Archive for the ‘Job 31’ Tag

Zophar the Naamathite’s Third Speech and Job’s Lengthy Discourse   Leave a comment

READING THE BOOK OF JOB

PART XI

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Job 27:8-23; 29:1-31:40

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Zophar concludes by accusing Job of being wicked.  We know from the prologue that this is a false allegation.

Job’s concluding argument (to continue the metaphor of a hearing or a trial) is plaintive.  It reminds me of experiences some great saints have reported when feeling distant from God.  I do not need to imagine what the main three gas bags in the Book of Job would say to St. John of the Cross, the author of Dark Night of the Soul; I can reread their speeches in the Book of Job.

Originally, God’s answer to Job followed 31:40 immediately.  Yet, at a later time, someone interjected another pneumatic pain, Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite.

We will turn to those speeches next.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

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

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

THE FEAST OF GERARD 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 JUSTIN HEINRICH KNECHT, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST, MUSIC TEACHER, AND COMPOSER

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT RAFAL CHYLINSKI, POLISH FRANCISCAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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The Prologue of the Book of Job   2 comments

READING THE BOOK OF JOB

PART I

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Job 1 and 2

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PRELIMINARY STATEMENTS

The introduction to the Book of Job in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), describes this ancient text as a

complex and composite work.

That is an understatement.  For example, the flow of the story at the end of chapter 31 leads directly into chapter 38, but someone interjected chapters 32-37.  Furthermore, chapter 28 seems to belong to the Elihu material, also.  Even if chapter 28 does not belong to the Elihu cycle, it still comes out of left field relative to what surrounds it.

The Book of Job, which most likely dates to after the Babylonian Exile, fits into the regional literary motif of the pious sufferer.  More than one ancient text reflecting this motif exists.  So, once more, the Bible contains literature similar to writings from neighboring cultures.  This should surprise nobody; cultures influence each other, especially when they are near other.

I have no interest in dissecting the Book of Job line by line; rather, I stand back and look at the big picture.  I choose to focus on the forest and to zoom in on some trees.  Besides, this project is not the first time I have blogged regarding the Book of Job.  One hundred-nineteen lectionary-based posts at this weblog contain tags that link them to the Book of Job.  This project is, however, the first time I am blogging my way through the Book of Job from the first verse to the last one.

My translations and guides for this journey through the Book of Job are:

  1. The Jerusalem Bible (1966).  This is my primary translation because J. R. R. Tolkien worked on the translation of this book in that version.
  2. TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985, 1999), as contained in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014).
  3. Robert Alter’s translation in The Hebrew Bible:  A Translation with Commentary (2019).
  4. Samuel Terrien and Paul Scherer, writing in The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 3 (1954).
  5. Carol A. Newsom, writing in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 4 (1996).

Now, without further ado, I turn to the Prologue of the Book of Job.

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GOD, HASATAN, AND JOB

The Book of Job opens with a prose prologue, just as it closes with a prose epilogue.  The prologue establishes the setting in the Transjordan, during the age of the patriarchs.  Yet the Book of Job mimics an archaic literary style and indicates familiarity with Second and Third Isaiah.

This story, told as a folktale, is not historical.  It, theological, is mostly poetic.  The Book of Job is, in the highest meaning of the word, a myth.  The Book of Job is not literally true, but it contains truth.  Part of the interpretive complexity of the book comes from nauseating gas bags (Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite) sounding like passages from the books of Psalms and Proverbs.  They are obnoxious pains in every part of human anatomy, but they do speak a truth on occasion despite themselves.

We read of the lavish lifestyle of Job and his family.  They are spectacularly wealthy.  Banquets that continue for day after day are commonplace.  The siblings live harmoniously with each other and their parents.  The story tells us that Job performs a priestly function on behalf of his offspring; he sacrifices in case any of them have sinned.  Job is a devout monotheist who cares deeply for his family.

We read also of the “sons of God”–in this case–angels, members of the heavenly court.  This is a rewritten vestige of pagan divine councils, commonplace in that part of the world in antiquity.  In this context we meet the Adversary, hasatan (the Satan), who had yet to transform into a rogue in Jewish theology and to become the archenemy of God in apocalyptic literature.

