with King Ptolemy IV Philopator in Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  King Ptolemy IV Philopator

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 3 MACCABEES

PART I

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3 Maccabees 1:1-2:24

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King Ptolemy IV Philapator of the Ptolemaic Empire (Reigned 221-204 B.C.E.)

High Priest Simon II “the Just” (In Office 219-196 B.C.E.)

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The Third Book of the Maccabees is a misnomer.  Not only does it have no Maccabees, but it also plays out prior to the events of the First, Second, and Fourth Books of the Maccabees.

3 Maccabees, canonical in Orthodoxy, is apocryphal in the Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Anglican churches.

3 Maccabees, composed in Alexandria, Egypt, close to 100 B.C.E., most likely, bears similarities to Greek romances.  The introduction to this book in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha (2003) mentions 

purple prose and bombastic details that seem designed to elicit an emotional response, rather than to accurately and straightforwardly report history.

–1661

The introduction to 3 Maccabees in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Revised Standard Version (1977) is less generous:

The author often exaggerates, and when in descriptions he attempts to introduce purple passages of rhetoric, he succeeds only in producing bombast and bathos.

–Apocrypha 294

The theology of 3 Maccabees is orthodox and Deuteronomistic:  God, who is faithful, rewards those who are faithful and punishes those who are faithless and evil.  This is a hope to which to cling during times of turmoil and oppression.

Apart from the sources I have quoted, I have two other guides through 3 Maccabees:

  1. The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, New Revised Standard Version (1991); and
  2. The Orthodox Study Bible, the St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint and the New King James Version (2008).

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3 Maccabees opens abruptly.  The supposition that an introduction has not survived seems reasonable.

King Ptolemy IV Philopator was the Hellenistic ruler of the Ptolemaic Empire, a successor to the expansive Macedonian Empire of King Alexander III “the Great” (reigned 336-323 B.C.E.).  Ptolemy IV, keeping a dynastic custom that dated to King Ptolemy II Philadelphus (circa 275 B.C.E.), married his sister, Arsinoe, in October 217 B.C.E.  (Ptolemy IV also ordered the murder of Arsinoe.)  Ptolemy IV was a weak ruler; a minister, Sosibius, dominated the monarch.  Ptolemy IV and Seleucid King Antiochus III “the Great” (reigned 223-187 B.C.E.) waged the Fourth Syrian War (221-217 B.C.E.).  During this conflict, Ptolemy IV lost much of the Syrian coast to Antiochus III.  Then, at the Battle of Raphia (217 B.C.E)., Ptolemy IV regained control of much of that coast and of Palestine.

The story of Dositheus, absent from other accounts of that battle, introduces a motif into 3 Maccabees.  That motif–intervention and reversal–runs throughout the book.  

Ptolemy IV survived an assassination attempt because of the intervention of Dositheus, an apostate Jew.  The victorious Ptolemy IV, an admirer of architecture, visited Jerusalem.  While there, he offered a sacrifice to YHWH.  This was easy for the pagan king to do.  As far as Ptolemy IV knew, YHWH was just another deity.  The king’s attempt to enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple was a step too far.  Only the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies; he did this one day per year (Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16:2, 11-12, 15, 34; Hebrews 9:7).

The reaction of many Jews in Jerusalem was strong.  High Priest Simon II “the Just” prayed.  His prayer contained certain theological hallmarks–the faithfulness of God, the arrogance of kings, the impiety of many people, the divine punishment of the wicked, and the divine deliverance of the faithful.

Then God prevented Ptolemy IV from entering the Holy of Holies.  He fell to the floor and could not speak.  Courtiers had to remove Ptolemy IV, unable to move on his own, from the Temple.  The king remained arrogant and unrepentant.  Ptolemy IV stood in contrast to Heliodorus (2 Maccabees 3:35-39) and even Antiochus IV Epiphanes (2 Maccabees 9:11-17), who repented immediately after God struck them.  The original audience of 3 Maccabees understood those references and awaited the repentance of Ptolemy IV (3 Maccabees 6:22-7:23).

