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"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).

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Anawim II

In the last post the  anawim  came up with reference to Pope Benedict's book, Jesus of Nazareth Vol.1. The  meaning of this word develops with the history of God's people.   The anawim were the oppressed in exile, and then they  show up in post-exilic psalms. These 'poor ones' become part of  some of the most important teachings of Jesus, which we see in Matt 5: 3 ff.    Here is Fr. Stanley's definition of anawim:

anawim (Hebrew), "afflicted poor, designated in O.T. the large class of people reduced to indigence under the monarchy of the oppression of the wealthy.  In post-exilic psalms the term acquires a religious sense, becoming synonymous with pious; in the beatitudes (Mt) it signifies those conscious of their need of God

David M. Stanley, S.J., A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises (1967), 336 (glossary of terms). 

Here is the  'long answer' from Fr. Raymond Brown, and it is fascinating:

"The word Anawim represents a plural from the Hebrew anaw which, along with its cognate ani is a word for 'poor, humble, afflicted.'

"Although this title ["Anawim"] meaning the 'Poor Ones' may have originally designated the physically poor (and frequently still included them), it came to refer more widely to those who could not trust in their own strength but had to rely in utter confidence upon God: the lowly, the poor, the sick, the downtrodden, the widows and the orphans. The opposite of the Anawim were not simply the rich, but the proud and self-sufficient who showed no need of God or His help.

"There is considerable scholarly debate about the pre-exilic origins of the Anawim, and about the extent to which they constituted a class or community and not merely an attitude of mind. But a good case can be made for the contention that in post-exilic times the Anawim regarded themselves as the ultimate narrowing down of th
e remnant of Israel. The concept that God was not going to save His whole people but only a remnant was redefined many times. When the Northern Kingdom (Israel) was destroyed in 722, the Southern Kingdom (Judah) regarded itself as that remnant. When part of the Southern Kingdom was taken into captivity to Babylon (598 and 587), with part of the people left behind in Palestine, both exiles and Palestinians tended to regard themselves as the remnant.

"Eventually, under the catalyst of defeat and persecution, the remnant was redefined, not in historical or tribal terms, but in terms of piety and way of life. The parallelism in Psalm 149:4 equates the people of God with the Anawim: "The Lord takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the Poor Ones with victory." (see also Isaiah 49:13; 66:2). Very often, woven together with this piety of dependence on God was a "Temple piety". The mixture is explained by the fact that the appeal for God's deliverance of His Anawim was made in the psalms, and thus in a cultic setting. The "Poor Ones" showed their trust in God by being faithful to the times of prayer and sacrifice...

"The existence of a Jewish Christian Anawim is not purely hypothetical. In Acts 2:43-47; 4:32-37 Luke describes with nostalgia... the Jewish Christian community at Jerusalem. These people sold their possessions and gave their wealth for distribution to the needy; thus they certainly qualify to be deemed "Poor Ones". Their poverty was leavened by piety, including "Temple piety" for they devoted themselves to prayer and attendance at the Temple...

"In his discussion of the Epistle of James, Dibelius has shown the presence of a dominant Anawim mentality in a strongly Jewish writing composed in Greek quite late in the century. He argues that the traditional attitude of the Poor Ones, seen in Jerusalem Christianity early in the century, continued in the non-Pauline churches of Diaspora Judaism later in the century."

-Raymond Brown, The Birth of the Messiah, pp. 350-351, 354-355, as quoted by Steve Kimes at 
Thank you, Steve Kimes, for bringing Fr. Brown's  beautiful teaching on this subject to our attention.   


A version of this post appeared here June 24, 2012

The Anawim I

Matt. 6:24-34  is a section of the Sermon on the Mount.  You cannot serve God and mammon, Jesus says. After that comes a "Therefore" which is always a powerful word.  "Therefore, I tell you, do not worry ...." Jesus reveals two huge gospel themes in this passage.  1) Avoid the love of money, which is driving force that becomes  a slavemaster who takes you away from God.   2)  Ignore this teaching of Jesus,  and  you are going to be worrying.  You will be miserable.   You are going to have anxiety.  This is the emotion which we call fear, an ongoing dread that something is going to go wrong.    He says, "Seek first the kingdom of God  and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you."   Don't forget this connection between "two masters" and worrying.  Have the right master, and you will have peace.

For an example to follow, go back to the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount,  to Matt 5: 3-5, the poor in spirit, those who mourn, and those who are meek, the so called anawim.   Who are the anawim whom Jesus called blessed?  They are the poor who trusted in God.  http://faithmag.com/faithmag/column2.asp?ArticleID=524      How do the anawim serve as an example to us in dealing with this "no two masters" issue?   Pope Benedict in Jesus of Nazareth  Vol 1  ("J.O.N. I")  writes about the these humble poor, who are prominent in the history of Israel.   Most of God's people in exile in Babylon and coming out of exile were poor.  Israel recognizes that its poverty is what brings it close to God.  J.O.N. I  at page 75.  

Second, for more insight into the anawim, look at the Psalms.    Here from Steve Kimes and the Anawim Christian Community out of Portland, Oregon  are six  passages  from the Psalms which describe  the hopes and aspirations  of God's humble  poor.    htttp://www.nowheretolayhishead.org/anawimscriptures.html     

Third,   Pope Benedict cites  Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, Zechariah and Elizabeth, the shepherds of Bethlehem, and the Twelve whom Jesus called as examples of these poor who were looking to God for deliverance.   Matthew's gospel starts with these beautiful believers.  J.O.N. I at page 75.