One may recall the story of Balaam in Numbers 22-24.  The story about the talking donkey in 22:22-35 is intriguing, to say the least.  In that story, the donkey, sees the Adversary/the angel of YHWH standing in the road in 22:22-27.  Then Balaam sees the heavenly figure in 22:31. Balaam and the Adversary converse afterward.  Hasatan works for God in Numbers 22.

The Book of Job comes from a time in the history of theology when the Adversary/the Satan was a loyal servant of God.  The job of hasatan in Job 1 and 2 is to test the loyalty of the people of God, modeled here after a King of the Persian Empire, a man who employed loyalty testers throughout the realm.  The Book of Job comes from a transitional time in the doctrine of Satan; hasatan seems to derive too much satisfaction from his job.  Robert Alter points to the Satan’s

cynical mean-spiritedness.

Yet the Satan does nothing without divine permission.  He still works for God.

Hasatan continues to fulfill the role of accuser in Zechariah 3:1, also from the Persian period.  However, Zechariah 3 indicates a shift toward the Satan as rogue:

He showed me Joshua the high priest, standing before the angel of Yahweh, with Satan standing on his right to accuse him.  The angel of Yahweh said to Satan, “May Yahweh rebuke you, Satan, may Yahweh rebuke you, he who has made Jerusalem his very own.  Is not this man a brand snatched from the fire?”

–Zechariah 3:1-2, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

During the Persian period, the Satan came to resemble Ahriman, the evil one in Zoroastrianism.  One culture influenced another one.

The history of the doctrine is objective, documented, and not subject to dispute.  The question of the truth behind the doctrine is theological.  Truth with a capital T does exist regarding this matter.  I think I know what that truth is.  Whether I agree with God is a matter for God to say.

For the record, I think that Jewish theology, under Zoroastrian influence, finally got the doctrine right.

The Book of Job tells us that YHWH allows Job to suffer and innocents to die.  The Book of Job tells us that YHWH permits all this to happen as part of a wager with hasatan, the overzealous, cynical loyalty tester.  Job 1 and 2 portray YHWH negatively.  This is anthropomorphic understanding of YHWH.

Anthropomorphizing God is unavoidable; we mere mortals have our cultural perspectives and carry assumptions.  Yet me must, if we are spiritually honest, acknowledge that God is far greater and far more than we can imagine.

The Prologue to the Book of Job raises a question germane to each of us:  Why do we revere God, if we do?  Do we practice a quid pro quo faith life?

“Yes,” Satan said, “but Job is not God-fearing for nothing, is he?”

–Job 1:9, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The omniscient narrative voice in the Book of Job does not ask why the righteous suffer.  No, it tells us why Job suffers.  The alleged friends think they know why Job suffers.  The titular character rejects their theory and knows who is ultimately responsible for his suffering–God.  The Book of Job does ask each of us why we are devout, assuming that one is pious, of course.  Is this faith relationship that one that mistakes God for a vending machine or a sugar daddy?  Or is this faith relationship one that survives crises and other hardships.

The ending of the prologue introduces us to three friends–Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.  One of my favorite puns tells me that Bildad the Shuhite was the shortest man in the Bible.  (I did not make up that joke.  I do groan at it, though.)  Seriously, though, the subsequent poetic chapters reveal that a famous question applies to the Book of Job.  That query is,

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

I invite you, O reader, to remain beside me on this journey through the Book of Job.  We will hear from Job–the man himself–in the next installment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 22, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT SEAGRAVE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANNA KOLESÁROVÁ, SLOVAK ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1944

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

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The First Oracle of Haggai   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Haggai

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART II

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Haggai 1:1-15

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King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (r. 559-530 B.C.E.) conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  The following year, he issued a decree permitting Jewish exiles to return to their ancestral homeland (Ezra 1:1-4).  The first wave of exiles to return to the ruined homeland (Ezra 1:5-2:70; 1 Esdras 2:8-30; 1 Esdras 5:1-73).  The old, prophetic predictions of the homeland being a verdant paradise of piety and prosperity did not match reality on the ground.  Grief and disappointment ensued.  The land was not as fertile as in the germane prophecies, and the economy was bad.

