Archive for the ‘Slavery’ Tag

The Demands of Forgiveness and Faith   2 comments

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XLII

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Luke 17:1-10

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Luke 17:7-10 is one of the passages many Antebellum Southern (U.S.) defenders of race-based chattel slavery twisted to argue that the “Peculiar Institution of the South” was compatible with the Bible.  17:7-10 uses imagery from the social world of the Roman Empire.  However, the passage is about accepting salvation via grace and responding faithfully to God.

Faithful response to God is the core of Luke 17:1-10.  Faithful response to God necessarily spills over into how we think of and behave toward others.  Faithful response precludes leading people astray.  Faithful response requires forgiving the penitent, regardless of how often they sin.  Faithful response entails trusting God.  Faithful response mandates humble service to one another in the name of God.  Faithful response entails imitating God.

Jesus is the ultimate example of faithful response to God.

May we imitate Jesus in imitating God, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 22, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN JULIAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF ALEXANDER MEN, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1990

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN LAY, AMERICAN QUAKER ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT LADISLAO BATTHÁNY-STRATTMAN, AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND PHILANTHROPIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT PALLOTTI, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY FOR THE CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE, THE UNION OF CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE, AND THE SISTERS OF THE CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE

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Posted January 22, 2022 by neatnik2009 in Luke 17

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“Come, Lord Jesus.”   1 comment

Above:  Alpha and Omega

Image in the Public Domain

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READING REVELATION, PART XVI

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Revelation 22:6-21

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How soon is soon?  We read that, in a text from the 90s C.E., that Christ will return “soon.”  We may safely assume that John of Patmos understood “soon” be within the lifetimes of many members of the original audience.

The passage of time has handed down a verdict on that expectation, as well as many other expectations regarding the timing of the Second Coming of Jesus.

If we assume Amillennialism to be true (see Revelation 20), we accept that the “millennium” has been in progress for thousands of years.  Given that numbers are symbolic in Revelation (except in the case of the seven churches in the first three chapters), why not interpret “millennium” is a non-literal way?

Details of the Second Coming reside with God.  I am content to leave them there.  In the meantime, I have faithful living in which to engage.  Trying to understand how to live faithfully in concrete terms, can prove challenging sometimes.  I suspect that God cares about how I live faithfully, within circumstances, than about how I understand any detail of an ancient apocalyptic text.

I do focus on broad strokes, though.  Serve only God, who is sovereign.  Reject the bad value systems (exploitation, militarism, slavery, et cetera) of “Roman Empires.”  Stick close to Jesus.  Resist evil.  Trust in the faithfulness of God.

God will handle the rest.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through Revelation.  May something you read along the way have benefited you spiritually.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE MCGOVERN, U.S. SENATOR AND STATESMAN; AND HIS WIFE, ELEANOR MCGOVERN, HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF DAVID MORITZ MICHAEL, GERMAN-AMERICAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF EMILY GARDINER NEAL, EPISCOPAL DEACON, RELIGIOUS WRITER, AND LEADER OF THE HEALING MOVEMENT IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURA OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, FOUNDER OF THE WORKS OF THE INDIANS AND THE CONGREGATION OF MISSIONARY SISTERS OF IMMACULATE MARY AND OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA

THE FEAST OF WALTER SISULU AND ALBERINA SISULU, ANTI-APARTHEID ACTIVISTS AND POLITICAL PRISONERS IN SOUTH AFRICA

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The Pouring of the Seven Bowls   Leave a comment

Above:  The Whore of Babylon

Image in the Public Domain

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READING REVELATION, PART XIII

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Revelation 16:1-19:21

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In this installment, replete with allusions to the plagues on Egypt, God destroys the empire.  As I have mentioned, Revelation is a text that originally constituted high treason.

“Babylon,” is Rome, of course.  Let us ponder the state of the literal Babylon in the middle 90s C.E., O reader.  Reference works tell me that Babylon, ancient by then, had been a great city and the capital of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  These books also inform me that Babylon had become a mere village, pillaged for building materials.  Human greatness may last a long time, in some cases, but it fades, inevitably.

Some Biblical authors–including John of Patmos–used fornication and adultery as metaphors for idolatry.  The Roman Empire was corrupt.  The society was decadent.  The empire’s foundations included slavery, exploitation, and violence.  The Roman Empire was, symbolically:

Babylon the Great, the Mother of all prostitutes and all filthy practices on the earth.

