Archive for the ‘N. T. Wright’ Tag

The Cleansing of Ten Victims of Skin Disease   Leave a comment

Above:  The Healing of the Ten Lepers, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XLIII

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

Luke 17:11-19

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

“Leprosy” is a misleading and ubiquitous translation of the Greek word for a virulent skin disease.  The condition in the Bible is not Hansen’s Disease.  Nevertheless, I can never forget the hilarious SCTV parody of Ben-Hur (1959), in which the blood of Christ, flowing from the cross, healed the leopards–Catherine O’Hara and Andrea Martin, wearing leopard outfits.

“Lepers”–those who suffered from one virulent skin disease or another–were ritually impure.  The peeling off of skin made the “lepers” like corpses in the minds of their contemporaries.  Socially, “lepers” were corpses.

Jesus accepted the validity of the Law of Moses and the category of ritual impurity.  In Luke 17:11-19, he cleansed (or purified) the ten “lepers” then instructed them to present themselves to priests, in accordance with the Law of Moses.  Yet the holiness of Jesus overpowered the cause of the ritual impurity in these “lepers.”  (For more about Jesus and ritual impurity, read Matthew Thiessen, Jesus and the Forces of Death:  The Gospels’ Portrayal of Ritual Impurity within First-Century Judaism, 2020.)

Only one “leper”–a Samaritan–returned to thank Jesus.

Luke-Acts repeatedly points out faithful foreigners, therefore indicating that Jesus is the Messiah for Jews and Gentiles alike.

Clarence Jordan, in his Cotton Patch Version of the Gospel of Luke (Jesus’ Doings), updated the story for the twentieth-century U.S. South.  Jesus cured ten winos and instructed them to show themselves to the doctor.  The only cured wino who thanked Jesus was an African American.

If you, O reader, were to update Luke 17:11-19 to fit your cultural context, how would the story read?

Gracious Lord, teach me to see with your eyes of compassion, and teach me to love people with your healing and welcoming love.

–N. T. Wright, Lent for Everyone:  Luke, Year C–A Daily Devotional (2009), 76

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 25, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus   Leave a comment

Above:  The Rich Man and Lazarus

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XLI

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

Luke 16:19-31

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

Jesus and St. Luke the Evangelist were what certain modern, retrograde cynics dismiss as “Social Justice Warriors”–“woke” do-gooders.  So were the Hebrew Prophets!  Social Justice pervades the Law of Moses, too.  Social justice is a major concern in Luke-Acts, in particular.  Actual (as opposed to imagined) theological orthodoxy includes social justice.

Consider the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, O reader.

The extremely wealthy man wore purple-dyed clothes.  He, in his setting, practiced conspicuous consumption.  This man did not care about poor Lazarus, at the gate of the estate.  Dogs–in that culture, were filthy, undesirable animals.  They licked Lazarus’s sores.  Socially, Lazarus was lower than low.  Even in death, the rich man lacked compassion for Lazarus, whom he regarded as someone to do his bidding.  The wealthy man had condemned himself.  His sin of omission created the unbridgeable chasm separating him from Lazarus.

The Lucan theme of reversal of fortune is prominent in this parable.

In narrative context, the parable condemns wealthy, haughty Pharisees.  Yet I am not content to leave the matter there.  No, being content to lambaste long-dead people is taking the easy way out.

So we all know Lazarus.  He is our neighbour.  Some of us may be rich, well dressed, well fed, and walk past him without even noticing; others of us may not be so rich, or so finely clothed and fed, but compared with Lazarus we’re well off.  He would be glad to change places with us, and we would be horrified to share his life, even for a day.

–N. T. Wright, Advent for Everyone:  Luke, Year C–A Daily Devotional (2018), 45

Human societies define certain people as disposable and undesirable.  Acculturation may blind one to one’s acceptance of such unjust standards.  One may be conventionally pious yet miss the mark.  Societies need to repent, too.  This is another Biblical principle.

Who are the Lazaruses around you, O reader?  How may you best and most effectively exercise compassion toward them?  How does your society, via institutions, policies, and customs, not exercise compassion toward the Lazaruses within it?  Finally, how can people change these institutions, policies, and customs?