As of 520 B.C.E., proper worship, as had occurred before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.), had not resumed.  People had set up an altar–most likely in 520 B.C.E. (as 1 Esdras 5:47-55 indicates, not in 538 B.C.E. (as Ezra 3:1-8 indicates).

Construction of the Second Temple began (Ezra 3:10-13; 1 Esdras 5:56-65a).  Yet opposition to that effort caused a pause in construction (Ezra 4:1-23; 1 Esdras 5:65b-73).

Haggai 1:1-15 establishes two dates and three names:

  1. The first date (1:1), converted to the Gregorian Calendar, is August 9, 520 B.C.E.
  2. The first name is Haggai, who prophesied from August 9 to December 18, 520 B.C.E.
  3. The second name is Joshua ben Zehozadak, the chief priest.
  4. The final name is Zerubbabel ben Shealtiel (of the House of David), the satrap (governor).   Notice the lack of the Davidic monarchy, O reader.
  5. The final date (1:15) is September 21, 520 B.C.E.

Haggai offered a simple explanation of why the drought was severe and the economy was poor.  He blamed everything on the lack of a completed Temple in Jerusalem.  The prophet argued that such disrespect for God was the culprit, and that the poverty and drought were punishment.  Work on the construction of the Second Temple resumed.  Surely resuming construction of the Second Temple ended the drought and revived the economy, right?  No, actually, hence Haggai 2:10-10.

Haggai’s heart was in the right place, but he missed an important truth that predated Jesus:

[God] makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”

–Matthew 5:45b, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Haggai could have recalled certain laments from Hebrew literature.  He could have remembered Psalm 73, for example.  Why did the wicked flourish and the righteous falter?  Haggai could have recalled the Book of Job, in which the innocent, titular character suffered.

I make no pretense of being a spiritual giant and a great spring of wisdom, O reader.  However, I offer you a principle to consider:  God is not a vending machine.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, SWEDISH ECUMENIST AND ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID GONSON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1541

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GUALBERT, FOUNDER OF THE VALLOMBROSAN BENEDICTINES

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS SPROTT AND THOMAS HUNT, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1600

THE FEAST OF SAINT VALERIU TRAIAN FRENTIU, ROMANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 1952

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Mutuality in God IV   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Augustine of Hippo, by Ambito Lombardo

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, 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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O God, who in the glorious Transfiguration of thy only begotten Son,

hast confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of the fathers,

and who, in the voice that came from the bright cloud,

didst in a wonderful manner vouchsafe to make us co-heirs with the King of his glory,

and bring us to the enjoyment of the same;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,

ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 134

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Job 28:1-28

Psalm 119:49-64

1 Corinthians 10:1-14

Matthew 15:14-29

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How should one interpret Job 28?  It does not flow from Chapter 27.  “He” (God) in 28:3 has no antecedent in Job 27.  And the identity of the speaker is uncertain.  Chapter 28 sits between Job 27 and Job 29, of the titular character.  Is the speaker Job, one of his alleged friends, or someone else?

The identity of the speaker is crucial.  To know who speaks in a particular passage of the Book of Job is to know how to read or hear that passage.  Job’s alleged friends are objectively wrong on many points within the Book of Job and within the full canon of Jewish scripture.  Yet they are right sometimes, too.  To quote a cliché, 

A broken clock is right twice a day.

A note in The Jewish Study Bible hypothesizes that the speaker is Elihu, a character shoe-horned into the Book of Job between Job’s concluding argument to God (at the end of Chapter 31) and the beginning of God’s reply to job in Chapter 38.  The epilogue to the Book of Job names Eliphz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite (42:9) yet never Elihu.

[God] said to man,

“See!  Fear of the Lord is wisdom;

To shun evil is understanding.

–Job 28:28, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That verse is consistent with Psalm 119.

The trials you have had to bear are no more than people normally have.  You can trust God not to let you be tried beyond your strength, and with any trial he will give you a way out of it and the strength to bear it.

–1 Corinthians 10:13, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

I have heard a consistent misinterpretation of that verse for many years.  

To read “you” as singular is wrong.  1 Corinthians is a letter to a congregation, not an individual.  Individualistic assumptions of my Western culture may lead one to misread and mishear “you” as singular.  Reading the passage in a romance language helps to clear up the matter, too.