–Revelation 17:5, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Those who identified with, traded with, and accepted the value system of “Babylon the Great” mourn the empire’s fall in Revelation 18.  Yet, in chapter 19, there is rejoicing in Heaven.  God’s creative destruction is nearly complete.

What are the “Roman Empires” around us?  To what extent do we accept their value systems?  If any one of these “Roman Empires” were to fall, would we–you–I–mourn its passing?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUKE THE EVANGELIST, PHYSICIAN

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Introduction to the Apocalypse of John   1 comment

Above:  Revelation Title (French)

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from a copy of the Louis Segond revised translation (1910) of the Bible

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READING REVELATION, PART I

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Revelation 1:1-20

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Rev[elation] is widely popular for the wrong reasons, for a great number of people read it as a guide to how the world will end, assuming that the author was given by Christ detailed knowledge of the future he communicated in coded symbols.

Father Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (1997), 773

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…Revelation does not speak about our time, it does speak to it.

–M. Eugene Boring, Revelation (1989), 62

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THE APOCALYPTIC GENRE

Reading a book within its genre matters.

Consider the apocalypse in Daniel 7-12, for example, O reader.  The author wrote in the first century B.C.E.  He mostly wrote history as prophecy.  But when the author started writing about the future (relative to him), he got details wrong.  This was par for the course, given the genre.

Apocalyptic literature, written in images and symbols, is politically subversive of tyranny.  The genre offers hope during difficult times, encourages the faithful to remain faithful, and contrasts the world order with the divine order.  Apocalyptic literature uses the future as away to address the present.

I lay my theological cards on the table at the beginning of this project, O reader.

  1. I am a left-of-center Episcopalian.
  2. I am a student of history.
  3. I am an intellectual.
  4. I know the historical record of failed predictions of Christ’s Second Coming and failed identifications of the Antichrist.
  5. I tell you, O reader, that the rapture is a fiction from the mind of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882).
  6. I know that Darby’s Dispensationalism, popularized further in C. I. Scofield‘s study Bible, the “manual of fundamentalism,” remains a widespread interpretive system.
  7. I affirm that Christ will eventually return, but only once.  The rapture requires two Second Comings.
  8. I have no interest in prophecy conferences, but care deeply about loving like Jesus daily.

Apocalyptic literature has much to say about our present.  This content remains politically subversive.  That is fine.  I approve of subverting injustice, tyranny, slavery, economic exploitation, and needless violence.  They are antithetical to the Kingdom of God.

Apocalyptic literature is also optimistic.  In the darkness, the genre proclaims hope that God and good will triumph in the end.  Apocalyptic literature, therefore, stiffens the spines of discouraged, faithful people.  Good news of the deliverance of oppressed people doubles as judgment of the oppressors.  The genre invites us to ask ourselves:

Whose side am I on?

In summary, apocalyptic literature immediately moves past preaching and gets to meddling.

THE APOCALYPSE OF JOHN AND RESISTANCE TO TYRANNY

Certain passages of the Old and New Testaments, in their contexts, support submission to earthly authority.  The Apocalypse of John has none of that.  Revelation tells us that the Roman Empire was evil, antithetical to the Kingdom of God.  This is the message that made the text treasonous long ago and still inspires many people to resist tyranny.  One may read, for example, of Christian opponents of Apartheid (in South Africa) drawing inspiration from the Apocalypse of John, even as the national government prosecuted and persecuted them.  Today, in dictatorships, certain Christians are reading Revelation as they emerge in their struggles for justice.

REVELATION IN THE BIBLE AND LECTIONARIES

Revelation is a liturgical hot potato.  The major lectionaries include little of it.  The Eastern Orthodox lectionary excludes the Apocalypse of John.  The Orthodox Study Bible (2008) explains:

While seen as canonical and inspired by God, the Revelation is the only New Testament book not publicly read in the services of the Orthodox Church.  This is partly because the book was only gradually accepted as canonical in many parts of Christendom.  In addition, in the second and third centuries Revelation was widely twisted and sensationally misinterpreted, and the erroneous teachings brought troublesome confusion to Christians–a trend that continues to this day.