Ptolemy IV prepared to take his revenge on Jews in Egypt.

The Bible contains stories of arrogant and dangerous kings and queens, some of whom were also weak rulers.  Queen Jezebel of Israel dominated King Ahab of Israel.  King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire was a historical figure.  Yet he functioned as a fictionalized symbol of power run amok in the Books of Daniel and Judith.  The fictional King Ahasuerus from the Book of Esther was a weak monarch who deposed Queen Vashti for refusing to display herself naked to his guests.  Ahasuerus was also willing to sign off onto a genocide of Jews.  At the end of the Book of Esther, the situation was positive because Mordecai and Queen Esther were running the Persian Empire in the king’s name.  Meanwhile, Ahasuerus partied.

Arrogant, impious potentates continue to afflict people, unfortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT RADEGUNDA, THURINGIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRINCESS, DEACONESS, AND NUN; AND SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PONTIERS

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY ANN THRUPP, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRED D. GEALY, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALDRICH, ANGLICAN PRIEST, COMPOSER, THEOLOGIAN, MATHEMATICIAN, AND ARCHITECT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND CARMELITE FRIAR

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The Final Vision   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Michael the Archangel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART X

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Daniel 10:1-12:13

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This passage, superficially from 586 B.C.E. or so, actually comes from a time much closer to 164 B.C.E.  The reference to the “prince of Greece” (the guardian angel of the Seleucid Empire) clues us into the actual period of composition.

Again, as I keep repeating in these posts, the Book of Daniel is not history.  Chapter 11 mentions Darius the Mede, supposedly the conqueror of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, and the immediate predecessors of Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes.  Historical records tell us that Cyrus II conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  Records also tell us that the Persian Empire had ten kings from 559 to 330 B.C.E., with Cyrus II being the first and Darius III the last.  Daniel 11:2 reads:

Persia will have three more kings, and the fourth will be wealthier than them all; by the power he obtains through his wealth, he will stir everyone up against the kingdom of the Greeks.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The material in the reading for this post is dense, with many references to ancient potentates.

  1. The “warrior king” in Daniel 11:3 is obviously a reference to Alexander III “the Great,” given the breaking up of his empire after his death (11:4).
  2. The kings of the south were kings of the Ptolemaic Empire.
  3. The kings of the north were kings of the Seleucid Empire.
  4. The kings of the south (11:5f) and the north (11:6f) were Ptolemy I Soter (reigned 323-285 B.C.E.) Seleucus II Callinicus (reigned 246-225 B.C.E.), respectively.
  5. Daniel 11:6 refers to the murder of the daughter of a daughter of King Ptolemy II Philadelphus (reigned 285-246 B.C.E.).
  6. Daniel 11:7 refers to the retaliation of King Ptolemy III Euergetes (reigned 246-221 B.C.E.).
  7. Daniel 11 also contains references to hostile relations during the reigns of subsequent kings, including Ptolemy V Ephiphanes (reigned 204-180 B.C.E.) and Antiochus III “the Great” (reigned 223-187 B.C.E).
  8. Daniel 11:20 refers to Seleucus IV Philopater (reigned 187-175 B.C.E.), who attempted to rob the treasury of the Temple in Jerusalem (2 Maccabees 3).
  9. Daniel 11:21f refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.), the bête noire of Hasmonean partisans and a foe of the Ptomemaic Dynasty in Egypt.

Jews were literally in the middle of this Ptolemaic-Seleucid warfare.  Judea, incorporated into the Seleucid Empire after the Battle of Paneas (200 B.C.E.), were subject to religious persecution.  This reality set the stage for the Hasmonean rebellion, in progress during the composition of Daniel 7-12.

The message of Daniel 10-12, then, is to remain faithful despite persecution and martyrdom.  God will win in the end.

Daniel 12 contains another theologically important detail.  The resurrection of the dead in Ezekiel 37 is a metaphor for the restoration of Judah after the Babylonian Exile.  The resurrection of the dead is literal in Daniel 12, though.