The purpose of the Gospel is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1642

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA, 1867

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

The Sermon on the Plain   Leave a comment

Above:  The Sermon of the Beatitudes, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XVI

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

Luke 6:20-49

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

If the FOX News Channel had existed in the time of Jesus, its “talent” would have lambasted Jesus.  The Woes (6:24-26) would have been examples of class warfare.  Jesus would have been a “woke” Social Justice Warrior–and probably a communist.  To quote a meme from a few years ago,

NO, BARACK OBAMA IS NOT A DARK-SKINNED SOCIALIST GIVING AWAY HEALTH CARE.  YOU’RE THINKING OF JESUS.

Jesus was a social revolutionary.  He comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable.  He died for doing so.

The Gospel of Matthew has the Sermon on the Mount.  The Gospel of Luke has the Sermon on the Plain.  This is no matter; both sermons are literary constructs anyway.  Their importance is their content.  In Luke 6:20f, the poor are poor, the hungry are hungry, and the weeping weep.  Also, the wealthy are receiving their consolation, those with plenty to eat will go hungry, those who are laughing will weep, and those who are renowned will be like false prophets.  The Lucan reversal of fortune is in full swing.

Jesus taught in a particular context.  The vast majority of the population was desperately poor.  The wealthy had either build their fortunes or maintained their fortunes by exploiting the poor.  The middle class was small.  This model has remained current in much of the world, unfortunately.

The gap between the rich and the poor has been growing wider for decades in my country, the United States of America.  The Right Wing has long placed too high a value on property rights and too low a value on human rights.  The moral critique that the United States society needs to value people more than things has remained as valid as it was on April 4, 1967, when a modern-day prophet, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., uttered it in the Riverside Church, New York, New York.  The Right Wing detested him and suspected him of communism, too.

As Michael Eric Dyson correctly argues, the version of Martin Luther King, Jr., many White conservatives find non-threatening is a historical fiction.  King’s radicalism offers a stinging critique of many current conservative talking points.  King’s radicalism still comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.

The teachings of Jesus continue to comfort and afflict simultaneously.  Loving enemies, for example, breaks the cycle of violence.  But hearing that we should love our enemies may afflict us.  Condemnations of hypocrisy apply to everyone, too.  Jesus continues to meddle in our business, as he ought to do.  We want God to comfort us and people similar to ourselves, but to smite “those people”–everyone else, those whom we have othered.  God loves them, too, of course.

As Christians we believe that what Jesus began with the call of the Twelve and the sharp-edged teaching of blessings and curses remains in force today.  This is the shape of the kingdom:  the kingdom which still today turns the world upside down, or perhaps the right way up, as much as it ever did.

–N. T. Wright, Advent for Everyone:  Luke–A Daily Devotional (2018), 17

The world is upside down when it ought to be right side up.  Are you, O reader, complicit in maintaining this disorder?  If so, the teachings of Jesus afflict you, as they should.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS (TRANSFERRED)

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

Two Annunciations and a Visitation   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Magnificat

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART III

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

Luke 1:5-46

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

Consensus among scholars of the New Testament holds that the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke are the that work in miniature.  Luke 1 and 2 introduce themes the rest of that Gospel develops.

Luke 1:5 grounds the audience in time and place.  We read the name of the Roman client king:  Herod (the Great).

Herod the Great (r. 37-48 B.C.E.) married into the Hasmonean Dynasty and founded his own.  The Herodian Dynasty held power (under the Roman aegis) until 70 C.E.  Herod the Great, the Governor of Galilee (47-37 B.C.E.), became the King of the Jews in 37 B.C.E.  He had authority in Judea and Galilee.

Consider calendars, O reader.  Judaism had its calendar.  The Romans had their calendar, which started with the founding of Rome–on the B.C.E./B.C.-C.E./A/D. scale, 753 B.C.E./B.C.  The B.C.E./B.C.-C.E./A.D. scale dates to what we call the 500s C.E./A.D., when St. Dionysius Exiguus introduced it.  I notice that he miscalculated, for St. Dionysius attempted to place the birth of Jesus one week before the beginning of the year 1 Anno Domini (In the Year of Our Lord).  Yet Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E.  Consider the account of the Massacre of the Innocents (Matthew 2:16-18).  I contend that a tyrant who had been dead for three years could not have ordered that slaughter.  I conclude, therefore, that St. Dionysius miscalculated.

I use “Before the Common Era” (B.C.E.) because I refuse to refer to the birth of Jesus as having occurred “Before Christ.”