Genesis and Revelation constitute fitting bookends of the Christian Bible.  Genesis opens with mythology–the creation of an earthly paradise, followed by the end of that paradise–to be precise (Genesis 1-3).  Revelation concludes with a vision of God, having finally defeated evil once and for all, restoring that earthly paradise and establishing the fully-realized Kingdom of God (Revelation 21-22).

THE ORIGIN OF THE APOCALYPSE OF JOHN

Revelation came from 92 to 96 C.E., at the end of the reign of the Emperor Domitian.  Emperor-worship and the worship of the goddess Roma (Rome personified) were parts of conventional Roman patriotism and civic life.  The Christian refusal to participate in these cults made Christians seem unpatriotic at best and treasonous at worst.  Persecution was generally sporadic and regional at the time, but it was a constant threat.  “John of Patmos” (whoever he was) wrote to seven churches in commercial cities in western Asia Minor.

The elaborate symbolism–including numerology–in apocalyptic literature prevented the uninitiated–in this case, Roman censors–from understanding the texts.

SYMBOLISM AND MEANING IN REVELATION 1

The only instance in which to interpret any number in the Apocalypse of John literally pertains to the seven churches in western Asia Minor.

Revelation 1 plunges us into the symbolic aspect of apocalyptic literature immediately.  Stars (at the end of the chapter) represent angels and lamp-stands represent churches.  Earlier in the chapter, Jesus has white hair, indicating holiness.  His eyes, like a burning flame, pierce to the heart of all things.  Christ’s “feet like burnished bronze” are stable and steadfast.  His voice, “like the sound of the ocean,” is the convergence of the truth of God in the Hebrew Bible.  Jesus holds the Church–then a vulnerable group of house congregations–in his hand.  From Christ’s mouth emerges a two-edged sword (speech).  His face shines like the sun.  Christ is victorious, resurrected, ascended, and priestly.

The Roman Empire may have seemed to have had all the power and glory.  It did not.  The Roman Empire had executed Jesus.  Yet he had risen; his tomb was empty.  The power of the Roman Empire was nothing compared to the power of God in Christ.

That was treasonous, for, according to Roman coinage, the emperor was the “Son of God.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 6, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE EDWARD LYNCH COTTON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CALCUTTA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH ALBERT, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND POET

THE FEAST OF HERBERT G. MAY, U.S. BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN ERNEST BODE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM TYNDALE, ENGLISH REFORMER, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND MARTYR, 1536; AND MILES COVERDALE, ENGLISH REFORMER, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND BISHOP OF EXETER

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Living with Integrity, and Some Troublesome Texts   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART VIII

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1 Peter 2:1-3:17

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Whenever Christians to my right speak or write about what the Bible says about various matters, I invariably roll my eyes, at least metaphorically.  Literalists overlook a documented fact:  the Bible contradicts itself.  Reading the germane texts for what they are reveals that context is key.  If one mistakes St. Paul the Apostle for a systematic theologian, one may overlook the cultural contexts in which he ministered.

The cultural and geographical context of First Peter was northern Asia Minor, the Roman Empire, 70-90 C.E.  The culture was hostile to Christianity, a young, small, and growing religion.  Slavery, and patriarchy were cultural norms.  The author bought into these norms, although he moderated them.  The attitude of submission to civil authority (the Roman Empire, in this case) contrasted with the attitude of “John of Patmos,” who wrote Revelation.  According of Revelation, the Roman Empire was in league with Satan, so submission to the empire was submission to Satan.  Such submission was sinful, according to Revelation.  Not surprisingly, the attitude of submission to the empire (in 1 Peter) has long been more popular with governments than the contrasting attitude in Revelation.

As always, context is crucial.

I argue with much of 1 Peter 2:1-3:17.  I oppose all forms of slavery at all times and in all places.  I affirm equality within marriage.  I contend that one can belong to a powerless minority in a society and still say,

X is wrong.  The social and cultural norms are askew.