Living in perilous times is stressful.  The temptation to surrender hope is strong.  Yet, as the Book of Daniel repeatedly reminds us, God is sovereign.  God is faithful.  And, to quote the Reverend Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858-1901),

This is my Father’s world,

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world:

The battle is not done;

Jesus who died shall be satisfied,

And earth and heaven be one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–PROPER 29:  THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF ROBERT SEAGRAVE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DITLEF GEORGSON RISTAD, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, LITURGIST, AND EDUCATOR

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The Vision of the Ram and the He-Goat   Leave a comment

Above:  The Ram and the He-Goat

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART VIII

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Daniel 8:1-27

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As I keep writing in the posts of this series, the Book of Daniel is not history.

The last monarch of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire was Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.).  His son, Crown Prince Belshazzar, served as viceroy and regent (553-543 B.C.E,) while Nabonidus was away on the Arabian peninsula.  Belshazzar was never a king.

Daniel 8 has much in common with Chapters 2 and 7.  The imagery in Daniel 8 is of the Persian Empire (the two-horned ram), the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III “the Great,” and the four successor empires of Alexander’s empire.  We have a clue regarding the period of composition.

Prepare for the essential information dump, O reader.

  1. Alexander III “the Great” of Macedonia died in 323 B.C.E.  He did not name a successor.
  2. Generals fought among themselves and rendered the empire asunder.  Four empires emerged.
  3. One was the Ptolemaic Empire, based in Egypt.
  4. Another was the Seleucid Empire, based in Babylonia.
  5. Another was the rump Macedonian Empire.
  6. Another successor empire was in Asia Minor.
  7. The successors of Ptolemy I Soter (reigned 305-282 B.C.E.) and Seleucus I Nicator (reigned 305-281 B.C.E.) concerned and frequently troubled the original audience of the Book of Daniel.
  8. The king in Daniel 8:23f was Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.).  Contrary to the text, he was not the last ruler of that empire.  Antiochus XIII Asiaticus (reigned 69-69 and 65-64 B.C.E.) was the final monarch of that empire.
  9. The reference to Antiochus IV Epiphanes does provide a clue regarding the period of composition, though.

If one has been paying close attention since the beginning of this series, one may have detected some patterns and motifs in the texts.  For example, consider Chapters 2, 7, and 8, O reader.  Empires and kingdoms rise and fall.  God remains forever.  God is sovereign.  In other words, relativize love of country; do not convert patriotism into idolatry.  Love that which lasts forever than which is temporary, even if long-term.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; “THE DEAN OF AMERICAN HYMN WRITERS”

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PRISCILLA LYDIA SELLON, A RESTORER OF RELIGIOUS LIFE IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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The Vision of the Four Beasts   Leave a comment

Above:  The Vision of the Four Beasts

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART VII

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Daniel 7:1-28

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The section of apocalyptic visions (Chapters 7-12) in the Book of Daniel begins here.

I remind you, O reader, what I have written in previous posts.  The last Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch was Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.).  His son, Crown Prince Belshazzar, served as viceroy and regent (553-543 B.C.E.) while Nabonidus was on the Arabian peninsula for a decade.  Belshazzar was never a king.

Daniel 7 has much in common with Chapter 2.  Two competing lists of the four kingdoms mentioned in the two chapters exist.  One list is:

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

According to this list, the blasphemous horn is the notorious King Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.).  This identification makes sense to me, for it provides a clue regarding the period of composition.

The competing list is:

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

According to this list, the blasphemous horn is the antichrist.

The vision concludes with the descent of 

one like a human being,

or, literally,

one like a son of man.

This was originally a reference to St. Michael the Archangel.

Son of man

has more than one meaning in the Hebrew Bible.  Usually, it means a human being, as in Ezekiel 2:1 and Job 25:6.  The term also means angel, as in Daniel 8:17, a reference to St. Gabriel the Archangel.  The term clearly refers to a heavenly figure in Daniel 7:13.  Christian tradition identifies the heavenly figure as Jesus. 

