p {text-indent: 12px;}
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, con
cerning the word of life -- the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it ...." I John 1:1-2 (RSV)

"After his resurrection the disciples saw the living Christ, whom they knew to have died, with the eyes of faith (oculata fide)." Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, 55, 2 ad 1, as quoted in D. M. Stanley, Jesus in Gethsemane (New York, Paulist Press 1980).

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Blurring of Biblical Language - Rabbi David Elgazi is Right

Here is a tremendous story by Eliran Aharon and  Maayana Miskin from  the June 30 issue of Arutz Sheva  titled  "RABBI ON DOMA RULING, MORALITY AND ISRAEL"  quoting Rabbi David Elgazi of Queens, New York City: 

The United States Supreme Court was not making a moral decision with its ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, but DOMA is a moral issue nonetheless, says Rabbi David Elgazi, one of the leaders of the Jewish community of Queens in New York City.
The court"s ruling was "more of an economic, civil rights decision" than a moral decision, he explained. "In some ways I understand the decision of the court not to discriminate against a certain group of people," he said.
However, he said, referring to homosexual relationships as "marriage" is a change. "Blurring the lines of language has a very dangerous impact on the morality of society," he warned....He noted that Israelis have to be particularly careful when it comes to demanding "gay marriage." For Israelis to reject Torah law on a personal level is one thing, he said, but to reject Torah law on a societal level could put Israel on the path to ultimately no longer being a Jewish State.


I find Rabbi Elgazi's discussion of this consequence of the  blurring  of biblical language helpful.  He views it as a threat to the Jewish state, which has a tie to Torah law.     I also view it as a threat to the church.   The church now has to fight to preserve that language.  This is not about gay people, or their rights.  By moving toward a redefinition of  marriage the United States Supreme Court confuses traditional and  biblical terminology.   That makes it more difficult  to  talk about  our Lord and to understand  scriptural  family images, such as Adam and Eve becoming  one body, God as father,  son and holy spirit,  the church as the bride of Christ, believers as children  of God, and marriage as an image of Christ and the church.  

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pope Francis - The Temple Today and Ephesians 2

My June 24 post discussed Solomon's temple.  Today  thanks to Michael Barber  I see that Pope Francis spoke about the temple at his June 26 weekly general audience. Here is the Vatican Radio link for the text of the Pope's message:      http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/06/26/pope_francis:_weekly_general_audience_(full_text)/en1-704903   

If you read this you will find that the Pope, who often cites clear and vivid word pictures when he speaks,  looks to Solomon's temple for word pictures of how God has presented himself to our world, his creation.  The temple was all about the presence of God.  The temple building is gone.   But that history of the people of Israel is a living history.

Now, I don't believe that OT temple theology has been replaced totally Christian theologizing on the temple.  The temple has many mysteries associated with it, and we can learn much from Jewish teaching on the subject.   But temple word pictures are prominent in the NT.   We have God's  presence in Jesus (the Messiah of Israel's scriptures)  who works through his people.  Here is a key passage, quoted by the Pope:

[20] built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 
[21] in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;
[22] in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. 

Eph 2:20-22 (RSV).    How does the believer respond to this truth?  The Pope recommends this: 

So I would like for us to ask ourselves: how do we live our being Church? We are living stones? Are we rather, so to speak, tired stones, bored, indifferent? Have any of you ever noticed how ugly a tired, bored, indifferent Christian is? It’s an ugly sight. A Christian has to be lively, joyous, he has to live this beautiful thing that is the People of God, the Church. Do we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, so as to be an active part of our communities, or do we close in on ourselves, saying, “I have so many things to do, that’s not my job.”?
Text from page    http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/06/26/pope_francis:_weekly_general_audience_(full_text)/en1-704903
of the Vatican Radio website 

The message is clear.  If a believer wants to enjoy God's presence, he should not be solo but should  "be an active part of our communities ...."   Take on missional responsibilities.  Mass attendance alone is not enough.  The excuse of "I'm too busy,"  will not work with this Pope.    But the response is not, "Oh, alright, I will do that."  The response of a lively joyous Christian is, "What can I do to help?"