I hold that living the Golden Rule, individually and collectively, is a divine mandate, not a suggestion.  Living reverently in Christ (1 Peter 3:15) requires nothing less.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL VI, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK WILLIAM FABER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BRIGHT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN BYROM, ANGLICAN THEN QUAKER POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LANCELOT ANDREWES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER THEN OF ELY THEN OF WINCHESTER

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Israel Forgiven and Restored   Leave a comment

Above:  Joel, the Prophet, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JOEL, PART III

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Joel 2:18-4:21 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Joel 2:18-3:21 (Anglican and Protestant)

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The divine forgiveness and restoration of Judah in the rest of the Book of Joel relies on the assumption that God has been punishing them with a swarm of locusts.  As glorious as the predicted restoration is and as much as I welcome divine mercy, I reject the underlying assumption.

The unidentified invading force in 3:1-21/4:1-21 (depending on versification) will be the recipient of divine wrath, we read.  Again, divine deliverance of the oppressed is catastrophic for the oppressors. We also read that named enemies of Judah–those perennial foes Egypt and Edom–will suffer terrible fates for “shedding the blood of the innocent” in Judah.

But Judah shall be inhabited forever,

And Jerusalem throughout the ages.

Then I will treat as innocent their blood

Which I have not treated as innocent;

And the LORD shall dwell in Zion.

–Joel 4:20-21, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Joel 3:6/4:6 (depending on versification) helps somewhat to date the book.  The verse refers to Philistines selling the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Ionians.  This is a reference to the slave trade.

The Book of Joel ends on a note of divine vengeance against foes of Judah, juxtaposed with a glorious future for Judah.  In this regard, Joel ends like Third Isaiah.

I have mixed feelings about the Book of Joel.  I do not blame or credit God for natural disasters.  Logic teaches a simple principle:

If x, then y.

Given that I reject x, I harbor questions about y.  I embrace calls to repentance, of course.  Populations and individuals always need to confess their sins and repent.  But what if x (the swarm of locusts, in this case) is not God’s army of destruction?  I also enjoy certain passages of Joel, read on Ash Wednesday and Pentecost, especially.  Yet I do not like the book, as a whole.

Thank you for joining me, O reader, for this journey through the Book of Joel.  My next (and penultimate) destination will be Second Zechariah (Zechariah 9-14).  Stay beside me, so to speak, if you choose.  You are certainly welcome.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE LOUISA MARTHENS, FIRST LUTHERAN DEACONESS CONSECRATED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1850

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN NEW ZEALAND; HIS WIFE, MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; HER SISTER-IN-LAW, JANE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; AND HER HUSBAND AND HENRY’S BROTHER, WILLIAM WILLAMS, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAIAPU

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

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Posted July 16, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Joel 2, Joel 3, Joel 4

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The End of the Reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, with the Release of Jeremiah from Prison   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah Let Down Into the Cistern

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXI

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Jeremiah 34:1-22

Jeremiah 37:1-40:6

Jeremiah 52:1-34

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The Book of Jeremiah, in which chronology is not the organizing principle for material, contains various sources, some of which contradict each other regarding details.

  1. You may recall, O reader, that that Jeremiah was in prison in Chapters 32 and 33, and that Jerusalem fell between 32 and 33.  Yet we have jumped back in time to before the Fall of Jerusalem  in Chapter 37, only to read of its fall in Chapter 39.  Jerusalem had yet to fall in Chapters 34-38, as well in much of Chapter 52.
  2. Jeremiah 52, by the way, is nearly identical to 2 Kings 24:18-25:30.
  3. The accounts of Jeremiah’s incarceration disagree with each other.  37:11-16 and 38:1-13 contradict each other.  Furthermore, 37:17-21 flows into 38:14-28.  Also, 39:11-14 contradicts 40:1-6.  Evidence of ancient cutting, copying, and pasting exists in Jeremiah 37-40.  I unpack this point below, in this post.

Due to the lack of chronological organization of material in the Book of Jeremiah, we have encountered King Zedekiah (597-586 B.C.E.; see 2 Chronicles 36:11f, also) already.  We have read his name in Jeremiah 1, 21, 24, 27, 28, 29, 32, and 33, not including the false prophet Zedekiah in 29:21-22.  Zedekiah ben Josiah was the last King of Judah.  King Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.) would have rolled over in his grave to learn of the circumstances during the reigns of the last four Kings of Judah (609-586 B.C.E.)

The cause of Jeremiah’s arrest was either alleged defection to the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians (37:11-16) or unpopular prophecy (38:1-13).  The latter explanation is consistent with 32:1-5.