Son of Man,

in relation to Jesus, is an apocalyptic label in the New Testament.  This association of the label with a future messianic figure also exists in 1 Enoch 46:1 and 48:10, as well as in 2 Esdras/4 Ezra 13.

The establishment of the Kingdom of God in its fullness on Earth at the end of the visions of Daniel 2 and 7 expresses hope for a just world.  This is the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven in the Gospel of Matthew.  (See Jonathan Pennington.)  This is the dream that remains unfulfilled thousands of years later.

I have read what many Biblical scholars have written about the Kingdom of God.  I can, for example, quote C. H. Dodd (1884-1973) on Realized Eschatology at the drop of a hat.  As logical as I find his case in The Founder of Christianity (1970) to be, I conclude that it feels like cold comfort on certain days.  On those days, I agree and sympathize with Alfred Loisy, an excommunicated Roman Catholic theologian who complained,

Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God and what came was the Church.

As Bishop N. T. Wright wrote in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996), the response of many of the faithful to the Kingdom of God not arriving at the expected times has been to continue to hope for it.  Hope persists.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY, PRINCESS OF HUNGARY, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND PIANO BUILDER; AND HIS SON, JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN PIANO BUILDER

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

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

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

Above:  The Composite Statue

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART II

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Daniel 2:1-49

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

What is really going on here?

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

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

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

The minority, alternative list is:

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Christ, Ascended   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Ascension, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended

far above the heavens, that he might fill all things:

Mercifully give us faith to perceive that according to his promise

he abides with his Church on earth, even to the ends of the world;

through the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 122

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Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

Psalm 8 (Ascension Day)

Psalm 29 (Ascension Sunday)

Ephesians 1:15-23

Luke 24:44-53

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The Ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:6-11) is one of those events I file under “You Had to Be There.”  I read the account (not assigned for these occasions, oddly enough) of it as prose poetry.  I do not assume, after all, that Heaven (as God’s abode) is on the other side of the sky and that the cosmos has three tiers, the middle level of which is the Earth.  What I do take literally is that Jesus was physically present at the beginning of the day and gone by the end of that day.  I also notice that the importance of the departure of Jesus for the Apostles was that they had they had to assume their responsibility, with the aid of the Holy Spirit.

The assigned readings, taken together, emphasize the sovereignty of God.  The lesson from Daniel 7 is part of a longer passage.  In a dream are four mighty beasts, representing, in order, the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, and the empire of Alexander the Great.  From the latter arise ten horns, representing Seleucid successors of Alexander.  One of these horns is the arrogant and violent Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.).  “One like a Son of Man,” a heavenly being often identified in Jewish tradition as Michael the Archangel, crushes Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

We know from the passage of time that events did not unfold that way; history did not culminate in the Hasmonean period.  We can, however, affirm the sovereignty of God, a theme prevalent in Psalms 8 and 29 also.  The sovereignty of God is also evident in the resurrection of Jesus.

Various Christian traditions emphasize different aspects of the life of Christ.  Anglicanism, with its incarnational theology, is the church of Christmas.  Roman Catholicism, with its ubiquitous crucifixes, fixates on Good Friday.  The Jesus of Eastern Orthodoxy is the ascended and glorified Jesus in Heaven, as their iconography indicates.  Each emphasis has its virtues, but the ascended and glorified Christ is the version of Jesus to ponder on the Feast of the Ascension.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Psalm 89   1 comment

Above:  A Map of the Persian/Archaemenid Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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POST XXXIV OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting 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 226

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The reign of the last Davidic monarch ended when the Kingdom of Judah died and became part of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The dynasty did not return to power when the Persians conquered the Chaldeans and allowed exiles to return to their ancestral homeland.  God did not reign on Earth and Israel did not bloom, contrary, to high hopes.  A descendant of David did not sit on a throne, contrary to old dreams.  Jews rebuilt in a poor satrapy of the Persian/Archaemenid Empire.  Eventually Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia, defeated the Persian Empire and expanded his realm greatly.  Then he died a few years later.  Successor states, the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Empires, battled over Israel until the Hasmoneans (not of Davidic descent) drove out the Selecids and established a dynasty of priest-kings.  About a century later forces of the Roman Republic (by that time, a republic in name only and about thirty years from becoming the Roman Empire officially) took over.