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Temple and the City - The Place Where God Dwells

I am studying 1 & 2 Kings (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible),  by Peter J. Leithart.  I don't know any laypeople who are interested in the temple built by King Solomon, but they should be.  Leithart argues that the history of Israel's temple demonstrates that God overshadows earthly rulers:  

"Solomon’s residence in the temple complex stands as a scriptural figure indicating that all earthly rule, not only Israel’s, is overshadowed by heaven and a reminder that the gospel we preach is good."

Solomon's dedication of the temple marks the beginning of the theology describing Jerusalem as a the holy city where God dwells:

"The dedication of the temple is the beginning of this shift of attention from the ark to the temple and city. During the Mosaic period, the ark was the throne of Yahweh; during the Davidic/Solomonic period, the temple serves that purpose; but in the restoration, Jeremiah said, the whole city will serve as the throne of Yahweh."

God settles in the holy city of Jerusalem:

"First Kings 8 is the climax of the Solomonic narratives in 1–2 Kings and stands out as an event of world-historical importance. Yahweh, the creator of heaven and earth, settles in Jerusalem, in the nation of Israel, and the seven petitions at the center of the passage offer a rough preview of the trials that Israel will face."

Israel's life centered on the temple points to what believers experience from an encounter with the words and  deeds of the Lord Jesus:

"Jews normally expected from the temple—an encounter with the presence of their God, festivity and food, forgiveness and cleansing, instruction in Torah—the disciples come to expect from Jesus himself."  (Citing N.T. Wright 1996a, 435–37). 

All quotes are from 1 & 2 Kings (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) by Peter J. Leithart. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Courage of Moses' Spies

In this excellent online article by Rabbi  Elisha Greenbaum,  he compares what happened with the first set of spies sent out by Moses, a disaster, with the surprising success forty years later: 

The difference between learning from one’s mistakes and replicating them is tiny, but so significant. Think back a few weeks, to when we read about the disaster with the spies. Right at the beginning of their travels, Moses sent them to scout out their future homeland and report on the best way to go about conquering it. They overstepped their mission and, instead of just describing the task that lay ahead, they analyzed the problem and decided they they’d never succeed. As punishment for breaching orders, the Jews were condemned to an extra forty years of wandering.
This week we read about a similar situation, only this time a different outcome came about. Moses sent spies to discover the best way to conquer the land of Yaazer. The spies again overreached themselves, and instead of reporting back to base, undertook to make war on the nation all by themselves. In an astonishing display of self-reliance and resolve, their risk paid off and their surprise attack succeeded.
After the disaster of forty years previously, the spies could well have been excused were they to have insisted on sticking rigidly to the tenets of their task, not deviating from Moses’ instructions by the proverbial inch. …
The new set of spies had the gumption and confidence to aspire for immediate success, and demonstrated that they had truly learnt the lesson of the ages by daring to dream and committing themselves to accomplishing G‑d’s will, irrespective of any dangers that lay ahead.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

James B. Jordan - How to Read the Bible

James B. Jordan says this:

So, I plead guilty to Christocentric exegesis. At least, I plead guilty to striving for it. The Law of the Covenant is at best a crude specimen, as I am all too well aware. To expound the law adequately, we have to ask what this law meant to the people at that time, in terms of the horizon of the Mosaic covenant as a package affair. Then we have to ask how this law was fulfilled by Christ. Then we have to ask how the Church, in union with Christ, manifests the fulfillment of this law. And fourth and finally, we ask what possible relevance this law may have for believers in the new covenant situation. (I believe this same four-fold method is very important in dealing with symbolism and typology, as in the Tabernacle and sacrificial system.) If I live to revise The Law of the Covenant. I shall make this method much more transparent.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

If Jesus Came to Your Town Would He Find Faith?