The copying, cutting, and pasting of sources in Chapters 37-40 creates a confusing, mixed-up, and contradictory composite chronology.

  1. 37:17-21 interrupts the natural flow of material into 38:1-13.  We read that Jeremiah was in a pit for days (37:16).  We also read that Ebed-melech liberated Jeremiah from that pit.  Then, in that chronology, we read that Jeremiah went to the court of the guardhouse (38:7-13), where he was in Chapters 32 and 33.  Then, in this chronology, we move to 39:1-14.  We read of the liberation of Jeremiah after the Fall of Jerusalem.  We read that Jeremiah went to the household of Gedaliah.  We read that the prophet nearly became an exile in Babylon, but that Nebuzaradan, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian captain of the guard, freed him (40:1-6).  We read that Jeremiah went to the household of Gedaliah.
  2. We read of no pit in the other chronology.  No, we read that Jeremiah remained in the court of the guardhouse, except when King Zedekiah had him temporarily transported somewhere.  In this timeline, we read that the prophet nearly became an exile in Babylon, but that Nebuzaradan, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian captain of the guard, freed him (40:1-6).  We read that Jeremiah then went to the household of Gedaliah.

34:8-2 adds another wrinkle to the last days before the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.  We read that King Zedekiah had convinced the slaveholders of Jerusalem to free their Hebrew slaves.  We also read that some slaveholders returned freed slaves to slavery, and that God strongly objected to this.  Deuteronomy 15:12-15 dictates that the maximum period of slavery of a Hebrew was six years.

In context, with the temporary lifting of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian siege, thanks to Egyptian military intervention on behalf of Judah, some slaveholders of Jerusalem thought they no longer had to live or to try to live according to divine law.  Perhaps some of these slaveholders had already kept many of the Hebrew slaves for longer than six years.  The liberation, therefore, was overdue.  Reenslavement was morally indefensible.

34:17-22 ascribes the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. to divine punishment for the reenslavement of these unfortunate individuals.

A major theme in these readings is that, when people do what God says to do, they are better off.  They may not necessarily be more prosperous, but they may be safer.  They will not die in exile in Babylon, for example.  This is an overly simplistic idea.  Staying within the Book of Jeremiah alone, I cite the example of that prophet, who died in exile in Egypt (43:8-44:30).  Nevertheless, actions do have consequences.  People reap what they sow.  Yet sometimes obeying God leads down a difficult path, as the life of Jeremiah attests.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6:  THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT SPYRIDON OF CYPRUS, BISHOP OF TREMITHUS, CYPRUS; AND HIS CONVERT, SAINT TRYPHILLIUS OF LEUCOSIA, CYPRUS; OPPONENTS OF ARIANISM

THE FEAST OF DAVID ABEEL, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND MISSIONARY TO ASIA

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BENJAMIN SANFORD, U.S. METHODIST THEN CONGREGATIONAL MINISTER AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SIGISMUND VON BIRKEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Sin and Punishment   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XII

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Jeremiah 17:1-20:18

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The Hebrew prophetic books are repetitive.  When one reads the genre methodically, one realizes this.  Pardon me, therefore, O reader, for not explaining every repeated theme in Jeremiah 17:1-20:18.

Jeremiah 17:1-4 uses powerful imagery to condemn illegitimate worship at cultic sites.  Proverbs 3:3 and 7:3 refer to the tablet of the heart, on which the divine commandments are inscribed.  Yet in Jeremiah 17:1, those tablets are inscribed with the guilt of Judah instead.  Such a heart symbolizes disobedience to God in Ezekiel 2:4 and 3:7.  Eventually, God will make a new covenant, one inscribed on the hearts of the people (Jeremiah 31:31-34).  For now, however, repentance is not an option.  The sins of Judah, not the reparation blood (Leviticus 4:1-7, 13-20), are on the stones of the altar.

2 Kings 22-23 tells of the religious reformation of King Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.).  One may read Jeremiah 17:1-4 and surmise that 17:1-4 predates those reforms or that his four successors presided over a rollback of those reforms.  Either option is feasible.  The second option may be more likely.

God is faithful and forever.  Even the most pious and benevolent people, those who keep the covenant, are not forever.  The Book of Jeremiah focuses on God and on those who are neither pious nor benevolent, though.