Aucune tentation ne vous est survenue qui n’ait été humaine; Dieu est est fidèle et ne permettra pas que vous soyez téntes au-delà de vos forces….

–1 Corinthiens 10:13a, Nouvelle Version Segond Révisée (1978)

Vous is plural, not formal singular, in this case.

Within the context of faith community, all the necessary spiritual resources exist.  The variety of spiritual gifts and the presence of God can fulfill each person’s spiritual needs.  Mutuality remains a theme.

Regarding Matthew 15:21-28, I refer you, O reader, to the category for Matthew 15.  Follow it to find my analysis of that story.

I prefer to focus on another aspect of the Gospel reading.  The dark side of human nature defiles one–makes one unclean–makes one “common,” as J. B. Phillips translated the Greek word.  The list in Matthew 19 is representative, not comprehensive.  One may ask what fornication, theft, perjury, and slander have in common.  They are ways to harm others–emotionally, legally, socially, economically, and physically.  They work against the model of mutuality in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

To tie up the readings with a figurative bow, mutuality fits with Job 28:28 and Psalm 119.  We should shun evil, individually and collectively.  And standing in awe of God (a better translation than “fearing God”) is wisdom.

As St. Augustine of Hippo wrote at length and more eloquently than I write, those who love God as they should can do whatever they want and still please God.  They want to live in faith community defined by mutuality.  These spiritual giants want to help, not harm.  They are in tune with God.

I make no pretense of being one of these spiritual giants.  I do, however, know in visceral, practical terms how mutuality works in a congregation.  I know how to give and receive.  Both are blessings from God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, WELSH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYR, 1610

THE FEAST OF PAUL EBER, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MURRAY, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part I   1 comment

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

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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Job 32:1-22

Psalm 89:5-18, 38-52

Luke 5:27-39

Hebrews 11:(1-3) 4-7, 17-28 (39-40)

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The Book of Job exists in layers, both prose and poetic.  This fact creates complexity in interpreting the text.  The best way to interpret the Book of Job is to read it as the composite text it has become.  Yes, the core of the poetic section of the Book of Job is its oldest portion, but I read that core in the context of the prose introduction (Chapters 1 and 2).  There we read why Job suffers:  God permits it to happen as part of a wager with the Satan, his loyalty tester.  Job suffers and two cycles of speeches follow.  Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite take turns arguing that Job’s protestations of his innocence cannot be accurate, for God, being just, would not permit an innocent person to suffer.  Job argues against his alleged friends, who cease speaking eventually.  Job makes his concluding argument in Chapters 29-31.  God answers him in Chapters 38-41, and Job repents in Chapter 42.  Then, in the prose epilogue in Chapter 42, God “burns with anger” toward Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar and favors Job.

The speeches of Elihu are obviously not original to the Book of Job.  As a matter of the structure of the Book of Job Elihu comes out of nowhere, goes away without any subsequent mention or appearance, and interrupts the narrative, filling the gap between Job’s final argument and God’s reply.

The prose section of Chapter 32 (verses 1-6) tells us that Elihu was angry with the three alleged friends and with Job.  He was angry with Job

for thinking that he was right and God was wrong

–Verse 2, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

and with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar

for giving up the argument and thus admitting that God could be unjust.

–Verse 3, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Elihu is, in his words,

filled with words, choked by the rush of them

–Verse 18, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

within himself.

The Book of Job is also complex theologically.  Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu commit the same error.  The presume to know how God does and should act.  The premise of the Book of Job supports the main character’s claim of innocence, yet not everything the others say is inaccurate.  Much of it sounds like portions of the Books of Psalms and Proverbs, after all.  And Elihu, as he points fingers, does not err completely in what he says, even as he should justly point a finger at himself.

Do we Christians not speak at length about the love, mercy, and justice of God?  Yet does not Job, in the text bearing his name, deserve an honest answer, not the “I am God and you are not” speeches in Chapters 38-41?  The theodicy of Elihu, for all its errors, is not complete idiocy.

Psalm 89, which is about the divine covenant with David, alternates between thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness to the monarch and lament for divine renunciation of that covenant before ending on a hopeful note.  God has yet to end that renunciation, but the psalm ends:

Blessed be the LORD forever.