Much happens, on the surface and beneath it, in these verses.  Some of these are:

  1. We read the identification of St. John the Baptist with Elijah (verse 17), indicating eschatological expectations regarding Jesus.
  2. St. Elizabeth is reminiscent of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1.
  3. The Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2) is the model for the Magnificat.
  4. We read that St. John the Baptist will go before “him” (verse 17), indicating YHWH, not Jesus.
  5. We are also supposed to think of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah (Genesis 15 and 17).
  6. Being disturbed or afraid when encountering an angel is a Biblical motif.
  7. The Holy Spirit is a major theme in Luke-Acts.  It makes its Lucan debut in 1:35.
  8. In Hebrew angelology, there are seven archangels.  1 Enoch 19:1-20:8 names them:  Gabriel, Suru’el, Raphael (who features in the Book of Tobit), Raguel, Michael, Uriel (who features in 2 Esdras/4 Ezra), and Sarafa’el.  An alternative text of 1 Enoch mentions another name, Remiel.  Seven, being the number of perfection, may be symbolic.  Or Remiel may be an alternative name for one of the archangels.
  9. The Lucan theme of reversal of fortune is prominent in the Magnificat.
  10. I recommend consulting Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah--Updated Edition (1993), 358-360, for a detailed, line-by-line breakdown of the Magnificat, with citations from the Hebrew Bible, 2 Esdras/4 Ezra, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus, and the Psalms of Solomon.
  11. Childlessness was, in the culture, always the woman’s fault, regardless of biology.
  12. St. John the Baptist was certainly just kicking (1:41).  Unborn children kick.
  13. Verses 5-56 are about what God did and how people responded.

Underneath it all is a celebration of God.  God has taken the initiative–God the Lord, the saviour, the Powerful One, the Holy One, the Merciful One, the Faithful One.  God is the ultimate reason to celebrate.

–N. T. Wright, Advent for Everyone:  Luke–A Daily Devotional (2018), 89

I agree.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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

Introduction to Luke-Acts   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Luke the Evangelist

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART I

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

The whole of Luke’s gospel is about the way in which the living God has planted, in Jesus, the seed of that long-awaited hope in the world.

–N. T. Wright, Lent for Everyone:  Luke, Year C–A Daily Devotional (2009), 2

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

The Gospel of Luke is the first volume of a larger work.  The Acts of the Apostles is the second volume.  One can read either volume spiritually profitably in isolation from the other one.  However, one derives more benefit from reading Luke-Acts as the two-volume work it is.

Each of the four canonical Gospels bears the name of its traditional author.  The Gospel of Luke is the only case in which I take this traditional authorship seriously as a matter of history.  One may recall that St. Luke was a well-educated Gentile physician and a traveling companion of St. Paul the Apostle.

Luke-Acts dates to circa 85 C.E.,. “give or take five to ten years,” as Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) wrote in his magisterial An Introduction to the New Testament (1997).  Luke-Acts, having a Gentile author, includes evidence that the audience consisted of Gentiles, too.  The text makes numerous references to the inclusion of Gentiles, for example.  Two of the major themes in Luke-Acts are (a) reversal of fortune, and (b) the conflict between the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God.  The smoldering ruins of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 C.E. inform the present tense of the story-telling.

Many North American Christians minimize or ignore the imperial politics in the New Testament.  In doing so, they overlook essential historical and cultural contexts.  Luke-Acts, in particular, performs an intriguing political dance with the Roman Empire.  The two-volume work unambiguously proclaims Jesus over the Emperor–a treasonous message, by Roman imperial standards.  Luke-Acts makes clear that the Roman Empire was on the wrong side of God, that its values were opposite those of the Kingdom of God.  Yet the two-volume work goes out of its way to mention honorable imperial officials.

Know six essential facts about me, O reader:

  1. This weblog is contains other blog posts covering Luke-Acts, but in the context of lectionaries.  I refer you to those posts.  And I will not attempt to replicate those other posts in the new posts.  Finding those posts is easy; check the category for the book and chapter, such as Luke 1 or Acts 28.
  2. I know far more about the four canonical Gospels, especially in relation to each other, than I will mention in the succeeding posts.  I tell you this not to boast, but to try to head off anyone who may chime in with a rejoinder irrelevant to my purpose in any given post.  My strategy will be to remain on topic.
  3. My purpose will be to analyze the material in a way that is intellectually honest and applicable in real life.  I respect Biblical scholarship that goes deep into the woods, spending ten pages on three lines.  I consult works of such scholarship.  However, I leave that work to people with Ph.Ds in germane fields and who write commentaries.
  4. I am a student of the Bible, not a scholar thereof.
  5. I am a left-of-center Episcopalian who places a high value on human reason and intellect.  I value history and science.  I reject both the inerrancy and the infallibility of scripture for these reasons.  Fundamentalists think I am going to Hell for asking too many questions.  I try please God, not fundamentalists. I know too much to affirm certain theological statements.
  6. I am a sui generis mix of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican theological influences.  I consider St. Mary of Nazareth to be the Theotokos (the Bearer of God) and the Mater Dei (the Mother of God).  I also reject the Virgin Birth and the Immaculate Conception with it.

Make of all this whatever you will, O reader.

Shall we begin our journey through Luke-Acts?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-THIRD DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF BATES GILBERT BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN TUCKER TANNER, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF D. ELTON TRUEBLOOD, U.S. QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTOPH SCHWEDLER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MICHAL PIASCZYNSKI,POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

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

Jerusalem a Center of Worship for All   Leave a comment

Above:  YHWH

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING SECOND ZECHARIAH, PART III

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

Zechariah 12:1-14:21

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

Zechariah 12:1-14:21 consists of oracles that use the confusing, prophetic language of metaphor to describe how the reality of the present day of Second Zechariah will give way to the new, divine order.  The texts speak of warfare and plagues.  The texts also demonstrate familiarity with other Biblical books.  For example, Zechariah 13:1 and 14:8 allude to Ezekiel 47:1-12.  God’s decision to raise up a foolish ruler who does not care about the people then to judge that ruler (13:7-9) raises questions about divine decision-making.

There is a Davidic Messiah in Second Zechariah.  One may recall that there is no Messiah, Davidic or otherwise, in Third Isaiah.

As elsewhere in Hebrew prophetic books, God is a warrior in Zechariah 14.  At the end, God wins, of course.  Gentiles are subordinate to Jesus (as in Ezekiel 44).  Yet, contrary to Ezekiel 44 and consistent with Third Isaiah, faithful Gentiles have a role in the divine cultus.

Without getting lost in the proverbial weeds, two major points stand out in my mind:

  1. YHWH is the king in Zechariah 14.  N. T. Wright picks up on this in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996).
  2. Zechariah 14 rewrites Zechariah 8.  At the end of Zechariah 8, nations, having heard of God, make their way to Jerusalem on their own initiative.  At the end of Zechariah 14, though, survivors of the last war must come to Jerusalem, where they become devotees of God.  They serve YHWH, the regnant king on the earth.  YHWH is the king of everything at the end of Second Zechariah.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through Second Zechariah.  The only stop left on my trek through Hebrew prophetic books is Malachi.  I invite you to complete the journey with me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOME DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF JESSAMYN WEST, U.S. QUAKER WRITER

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

The Ideal Davidic King, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  King Hezekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART X

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

Isaiah 11:1-12:6

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

For context, let us back up into Isaiah 10:

Now the Lord, the LORD of hosts,

is about to lop off the boughs with terrible violence;

The tall of stature shall be felled,

and the lofty ones shall be brought low;

He shall hack down the forest thickets with an ax,

and Lebanon in its splendor shall fall.

–Isaiah 10:33-34, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

This, in literal, historical context, is a reference to the deliverance of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah from the Assyrian invasion force in 701 B.C.E., during the reign of King Hezekiah or Judah.  The Assyrians are, poetically, majestic and tall cedars of Lebanon.  The Assyrians are no match for God, we read:

But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,

and from his roots a bud shall blossom….

–Isaiah 11:1, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

This shoot growing out of the stump of Jesse is the ideal Davidic monarch.  To whom does this text refer?  The text, in context, seems to indicate Hezekiah, probably the prophesied baby in Isaiah 7:1-16.  If so, the messianic age of Hezekiah was imperfect, given the continued existence of poverty (11:4), for example.

Yet the text moves on and incorporates material from a later period.  We read of the return from the Babylonian Exile long after Hezekiah died.  One may wonder legitimately how to interpret 11:1-9.

