Archive for the ‘Baruch 2’ Tag

The Prayer of Confession and Repentance   1 comment

Above:  Norman Vincent Peale, 1966

Photographer = Roger Higgins

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-126496

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING BARUCH AND THE LETTER OF JEREMIAH

PART II

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Baruch 1:15-3:8

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

See, today we are in exile, where you have scattered us, an object of reproach and cursing and punishment for all the wicked deeds of our ancestors, who withdrew from the LORD, our God.

–Baruch 3:8, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

N. T. Wright, in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996), explored one meaning of exile.  A population living under occupation in its homeland may experience a form of exile, he wrote.  That dynamic informed Baruch 1:5-3:8.  The original audience lived under Syrian/Seleucid occupation.  The text used the language and imagery of the Babylonian Exile.

Knowing this opens up the text.  Did the author believe that foreign occupation constituted divine punishment for persistent, collective sin?  The answer seems to be affirmative.  However, the author had confidence that God was about to end the oppression.

The prayer addresses difficult issues of sin, forgiveness, and repentance.  It contrasts human sinfulness with divine faithfulness.  The prayer accepts collective responsibility.

A disturbing thread runs though much of American Christianity, whether liberal or conservative.  That is what Norman Vincent Peale called in a book, The Power of Positive Thinking.  Peale’s acolytes are legion.  This fact, combined with human ego defenses, contributes to widespread unwillingness to admit error and seek forgiveness.  Also, the excessive individualism rife in American Christianity does not understand collective responsibility.

The author of Baruch 1:15-3:8 did, however.

The prayer concludes with waiting for God to deliver his people again.  Waiting for God can be difficult.  Yet we have no feasible alternative.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF RAOUL WALLENBERG, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF FRANCESCO ANTONIO BONPORTI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT KAZIMIERA WOLOWSKA, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MARTYR, 1942

THE FEAST OF ROBERT CAMPBELL, SCOTTISH EPISCOPALIAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCAL ADVOCATE AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HOWARD BISHOP, FOUNDER OF THE GLENMARY HOME MISSIONERS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Introduction to the Book of Baruch   Leave a comment

Above:  A Map Showing the Seleucid Empire Circa 188 B.C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING BARUCH AND THE LETTER OF JEREMIAH

PART I

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Baruch 1:1-14

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Book of Baruch derives its name from Baruch, the scribe of the prophet Jeremiah.  Superficially the Book of Baruch seems to have come from the Babylonian Exile.  That is impossible, though.  Baruch 1:15-2:19, for example, is a rewritten version of Daniel 9:4-19, composed after 150 B.C.E.

The Book of Baruch, with at least four authors, uses exile as a literary device.  Consider, O reader, the feeling of being a Jew of the diaspora during the second and first centuries B.C.E.  Living in the diaspora must have felt like being in exile.  Think also, O reader, of the suffering and repression many Jews of the diaspora experienced, occasionally or constantly.  The Babylonian Exile functioned as a metaphor for their reality.

How should faithful Jews live under Syrian/Seleucid rule?  That was the question of the hour.

The pseudo-historical setting of Baruch 1:1f is the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire circa 582 B.C.E.  The text names King Jehoichin/Jeconiah/Coniah of Judah (2 Kings 24:6-17; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10; Jeremiah 24:1).

The scene in Baruch 1:5 is one of priests continuing to offer sacrifices to God at the ruins of the First Temple.  This is consistent with Jeremiah 41:5.

The Book of Baruch accepts the Deutronomic theology of the Babylonian Exile:  it was punishment for the nation’s sins.  Notice also, O reader, the prayer for King Nebuchadnezzar II.  To pray for one’s oppressor may be difficult.  However, one’s fate still depends on the oppressor’s decisions.

The Book of Baruch emphasizes continuity in the context of great difficulty.  It stresses the continuity of ritual, faith, community, and worship.  Kings come and go, the Book of Baruch teaches us, but God remains constant.  The Jewish community must cleave to God and hold together, the Book of Baruch insists.

This is an example of mutuality in God, a value from the Torah.  We all depend entirely on God.  We also depend on each other and are responsible to and for each other.  Western individualism, despite its positive aspects, is alien to the Torah.  The attitudes that anyone can be a self-made person and can act without having consequences for others are heresies.

Excesses of Western individualism lead easily into “God-and-me” religion.  The Bible does contain material about individual responsibility, of course.  However, talk of an individual relationship with God apart from or at the expense of faith community is alien to Biblical spirituality.  “God-and-me” religion is heretical.  The proper context for a personal relationship with God is “God and us.”

The Book of Baruch understands this.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, FRENCH REFORMED MINISTER AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF ALICIA DOMON AND HER COMPANIONS, MARTYRS IN ARGENTINA, 1977

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUILIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF JOHN DARWALL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HENRY DRAPER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++