Amen and Amen.

–Verse 52, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Hebrews 11:35b-40 tells us that many faithful people of God have suffered, been poor and/or oppressed, and become martyrs.

The world was not worthy of them.

–Verse 38a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

They became beneficiaries of God’s better plan for them, we read in verse 40.  Their cases contradict the arguments of Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu.  The case of Jesus also contradicts their speeches.  We read an example of foreshadowing of his crucifixion in Luke 5:35.

Timothy Matthew Slemmons has stretched Elihu’s speeches across seven Sundays in his proposed Year D.  This is therefore the first of seven posts in which I will ponder Elihu’s argument in the context of other portions of scripture.  The journey promises to be interesting and spiritually edifying.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GOTTFRIED WILHELM SACER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ATTORNEY AND HYMN WRITER; AND FRANCES ELIZABETH COX, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/08/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

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Job and John, Part XIX: Alleged Heresy, Actual Orthodoxy   2 comments

Above:  Galileo Galilei

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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 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 30:16-31 (February 27)

Job 31:1-12, 33-40 (February 28)

Psalm 96 (Morning–February 27)

Psalm 116 (Morning–February 28)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening–February 27)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–February 28)

John 9:1-23 (February 27)

John 9:24-41 (February 28)

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Some Related Posts:

Environment and Science:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/environment-and-science/

John 9:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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John 9 consists of one story–that of a blind man whom Jesus heals.  The healing occurs at the beginning of the chapter.  Then religious politics take over.  How dare Jesus heal on the Sabbath?  Was the man ever really blind?  How could an alleged sinner–a Sabbath breaker–Jesus, perform such a miracle?  The works of God clashed with human orthodoxy, and defenders of that orthodoxy preferred not to admit that they were or might be wrong.

Some words of explanation are vital.  One way a visible minority maintains its identity is to behave differently than the majority.  As Professor Luke Timothy Johnson has pointed out, arbitrary rules might seem especially worthy of adherence from this perspective.  Sabbath laws forbade certain medical treatments on that day.  One could perform basic first aid legally.  One could save a life and prevent a situation from becoming worse legally.  But one was not supposed to heal or cure on the Sabbath.  This was ridiculous, of course, and Jesus tried to do the maximum amount of good seven days a week.  Each of us should strive to meet the same standard.

At the beginning of John 9 our Lord’s Apostles ask whether the man or his parents sinned.  Surely, they thought, somebody’s sin must have caused this blindness.  Apparently these men had not absorbed the Book of Job.  As Job protests in Chapter 30, he is innocent.  And the Book of Job agrees with him.  Job’s alleged friends gave voice to a human orthodoxy, one which stated that suffering flowed necessarily from sin.  The wicked suffer and the righteous, prosper, they said.  (Apparently, adherents of Prosperity Theology have not absorbed the Book of Job either.)  Job was, by their standards, a heretic.

Some of my favorite people have been heretics.  Galileo Galilei was a heretic for reporting astronomical observations and deriving from them accurate conclusions which challenged centuries of bad doctrine.  Both Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders condemned his writings as heretical in the 1600s.  Roger Williams argued for the separation of church and state in Puritan New England.  He also opposed mandatory prayer;  the only valid prayer, he said, is a voluntary one.  For his trouble Williams had to leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Also forced to leave was Anne Hutchinson, who dared to question her pastor’s theology.  I have made Galileo a saint on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days (at http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/).  And The Episcopal Church has recognized Williams and Hutchinson as saints.  I wonder what two rebellious Puritans would have thought about that.

Orthodoxies build up over time and become accepted, conventional, and received wisdom.  The fact that a doctrine is orthodox according to this standard discourages many people from questioning it even when observed evidence contradicts it.  Jupiter does have moons.  This fact contradicts the former theology of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.  Should one accept good science or bad theology?  The question answers itself.  The man in John 9 was born blind.  Attempts in the chapter to question that reality are almost comical.  We human beings must be willing to abandon assumptions which prove erroneous if we are to be not only intellectually honest but also to avoid harming others while defending our own egos.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THE EARLY ABBOTS OF CLUNY

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH WARRILOW, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-february-27-and-28-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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