I am a Christian and a Gentile.  I am also a student of history.  I chafe against efforts to shoe-horn Jesus into nooks and crannies of the Hebrew Bible in which Jesus does not fit, as far as I could tell.  Not everything or every other thing in the Hebrew Bible is about Jesus.  When I read in some commentaries that the pious man of Psalm 1 is Jesus, I roll my eyes.  I know that this man is a Jewish student of the Torah, actually.  At the risk of seeming to be a heretic, I assert that the ideal Davidic king in Isaiah 9:1-6/9:2-7 (depending on versification) and 11:1-9 is, in context of the Babylonian Exile and the final editing of First Isaiah, difficult to identify.  So be it.

The text does speak beautifully of a reverse exodus from the former Chaldean/Babylonian Empire after the Babylonian Exile.  The emphasis here is on how God acts or will act through human beings.  This is ground I already covered, so I choose to minimize the degree of my repetition in this post.

A future much better than the one predicted in Isaiah 11:1-9 awaits fulfillment.  The inauguration of the fully-realized Kingdom of God remains in the future.  As N. T. Wright tells us in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996), YHWH is the king in the fully-realized Kingdom of God.  The world, as it is, has gone off the rails, and more people than usual seem to have lost their minds.  These are extremely perilous times.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR, 166/167

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS, 309

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROBINSON, MARMADUKE STEPHENSON, AND MARY DYER, BRITISH QUAKER MARTYRS IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, 1659 AND 1660

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

This is post #2600 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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

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

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

The Vision of the Four Beasts   Leave a comment

Above:  The Vision of the Four Beasts

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING DANIEL

PART VII

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

Daniel 7:1-28

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

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

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

Images of Gods   1 comment

Above:  The Tribute Money, by Titian

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

Jeremiah 23:1-6

Psalm 100

Colossians 1:11-20

Luke 20:20-26

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

The application of imagery reserved for YHWH in the Hebrew Bible to Jesus in the New Testament makes sense, given Trinitarian theology.  Psalm 100 lauds God (YHWH), the Good Shepherd.  YJWH is the Good Shepherd in Jeremiah 23:1-6.  Jesus is the self-identified Good Shepherd in John 10, not one of today’s assigned readings.  Jesus, like YHWH in various Psalms, has primacy in creation, according to Colossians 1:15.

I will turn to the Gospel reading next.

This reading, set early in Holy Week, is one in which Jesus evades a trap:

Is it permissible for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?

–Luke 20:23b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

“Yes” and “no” were dangerous answers.  If Jesus had replied, “no,” he would have made himself a target for Romans, who were swarming in Jerusalem that week.  On the other hand, if Jesus had responded, “yes,” he would have offended those who interpreted the Law of Moses to read that paying such taxes was illegal.

Jesus evaded the trap and ensnared those trying to ensnare him.  Why did the spies carry Roman denarii into the Temple complex?  A denarius, an idol, technically.  That year, the image on the coin was that of Emperor Tiberius.  The English translation of the Latin inscription was,

Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus, Augustus.

Jesus asked a seemingly obvious question with a straight-forward answer.

Show me a denarius.  Whose head and name are on it?

–Luke 20:25, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The answer was obvious.  Our Lord and Savior’s answer was one for the ages:

Well then, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar–and to God what belongs to God.

–Luke 20:25, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The coin bore the image of Tiberius Caesar.  He was welcome to have it back.

Each of us bears the image of God.  Each of us belongs to God.  Each of us has a mandate to be faithful to God in all matters.  All areas of human life fall under divine authority.  Human, temporal authority is limited, though.

One of the features of segments of Christianity in the United States of America that disturbs me is the near-worship (sometimes worship) of the nation-state.  I refer not exclusively to any given administration and/or nation-state.  Administrations come and go.  Nation-states rise and fall.  The principle of which I write remains constant.  In my North American context, the Americanization of the Gospel in the service of a political program and/or potentate dilutes and distorts the Gospel.  The purposes of the Gospel include confronting authority, not following it blindly.  True Judeo-Christian religion has a sharp prophetic edge that informs potentates how far they fall short of God’s ideals and that no nation-state is the Kingdom of God.

We have only one king anyway.  That monarch is YHWH, as N. T. Wright correctly insists in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996).  Jesus defies human definitions of monarchy.  This is a prominent theme in the Gospel of John.  Yet the theme of Christ the King Sunday is timeless.  Despite appearances to the contrary, God remains sovereign.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH; AND SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH AND “FATHER OF ORTHODOXY”

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SILVESTER HORNE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/devotion-for-proper-29-year-c-humes/

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