Returning to the imagery of the human heart in 17:9-10, we read that the human heart is crooked and deceitful.  The germane Hebrew word, suggestive of deceit, means “crooked.”  The human heart is the most crooked thing, we read.  This is a spiritual and moral pathology.

Jeremiah 17:11 speaks for itself.

Jeremiah’s desire for vengeance (17:18) was predictable.  I have known the same desire under less severe circumstances.  Maybe you have, also, O reader.

The Deuteronomic perspective in the Book of Jeremiah and other Hebrew prophetic books teaches that the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah declined and fell because of persistent, unrepentant, collective disregard for the moral mandates of the Law of Moses.  This is the perspective written into much of the Old Testament, from the perspective of the editors after the Babylonian Exile.  Jeremiah 17:19-27 singles out violations of the Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:14)–especially commercial transactions–as being emblematic of widespread, systemic disregard for the covenant.

Sabbath-keeping has long been a feature of Judaism and Christianity.  Keeping the Sabbath–a sign of freedom in the Law of Moses–has been a way of emulating God.  On the seventh day, in mythology, God created the Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3).  Sabbath-keeping has always been challenging, in practical terms.  Stopping all work on that day (however one defines it) has always been impossible.  Certain work has always been crucial to perform on the Sabbath, and members of the clergy have had to take their Sabbath some other time in the week.  The Hasmoneans, zealous keepers of the Law of Moses, bowed to reality and engaged in defensive combat (1 Maccabees 2:31-48; 1 Maccabees 9:23-73; 2 Maccabees 15:1-19).  If they had done otherwise, they would have lost battles and lives needlessly.

Sabbath-keeping works to the benefit of people.  Everyone needs to take time off to live.  One should work to live, not live to work.  Structural economic factors may restrict one’s options in keeping the Sabbath as one would prefer to do.  Also, the common good requires, for example, that public health and safety continue on the Sabbath.  Time off is a mark of freedom.  Slavery assumes many forms; one can be a wage slave.

The prophecy of the potter (Jeremiah 18:1-12) is familiar, and popular with lectionary committees.  I have written about it while blogging through lectionaries.  I bring your attention, O reader, to a key point:  God, the Creator, is free to handle His creation as He sees fit.  I am a piece of pottery, not the potter.

People kept plotting against Jeremiah.  Had I been Jeremiah, I would have complained to God, too.  I would have prayed to God to show no mercy on the plotters, also.  I, too, may have rued the day of my birth.  Jeremiah was only human.  God knew that before calling Jeremiah to be a prophet.

Jeremiah made no allies by following God’s instructions in Chapter 19 and symbolically smashing a jug.  That act led to a flogging and a brief incarceration.  Jeremiah suffered intensely and briefly, but Passhur the priest was going to experience “terror all around.” Judah was failing; nobody could change that.

Many people in authority like to maintain their power.  Some of them peacefully resign themselves to the realities of age, health, constitutional term limits, and election results; others do not.  Many people in authority are servant leaders; others are tyrants or would-be despots.  I suppose that nobody in authority wants to hear that the institution, nation-state, kingdom, empire, et cetera, is doomed.  Yet how one handles that news is a test of character.  Besides, power reveals a person’s character.  And, as Heraclitus said,

A man’s character is his fate.

I wonder how Passhur the priest felt in 586 B.C.E., after the Fall of Jerusalem.  I wonder if he remembered the words of Jeremiah and wept bitterly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF NISIBIS, BISHOP; AND SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, “THE HARP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK C. GRANT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND NEW TESTAMENT SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, ROBERT M. GRANT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PATRISTICS SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS OF GETULIUS, AMANTIUS, CAERAELIS, AND PRIMITIVUS, MARTYRS AT TIVOLI, 120; AND SAINT SYMPHROSA OF TIVOLI, MARTYR, 120

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THOR MARTIN JOHNSON, U.S. MORAVIAN CONDUCTOR AND MUSIC DIRECTOR

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On the Pride and Fall of Nineveh   Leave a comment

Above:  Nahum

Image in the Public Domain

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READING NAHUM, PART IV

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Nahum 3:1-19

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I recommend reading the Book of Nahum aloud.  Choose a translation or translations with fine literary quality, O reader.  Why should the Bible not function as high literature, as well as scripture?

