Archive for the ‘Artemis’ Tag

Second Maccabees: Two Letters   Leave a comment

Above:  Alexandria in Ptolemaic Egypt

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART II

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2 Maccabees 1:1-2:18

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The Second Book of the Maccabees is, according to scholarly consensus, inferior to the First Book of the Maccabees.  1 Maccabees, like any legitimate work of history, has a thesis.  History, by definition, is interpretation of the past, based on written sources.  1 Maccabees, therefore, is not objective.  It is, however, a legitimate work of history.  Its thesis is that the Hasmonean Dynasty was, by right, the ruling family of Judea.

The Second Book of the Maccabees also has a thesis:  Egyptian Jews ought to celebrate Hanukkah, the feast of the rededication of the Temple on Kislev 25 (December 14), 164 B.C.E..  The author of 2 Maccabees is anonymous.  Scholars refer to him as the Epitomist.  In contemporary analogy, 2 Maccabees is the Reader’s Digest condensed book form (from circa 124 B.C.E.) of a five-volume work by Jason of Cyrene.  The longer, original work is lost, unfortunately.  x

I wonder if the condensation is the major reason for problems with 2 Maccabees.  Perhaps the following analogy is crass, but it is the best one I can muster.  Consider, O reader, one of the three Flash Gordon serials:  Flash Gordon (1936), Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938), and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940).  Neither one is Shakespeare, obviously, but each one is, within the context of its complete run, intelligible.  Then consider, in contrast, the condensed version of one of those serials.  The pacing makes no sense.  Plot threads dangle.  Certain scenes make no sense, given the editing.  This is not the optimum way to watch the story; one should watch the full serial.

As in 1 Maccabees, the dates are according to the Hellenistic/Seleucid calendar.  Therefore, the year 169 equals 143 B.C.E.  As an attentive student of history should know, the C.E/A.D.-B.C.E./B.C. scale did not exist until our 500s C.E./A.D.

Today’s portion of 2 Maccabees consists of two prefatory letters from the Epitomist.  The first one, in order, spans 1:1-10a, and dates to the year 188 (124 B.C.E.).  This letter refers to events from the year 169 (143 B.C.E.).  In the first reign of King Demetrius II Nicator (145-139/138 B.C.E.) of the Seleucid Empire, “we Jews” had written of previous perfidious acts by the High Priest Jason (2 Maccabees 4:7-22; 5:1-14).  Jason had led his followers in rebellion against the covenant (therefore God) and the Seleucid Empire.  Jason was also responsible for a fire at the Temple and the slaughter of his own followers.  The first letter mistakes Hanukkah (in Kislev–that is, November-December) for the Feast of the Tabernacles (in Tishrit–that is, September-October).  This error makes sense, for the length of Hanukkah is, on purpose, the length of the Feast of Tabernacles.

The theology of the first letter is clear:  God is faithful.  Be reconciled to God.

The second letter (1:10b-2:18) predates the first one.  The second letter dates to 164 B.C.E.  This letter, also addressed to Egyptian Jews, also encourages these Jews of the Diaspora to celebrate Hanukkah, then a new feast.  Hanukkah was so new that the very old Torah did not command keeping it.  But the victory of Judas Maccabeus was for all Jews, even Jews of the Diaspora.

This second letter contains references that require explanation.

  1. “King Antiochus” was Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164/163 B.C.E.) of the Seleucid Empire.  He was an extremely bad man.
  2. “King Ptolemy” was Ptolemy VI Philometor (reigned 80-145 B.C.E.) of the Ptolemaic Empire.
  3. Aristobolus was a Jewish philosopher in Alexandria, Egypt, and a teacher of Ptolemy VI Philometor.
  4. Nanaea, also known as Aniatis, was an Elamite goddess equivalent to and associated with Diana/Artemis.
  5. “Friend of the King” was an official position.  There were, in fact, four ranks of the “Friends of the King.”  Those ranks were:  Friend, Honored Friend, First Friend, and Preferred Friend.
  6. Antiochus IV Epiphanes seemed to enjoy invading and defiling temples of various religions.  He did not die (Sorry, 2 Maccabees 1:16), just yet–not until 2 Maccabees 9.

In the second letter, we read a summary of part of Ezra-Nehemiah, followed by a story (2 Maccabees 1:18-36) absent from Ezra-Nehemiah.  The point of this account is to emphasize the continuity of worship from one Temple to the next one.

The story in 2 Maccabees 2:4-8 is false at worst and unlikely at best.  (See Jeremiah 3:16.)  Besides, 2 Maccabees 2:7 contradicts Deuteronomy 32:49, where the place was known.

Jews of the Diaspora were family of the Jews of Judea.  Jews of the Diaspora were insiders, not outsiders, despite their distance from Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

That inclusive attitude is admirable.  It is one to emulate.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIUS THE CENTURION

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Identity in Christ   Leave a comment

Above:  The Temple of Artemis (1886), Richard Knab

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Lord, we beseech thee, grant thy people grace to withstand

the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil;

and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee, the only true God;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 216

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Proverbs 16:1-9

Psalm 107:1-16

Acts 19:21-41

Luke 14:1-14

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The teachings and commandments of God may fall on deaf ears for many reasons.  One reason is that they constitute either a real or a perceived threat.  They may threaten ego or economic status, for example.

Ephesus was the site of a temple to Artemis.  This temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  Ephesian silversmiths had a vested interest in the continuation of the cult of Artemis, obviously.