After Jesus healed the demoniac, Matthew says this: 

Whereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district. 

Matt. 8:34 (NABRE).   

They all came out to meet Jesus who had healed one of the locals.  But we know that after he sent the evil spirits into the herd of pigs  the pigs rushed down a steep bank and drowned in the sea.    The people were fascinated with Jesus,  but they rejected him.  They "begged" him to leave.  

Jesus had interfered with the town's commerce in pork.   Money was more important than the kingdom of God.   After witnessing this beautiful healing of one of their own,  the townspeople had a choice and they decided to reject God.   There is no excuse for that.   But I can't be too hard on the townspeople.   What would people today do if Jesus came into their town and  performed a healing which caused a popular  local business to shut down?  Without intervention by the Holy Spirit, the response would be no different.  After all, we would say,we are only human.     But that’s why Jesus asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Wounded by God

For he wounds, but he binds up;he strikes, but his hands give healing.  

Job 5:18 (NABRE).

Why does he wound us?    One response is that this is a mystery.  Don't try to figure it out.  Just accept it.  Until a believer gets to heaven that person will not see clearly  how and why this wounding took place over the course of life.   That was true in the case of Job.   If you read Job you will see that Job did not get any good answers or explanations for his wounds.  

And yes, I realize that the words of Job 5:18 came from Eliphaz who wrongly thought that God was dealing with Job's errors.   That was not the case.   Job had troubles because he was under attack by Satan, an attack which God allowed.   Eliphaz is stating truth in Job 5:18 having no understanding as to what God  was doing in the life of Job.   But it is truth nonetheless.   As with Job, if we are having trouble it might  not be  the case that this trouble is "chastening"  from God.  We should not try too hard to figure out what God is doing with us.  With these caveats, what can be said about why God wounds his children?  

The Bible describes at least three beautiful reasons why God inflicts pain.  This from Hebrews gives some guidance on the subject: 
[5] And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? -- "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor lose courage when you are punished by him.
[6] For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives."

Heb. 12:5-6 (RSV) (quoting Prov. 3:11-12).  

Believers experience  this Hebrews 12 discipline  when they feel  anxious and  miserable after sinning. That pain from God comes in the form of guilt,  which becomes a blessing.   Guilt may lead to repentance, forgiveness and a changed life.  Based on Hebrews 12, then, we learn of the wound that leads to repentance.  

Second, God may wound his children, even when they are innocent of sin.  He inflicts suffering to teach his children, to cause growth in love, patience and perseverance,   and I have blogged about that.
St. Paul talks about this suffering that leads to endurance, character and hope, all made possible by the Holy Spirit who has been given to the believer.  Rom. 5:3-4.

Third, the Bible describes  the suffering of the king.  God's only Son comes in the line of King David to bring in the kingdom of God.  He died with the inscription on the cross, "King of Jews."  Jesus who never sinned  "learned obedience through what he suffered." Heb. 5:8 (RSV).  The meaning of the suffering of Jesus does have a connection with the Book of Job.  Job and Jesus had something in common.  They were both kings.   One of the mysterious themes of the Bible that I have learned from James B. Jordan is that the king must suffer for his people.   That's what kings do.  The Book of Job does not state that theme of the suffering king directly, as the Gospel of Mark does, but it is enough to observe that the suffering of Job is the suffering of a king.  And a broad theme of the Bible is that the king suffers for his people, as a warrior going into battle.  

The king is precious to God, and God does bind up the wounds with his healing hand.  Job 5:18.   He healed the wounds of Job.   He raised Jesus from the dead and healed Jesus' by giving him his  glorified body.

The work of the king continues in our day.   When a believer continues the work of Jesus, suffering for God's people, as St. Paul did, he is "always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies."  I Cor. 4:11 (RSV).    Paul says this about his work for the people he serves:  "So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer man is wasting away, our inner man is renewed every day."  I Cor. 4:16   (RSV).    Through the Holy Spirit,  Jesus'  kingly suffering and healing continues in the life of believers.