The vivid imagery of Nahum 3:1-19 is disturbing.

  1. It describes the massacre of civilians in Nineveh.  The targeting of civilians in warfare should disturb anyone.
  2. The cultural lens of mysogyny in verse 13 (“Truly, the troops within you are women….”) would do more than raise eyebrows in more churches if the Revised Common Lectionary included Nahum 3:13.  Without being a cultural reactionary and a mysogynist, I read such passages through the lens of historical analysis.  A given text includes the words it includes, in a particular set of contexts.  I interpret within those contexts.  Ancient texts may not reflect contemporary sensibilities.  I cannot change this reality.

I can and do read through ancient mysogyny and the explicit metaphors of sexual shaming.  They exist throughout the Bible.  I argue with those cultural assumptions, but I do not alter the texts to suit my sensibilities.  I take greater umbrage to the slaughter of civilians.  Nahum 1-3 tell us that God approved of the slaughter of civilians in Nineveh in 612 B.C.E.  I accept that the texts tell me this, but I disagree with the texts.

Jennifer Wright Knust, a theology professor, a minister in the American Baptist Churches USA, and the author of Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions about Sex and Desire (2011), made a cogent point during an interview with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio years ago.  Knust spoke of perceiving an unfortunate tendency in some of her students.  They affirmed ideas they would otherwise consider repugnant if they did not believe that the Bible supported these ideas.

High regard for scripture is fine, abstractly.  It can be fine in application.  High regard for scripture can, however, easily turn into a slippery slope toward disobeying the Golden Rule.  Consider the long and shameful historical record of parts of the Church quoting the Bible to bolster slavery, racism, racial segregation, economic exploitation, mysogyny, nativism, xenophobia, and homophobia, O reader.  Sadly, much of this remains in the present tense.  Many devout Christians justify the unjustifiable partially out of high regard for scripture.

Sometimes the faithful response is to argue against a text.  Does this passage violate the Golden Rule?  If so, how should one, the Church, whatever–interpret this passage?

The Book of Nahum concludes on an ironic note.  “Nahum” means “comfort” or “consolation.”  Yet there is nobody to console Nineveh (3:7).  3:19 offers no pity:

There is no healing for your hurt,

and your wound is fatal.

All who hear this news of you

clap their hands over you;

For who has not suffered 

under your endless malice?”

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the Book of Nahum.  I invite you to continue with me as I move along to my next destination, the Book of Habakkuk.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOROTHEUS OF TYRE, BISHOP OF TYRE, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 362

THE FEAST OF BLISS WIANT, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR, ARRANGER, AND HARMONIZER; AND HIS WIFE, MILDRED ARTZ WIANT, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF INI KOPURIA, FOUNDER OF THE MELANESIAN BROTHERHOOD

THE FEAST OF MAURICE BLONDEL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PHILOSOPHER AND FORERUNNER OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL

THE FEAST OF ORLANDO GIBBONS, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; THE “ENGLISH PALESTRINA”

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Divine Judgment Against Israel and Judah   Leave a comment

Above:  Clarke County Jail, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia

Image Source = Google Earth

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READING AMOS, PART III

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Amos 2:4-16

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Introduction

The Books of Amos, Hosea, Micah, and First Isaiah (Chapters 1-23, 28-33), in their final forms, bear the evidence of editing and updating as late as after the Babylonian Exile.  Isaiah 36-39, frequently classified as part of First Isaiah, is verbatim from 2 Kings 18:13-20:19, except for Isaiah 38:9-20 (King Hezekiah’s prayer of thanksgiving).  One may reasonably argue that Amos 2:4-5 (the condemnation of Judah) is not original to the first draft of the Book of Amos, given that the prophet had a mandate to prophesy against the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.

The words of Amos, a sheepherder from Tekoa, who prophesied concerning Israel….”

–Amos 1:1, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Nevertheless, we read the final draft of the Book of Amos, last updated to speak to exiles in Persian-occupied Judea.  Therefore, the final draft is the one we ponder and apply to today.

In Amos 1:3-2:3, God, through the prophet (and subsequent writers), had condemned Gentile neighbor nations of Israel and Judah for crimes that were anti-human or against nature.  The covenant did not apply to these nations, but certain standards did.  And God held these nations accountable.  The covenant did apply to Israel and Judah, though.

