Archive for the ‘Anna’ Tag

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

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

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART XI

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Tobit 14:1b-15

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

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

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

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

The Story of Ahikar also contained proverbs, such as

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

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

–7:58b

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 5, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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

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

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

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The Journey Home   Leave a comment

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

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART VIII

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Tobit 10:1-11:6

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

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

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT RAFAL CHYLINSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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

Above:  Tobias and the Angel, by Wenceslas Hollar

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART VI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True wellness is heavily spiritual.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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

Above:  Asmodeus, by Louis Le Breton

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART IV

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Tobit 3:7-16

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

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

Various elements are at work in these verses.

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN THE YOUNGER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

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

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

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

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Tobit’s Blindness and Prayer   Leave a comment

Above:  Tobit and Anna with the Kid Goat, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART III

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Tobit 2:9-3:6

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Dystrus 7 was in late winter, in February.  Dystrus, a Hellenistic month, was also a literary anachromism.

In the story, Tobit was ritually impure after having buried a human corpse (Numbers 19:11-14).  So, he slept outside after washing himself ritually.  In the story, sleeping outdoors led to his blindness.  After two years, nephew Ahikar ceased to support Tobit then moved away.  The titular character, reduced to depending financially on his wife, wrongly accused her of having stolen an kid.  She justifiably objected to his attitude.  Anna, angry with her husband (not God, as was Job’s wife in Job 2:8), questioned Tobit’s virtue.  Then Tobit, like Jonah (Jonah 4:3, 8), Moses (Numbers 11:15), Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), and Job (Job 7:15), prayed for death.

The Theory of Retribution, which I have already mentioned and explained in this series, holds that God punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous.  This perspective pervades the Old and New Testaments.  Without rejecting the Theory of Retribution, I propose that life is more complicated than that.  Many of the wicked flourish and many of the righteous suffer in this life.  One way out of this conundrum is to relocate the ultimate reward or punishment to the afterlife.  Yet the Book of Tobit does not indicate belief in postmortem reward or punishment.

However, I remind you, O reader, of the meaning of the title of this book.  “Tobit” means “YHWH is good.”  The Book of Tobit, in its entirety, depicts YHWH as being very good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 421

THE FEAST OF JAMES MILLS THOBURN, ISABELLA THOBURN, AND CLARA SWAIN, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARIES TO INDIA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM COOKE AND BENJAMIN WEBB, ANGLICAN PRIESTS AND TRANSLATORS OF HYMNS

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Tobit’s Piety   Leave a comment

Above:  The Story of Tobit, by the Workshop of the Master of the Prodigal Son

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART 1

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Tobit 1:1-15

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The Book of Tobit, present in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, falls into the canon of scripture for about three-quarters of the Christian Church.  Tobit, like Esther, Jonah, and Judith, is a work of fiction that teaches theological and spiritual truths.  The Catholic Study Bible (1990) and The Catholic Bible–Personal Study Edition (1995) describes the Book of Tobit as a novel.  The Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) accurately describes the Book of Tobit as a novella.  The Book of Tobit is too long to be a short story and too short to be a novel.

The Orthodox Study Bible (2008) acknowledges that the Book of Tobit is a work of fiction.  The introduction to the Book of Tobit describes the work as a love story in which a father sends his son out into the world.  The son finds and saves a bride, whom he brings home.  The introduction to the Book of Tobit links this story to Christ in John 3:16 and describes the Book of Tobit as an icon of the story of salvation.

The Book of Tobit is another Hellenistic work about Jews in exile.  (The Book of Daniel is also such a work.)  Superficially set in the eighth century B.C.E., the Book of Tobit teaches faith in God and trust in providence from the temporal perspective of the second century C.E.

The titular character is Tobit.  His son is Tobias.  “Tobit” is a shorter variation on “Tobias.”  Both names mean, “the LORD is good.”

Tobit 1:2 signals the book’s status as fiction by naming the wrong Neo-Assyrian king.  The verse names the monarch as Shalmaneser V (reigned 727-722 B.C.E.)  Historical records tell us Sargon II (reigned 722-705 B.C.E.) was the king who completed Shalmaneser V’s work and conquered the northern Kingdom of Israel.  (See 2 Kings 17:1-6, O reader.)  However, historical records and 2 Kings 15:19 tell us that Tiglath-Pilesar III, also known as Pul (reigned 745-727 B.C.E.), took the tribe of Naphtali into exile.