Above:  The Ruins of the Temple of Artemis

Image Source = Google Earth

Relativizing commandments was a common practice in Second Temple Judaism.   Whenever practical considerations brushed up against provisions of the Law of Moses, selective violations of that Law may have occurred.  Saving lives was a frequently-cited justification for violating Sabbath laws, for example.  Christ’s healings on the Sabbath exceeded saving lives.  His Sabbath healings threatened perceptions of righteousness.

Christ’s subsequent teaching in Luke 14 threatened egos, too.

This seems like a good time to quote Proverbs 9:

Better a little with righteousness

Than a large income with injustice.

A man may plot out his course,

But it is the LORD who directs his steps.

–Verses 8-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Wealth and human ego may be the two most popular idols.  I am uncertain which one of the two is more popular than the other.

Properly, a Christian’s identity relies on Jesus, not any other factor.  This is a lesson I grasp intellectually yet not psychologically.  Knowing what to do is the first step in accomplishing it.  Knowing what to do is also easier than accomplishing it.  I am working on this matter, by grace.

Perhaps you, O reader, are also struggling with the issue of proper Christian identity.  If so, do not give up.  Hang in there and trust God.  If, however, you do not have this problem, you have received a great blessing.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF THE ORDINATION OF FLORENCE LI-TIM-OI, FIRST FEMALE PRIEST IN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF GEORGE A. BUTTRICK, ANGLO-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, DAVID G. BUTTRICK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEN UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE POUSSEPIN, FOUNDRESS OF THE DOMINICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE VIRGIN

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF PODLASIE, 1874

THE FEAST OF SAINT SURANUS OF SORA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MARTYR, 580

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Enemies and Threats, Real and Perceived   1 comment

Above:  The Temple of Artemis (1886), by Ferdinand Knab

Image in the Public Domain

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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 life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 2:3-9 or Acts 19:23-41

Psalm 119:129-144

Revelation 1:1-8

John 5:19-47

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God has breathed life into we human beings and spoken to us.  God has spoken to us frequently and in different ways.  God has never ceased to speak to us.  God has even become incarnate.

But how many of us are listening to God?

The words from God can be extremely inconvenient sometimes.  Human nature is a constant factor.  Any perceived threat to the economy (as at Ephesus, in Acts 19:23-41) can become a cause of outrage.  This outrage may lead to a riot, therefore to possible peril for some, such as St. Paul the Apostle and his traveling companions.

Some of the politics of 85 C.E. or so (the time of the composition of Luke-Acts) probably informed the telling of Acts 19:23-41.  We human beings always filter the past through the lens of our present day, even when we recount the details accurately.  The depiction of Roman officials in Ephesus as protectors of St. Paul the Apostle and his traveling companions seems, in the present day of 85 C.E. or so, a political message:  Christians are not enemies of the Roman Empire.

Above:  Site of the Temple of Artemis, Ephesus

Image Source = Google Earth

Nevertheless, Christianity may be a foe of certain forms of commerce–the silver shrines of Artemis, in the case of Acts 19:23-41.  One consequence of living in such a way that one follows Jesus may be that one no longer purchases X.  And one consequence of the growth of Christianity may be that the market for X diminishes.  Some people, whose livelihoods depend upon a healthy market for X, may become fearful.  Then what might they do?

Nevertheless, one needs to continue to follow Jesus.  One needs to keep listening to God.  We need to persist in following Jesus and listening to God.

By the way, the great Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, once one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is a ruin.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER, HER FAMILY, AND SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE ELDER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAESARIUS OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT CAESARIA OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF EIVIND JOSEF BERGGRAV, LUTHERAN BISHOP OF OSLO, TRANSLATOR, AND LEADER OF THE NORWEGIAN RESISTANCE DURING WORLD WAR II

THE FEAST OF KRISTEN KVAMME, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT SAVA I, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF THE SERBS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/14/devotion-for-proper-8-year-d-humes/

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Spiritual Blindness, Part I   1 comment

Ephesus

Above:  Ephesus

Photographer = Osmo Visuri

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-23106

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The Collect:

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus,

you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us.

With your Spirit accompany us on our life’s journey,

that we may spread your peace in all the world,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 6:10-19 (Monday)

Jeremiah 8:4-13 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:73-80 (Both Days)

Acts 19:21-27 (Monday)

Acts 19:28-41 (Tuesday)

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Your hands have made me and held me firm,

give me understanding and I shall learn your commandments.

–Psalm 119:73, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Among the sins of people in Jeremiah 6 and 8 was having an attitude other than that manifested in Psalm 119:73-80.  If they did not know better, they should have.  They lacked any legitimate excuse for their sins, especially those that harmed the vulnerable.  This sinful population reaped what it sowed.

One might wonder if Demetrius, a silversmith of Ephesus, had a way of knowing better.  He profited by making and selling silver shrines of the goddess Artemis, and the spread of Christianity threatened his business.  Demetrius incited violence against traveling companions of St. Paul the Apostle.  Fortunately, the town clerk refused to submit to mob rule.  Judaism was not unknown among Gentile populations in the Hellenistic age, so perhaps that fact deprived Demetrius of an excuse.  Yes, Christianity was young and misconceptions regarding it were commonplace.  Even the Roman historian Tacitus repeated some inaccurate information regarding Christians and Christianity as if it were accurate.  He could have conducted a fact check easily, but he did not.  Likewise, Demetrius could have learned much about Christianity, for there was a church in the city.  He was also without an excuse.

Sometimes we humans become accustomed to certain sets of propositions, even those which are false.  Yet we might not recognize them as being such.  Greed is another spiritually blinding factor, as in Jeremiah 6 and Acts 19.  Righteousness becomes economically inconvenient.  Regardless of the reason(s) for our spiritual blindness, may we repent of it and may God forgive us for it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-9-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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