The motif from Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1 repeats in 2:4, 6:

For three crimes of _____, and now four–

I will not take it back-….

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Divine patience has its limits.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

Judah (2:4-5)

The (southern) Kingdom of Judah had “spurned the instruction of the LORD, and did not keep his statutes….”

That kingdom fell to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 B.C.E.

Israel (2:6-16)

The identity of Israel in Amos 2:6-16, in its final form, is ambiguous.  Israel seems to be the Northern Kingdom at first, given the prophet’s mandate.  Yet, in 2:10f, Israel refers to the Jewish people.  2:6-16, probably in this form since after the Babylonian Exile, applies the text to the Jews of that time.

The condemnations are timeless.  They include economic injustice, exploitation of human beings, slavery, judicial corruption, and other offenses against the common good.  Some details are specific to time and place.  For example, consider 2:7b:

Son and father sleep with the same girl,

profaning my holy name.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

She may be a cultic prostitute, as in Hosea 4:14, in violation of Deuteronomy 23:17.  Or she may be a bond-servant whose rights father and son trample by making her their concubine, in violation of Exodus 21:8.  Sexual promiscuity (in violation of Deuteronomy 27:20; Leviticus 18:8, 15, 17; and Leviticus 20:10f) is another matter in this verset.  This promiscuity violates an oath made in the name of YHWH.  One may recognize applications of Amos 2:7b in various contexts today.

Upon garments taken in pledge

they recline beside my altar.

Wine at treasury expense

they drink in their temple.

–Amos 2:8, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

A debtor used a garment as collateral for a loan.  Exodus 22:26-27 protected the rights of debtors:

If you take your neighbour’s cloak in pawn, return it to him by sunset, because it is his only covering.  It is the cloak in which he wraps his body; in what else can he sleep?  If he appeals to me, I shall listen, for I am full of compassion.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The wine in Amos 2:8b was wine gained from fines debtors paid to creditors.  Exodus 21:22 and Deuteronomy 22:19 permitted imposing fines as a form of reparation for injury.  The rich were exploiting the poor and manipulating the rules at cultic festivals of YHWH.  They were making a mockery of sacred rituals.  Hosea, a contemporary of Amos, addressed such behavior in Hosea 6:4-6.

But they, to a man, have transgressed the covenant.

–Hosea 6:7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The (northern) Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrian Empire in 722 B.C.E.

Conclusion

The condemnations in Amos 2:6-8 remain relevant, unfortunately.

  1. Human trafficking is a major problem.  I live in Athens, Georgia, to the northeast of Atlanta, a hub of the slave trade, of a sort.
  2. In the United States of America, the federal minimum wage is not a living wage.
  3. Judicial corruption continues to exist.  Often, wealthy defendants fare better than impoverished ones.  “How much justice can you afford?” is frequently an honest and germane question.  Many innocent people bow to prosecutors’ pressure and plead guilty to lesser offenses to avoid certain conviction and a stiffer sentence for a greater legal charge.
  4. Bail, frequently not necessary, is a burden on impoverished defendants.
  5. The exploitation of human beings, as a matter of corporate and government policies, remains endemic.
  6. Sexual promiscuity, to which human nature is prone, remains ubiquitous.
  7. Women are frequently vulnerable to powerful men.
  8. Idolatry is another persistent problem.
  9. Injustice is individual, collective, and systemic.

If he appeals to me, I shall listen, for I am full of compassion.

–Exodus 22:27b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  Divine mercy for the oppressed may take the form of judgment for the oppressors.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DE CHARGÉ AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS OF TIBHIRINE, ALGERIA, 1996

THE FEAST OF EUGENE DE MAZENOD, BISHOP OF MARSEILLES, AND FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE MISSIONARIES, OBLATES OF MARY IMMACULATE

THE FEAST OF FRANZ JÄGGERSTÄTTER, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND MARTYR, 1943

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH ADDISON AND ALEXANDER POPE, ENGLISH POETS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MANUEL GÓMEZ GONZÁLEZ, SPANISH-BRAZILIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1924; AND SAINT ADILO DARONCH, BRAZILIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC ALTAR BOY AND MARTYR, 1924

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