Tobit was a devout Jew.  The impossible internal chronology had Tobit live in excess of 150 years (1:4f), despite his age at death (14:1) being 112.  Anyhow, he eschewed idolatry and made his offerings at the Temple in Jerusalem (Numbers 18:12-13; Deuteronomy 18:3-4).  Tobit also distributed money to widows, orphans, and converts.  He kept the food laws (Exodus 34:15; Leviticus 7:26-27; Leviticus 11:1-47; Leviticus 17:10-14; Deuteronomy 12:23-25; Deuteronomy 14:3-21; and Deuteronomy 15:23) in exile, too.  Tobit obeyed the Law of Moses regardless of how difficult doing so proved to be.  At home and in exile, Tobit was a model Jew.

Tobit also deposited ten talents of silver with a relative, Gabael, in Media.  That amount equaled 3000 shekels.

The germane note in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) reads:

A substantial amount, but efforts to express in modern monetary units are futile.

Other sources do express that amount in modern monetary units, though.  The Catholic Study Bible (1990) estimates the value as being about $10,000.  The Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) estimates the value as being at least $10,000.  

We also read of Tobit’s wife, Anna, which means “Grace.”  Remember that, O reader; the name is sometimes ironic.

The Book of Tobit contains similarities to the Books of Job and Daniel.  We read of Tobit working for the king in Chapter 1.  One may recall that Daniel worked for several monarchs.  And one may remember accounts of Daniel’s piety.  The parallels to Job, already becoming apparent, will become stronger as we continue.

Tobit 1 contains the Theory of Retribution, that God rewards faithfulness and punishes faithlessness.  The Theory of Retribution, a hallmark of Deuteronomic theology, is prominent throughout the Book of Tobit and in much of the Hebrew Bible.  Deuteronomy 28 teaches the Theory of Retribution, which informs the Books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings.  In particular, consult Joshua 7:1-8:29; Judges 3:7-11; and 2 Samuel 11:1-12:15, for example, O reader.

The counterbalance also exists un the Hebrew Bible.  Blessings also come undeserved.  A relationship with God should not be a quid-pro-quo arrangement.  See Deuteronomy 4:32-40; 6-11; 8:17-18; 9:4-6; 10:15; and 23:6, O reader.  Likewise, that seems undeserved is a form of testing (Deuteronomy 8: 2, 3, 5, 16-17), and repentance following suffering precedes divine mercy (Deuteronomy 30:1-10).

What we do matters.  How we respond to God is crucial.  One does know a tree by its fruits.  And actions have consequences.  However, Prosperity Theology remains a heresy.  Many of the devout suffer.  Many of the devout become martyrs.  And many of the devout endure poverty.

The Bible is a nuanced sacred theology.  Any impression to the contrary is erroneous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HILEY BATHURST, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ISAAC WATTS, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF PETRUS NIGIDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN EDUCATOR AND COMPOSER; AND GEORG NIGIDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND HYMN WRITER

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Recognizing the Savior   1 comment

Above:  Anna at the Presentation of Jesus, by Giotto

Image in the Public Domain

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The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple falls on February 2, forty days after Christmas.  The origins of the Feast of the Presentation date to the 300s, in Jerusalem, where the original date was February 14-forty days after January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany.  In the English Prayer Book tradition the Feast of the Presentation has been the Feast of the Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin, per the beginning of Leviticus 12, hinted at in Luke 2:22-23.

The readings from Malachi 3 and Psalm 24, along with Luke 2:22-40, convey a sense of awe and wonder.  They tell us to take notice, for God, or a messenger thereof, has arrived.  Where better to be than in the Temple?  This is an event that has changed the world, after all.  When we read of the divine arrival in Luke 2 and Hebrews 2, we read of the Incarnation as an infant, not a conquering hero in armor.  Via living as a human being, one fully human as well as fully divine, Christ can identify with our suffering and help those enduring tests, we read in Hebrews 2:18.

It would have been easy to fail to recognize the infant Jesus for who he was, but Simeon and Anna knew who he was.  They spread their wisdom in their time and place.  Certainly some who heard them considered that message ridiculous, as it must have seemed to have been.

Fortunately, we can, via hindsight and the Bible, recognize the wisdom of Simeon and Anna, as well as the true identity of that infant boy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SEBASTIAN CASTELLIO, PROPHET OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPHER WORDSWORTH, HYMN WRITER AND ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEFA SANCHO DE GUERRA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SERVANTS OF JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL RODIGAST, GERMAN LUTHERAN ACADEMIC AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty and everlasting God, we humbly pray that,

as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the Temple,

so may we be presented to you with pure and clean hearts

by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 239

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Blessed are you, O Lord our God, for you have sent us your salvation.

Inspire us by your Holy Spirit to see with our own eyes him who is

the glory of Israel and the light for all nations, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), page 32

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Malachi 3:1-4

Psalm 84 or 24:7-10

Hebrews 2:14-18

Luke 2:22-40

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-presentation-of-the-lord-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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