Amid the dashed hopes of restoration of the kingdom under the Davidic Dynasty came affirmations of hesed, or divine faithfulness/kindness/love/steadfast love (depending on translations) and justice.  Nevertheless, the psalmist wondered where that hesed was, just as he blessed God.

Discussions of political systems aside, feeling besieged while trying to maintain hope in God’s hesed is a timeless manner.  Neither do geography, culture, and other circumstances curtail the power of Psalm 89.  One might find reasons to identify with sentiments of the text in a wide variety of settings.  Certainly the sense of disappointment with God is both old and contemporary.

When we feel disappointment with God, we should say so to God, thereby following the lead of the author of Psalm 89.  This is spiritually healthy; if we argue with God, so be it.  At least we are being honest.  Honesty is, after all, one foundation of a good relationship.  Arguing faithfully with God is also my second favorite aspect of Judaism; monotheism is the first.

As for the delay of hopes, I point out that time has yet to expire.  Perhaps the error is human, with regard to the linking of expectations and timeframes.

The passage of time will tell.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS CLAUDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Posted August 14, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 89

Tagged with , ,

The Glory of God, Filling the Earth, Part I   1 comment

Blue Marble Apollo 17

Above:  Blue Marble, December 17, 1972

Image Source = NASA

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us 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

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 2:1-19 (Thursday)

Daniel 2:24-49 (Friday)

Psalm 72 (Both Days)

Ephesians 4:17-5:1 (Thursday)

Ephesians 5:15-20 (Friday)

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Thanks be to the Lord GOD, the God of Israel,

for he alone does marvellous things.

Thanks be to the glorious name of God for ever,

his glory fills the earth.

Amen and amen.

–Psalm 72:18-19, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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The prophecy of Daniel 2:44 seems problematic:

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall this kingdom be left to another people.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

“The days of those kings” refers to the era of the successors of the empire of Alexander the Great.  The conqueror had died after a brief reign.

So his officers took over his kingdom, each in his own territory, and after his death they all put on diadems, and so did their sons after them for many years, multiplying evils on the earth.

–1 Maccabees 1:8-9, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The last of those successor empires, the Ptolomaic Empire, based in Egypt, had ended in 30 B.C.E., becoming a province of the Roman Republic, which was transforming into the Roman Empire.  What, then, could the divine kingdom of Daniel 2:44 be?  Ancient Jewish speculations offered two possibilities–the Messiah and the people of Israel.  Christian interpretations have included the Messiah and the Church.  The latter is possible if one includes the Roman Empire as a successor kingdom to the empire of Alexander the Great, for Rome did spread Hellenism, the cultural legacy of Alexander, far and wide.

I cannot forget, however, a lament of the excommunicated Roman Catholic theologian Alfred Fermin Loisy (1857-1940).  Jesus promised us the Kingdom of God, Loisy wrote, and all we got was the Church.  If we understand the Kingdom of God as having been present on the Earth in a partially evident way for a long time Loisy’s lament becomes less potent yet remains relevant.  Christian history contains much that brings no glory to God–the Crusades, bigotry, discrimination, slavery, misogyny, legalism, anti-intellectualism, a suspicion of science, et cetera.  Much of that litany of shame exists in the category of current events.  Nevertheless, much of Christian history (as well as the Christian present day) is also positive, in the style of the readings from Ephesians, where we find the theme of imitating Christ.  Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the incarcerated and the hospitalized, welcoming the stranger, et cetera–in short, recognizing the image of God in others then acting accordingly–bring glory to God.  In those and other deeds the partially unveiled Kingdom of God becomes visible and God’s glory fills the Earth.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 20–THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF HENRI NOUWEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY COLERIDGE PATTESON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MELANESIA, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF NELSON WESLEY TROUT, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN U.S. BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/20/devotion-for-january-7-and-8-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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