The anawim whom we see in these examples from the Bible know that they have nothing to give to God. They are the poor in spirit who cry out to God for his mercy and help.  For the message of Jesus to get through to a person, he must be broken in this way.  God is my only hope.  And he will help me.  
Back to this passage of Matt 6:24-34 for one more point made by Jesus.  Jesus calls God "your heavenly Father" who takes care of the birds in the sky.   He says,  "Are you not more important than they?"   As we  struggle to shake off the demands of mammon,  it helps to  look to God as a heavenly Father who,  if  He cares for the birds of the air,  surely will take care of us. Meditate on the beautiful examples of the humble  poor from the history of Israel, and whom we see praying  in the Psalms,  and also picture the humble  people from  the opening chapters of Matt.who are  Mary and Joseph,  Simeon and Anna, Zechariah and Elizabeth, and the shepherds of Bethlehem.    Here is a clear  theme from  this Matt. 6 passage: God is very  close, a Father to his children. These children are the poor in spirit who come to Him with nothing but their empty hands.  And He alone (and not mammon) is the master. But Jesus reminds us in Matt 6 that He is an unusual kind of master in that culture where the masters had slaves.   Yes, he is our master, but he is also our Father.                          
All of this still leaves at least one question unanswered for me.  How much potential spiritual capital  comes from being poor?  Those of us who are not poor have a duty to do justice, and fight poverty, which is a grinding and miserable thing, and we see from Luke chapter 6 that oppression of the poor by the rich bothered Jesus greatly.   Notwithstanding that, the Pope beautifully offers us the anawim, who couple their poverty with piety,  as a model for us to follow.   J.O.N. I at page 75.  Jesus reached out to theanawim, and I picture the blind and the lepers in particular.  There is this connection between poverty and blessings from God, but there is some mystery to it.    The anawim is a thick area of study, where  amateurs like myself can quickly get in over our heads.  Pope Benedict certainly has a handle on this, and the same can be said for  Fr. Stanley and Fr. Brown, whose writings will come up in the next post.    I don't have an answer to the question which I pose here,  but one thing from the gospels is for sure.  Being rich is spiritually hazardous.


A version of this post first appeared here June 23, 2012

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Gerhard von Rad - Anamnesis

Israel's poetry was "the one possible form for expressing special basic insights."  Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology Vol. 1(New York, Harper & Row Trans. 1962), at page 109.  The poetry made Israel's history present: "It was not just there along with prose as something one might elect to use - a more elevated form of discourse as it were then - but poetry alone enabled a people to express experiences met with in the course of their history in such a way as to make the past become absolutely present." Von Rad at page 109.  This reminds me of the theological idea of "anamnesis" which was the subject of a previous post dealing with remembering - making present - which we see in the celebration of Jewish feasts and in the Eucharist.

There is a powerful lesson here.  Our modern minds have great difficulty making the past present because we live by what von Rad calls "the law of historical exclusiveness." Page 110.  "We have to further consider that in their presentation of religious material the peoples of antiquity were not aware of the law of historical exclusiveness, according to which a certain event or a certain experience can be attached only to a single definite point in history.  In particular, events bearing a saving character retained for all posterity, and in that posterity's eyes, a contemporaneousness which it is hard for us to appreciate."
Von Rad at 110.

The poetic stories of Israel address those "who credit Jahweh with great acts of history."  Von Rad at page 109.   The OT is not a systematically ordered "world of the faith."  Von Rad at 111.  The OT testimonies are not about the faith, but about Jahweh.  "Never, in these testimonies about history, did Israel point to her own faith, but to Jahweh."   Page. 111. And here you find the kind of  beautiful sentences which make von Rad even in translation from the German a joy to read:

Faith undoubtedly finds very clear expression in [the testimonies]; but as a subject it lies concealed, and can often only be grasped by means of a variety of inferences which are often psychological and on that account problematical.   In a word, the faith is not the subject of Israel's confessional utterances, but only its vehicle, its mouthpiece.
Von Rad at page 111.

For the believer this is serious business.  The believer makes the stories of Israel present.  God's call of Abraham, his deliverance of the people from Egypt, and  his revelation of the covenant on Mount Sinai are testimonies for today. The testimonies point not to God's people but to God himself.


This was originally posted Dec 29, 2012. 

Book of Revelation - God is Sovereign

This is the second post on Richard Bauckham's book, The Theology of the Book of Revelation. Bauckham points out that the throne on which God sits is mentioned frequently in Revelation. The throne is "one of the central symbols of the whole book. It indicates how decisive for the theological perspective of Revelation is faith in God's sovereignty over all things."
We also see the sovereignty of God in God's name.  God is the One who is and who was and who is to come, and Baucksham states that we see this designation used five times in Revelation.    This is important because  "[h]aving seen God's sovereignty in heaven, he can then see how it must come to be acknowledged on earth." In chapter 5 of Revelation John introduces "the Lamb, Jesus Christ, as the one who is to bring God's rule into effect on earth ...."

Quotes are from Bauckham, Richard. 1993. The Theology of the Book of Revelation, Cambridge [England]; New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

Throne Room in Heaven - Richard Bauckham

Richard Bauckham in his book, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, says this: 

John's work belongs to the apocalyptic tradition of visionary disclosure, in which a seer is taken in vision to God's throne-room in heaven to learn the secrets of the divine purpose (cf., e.g., i Enoch 14-16; 46; 6o:1-6; 71; 2 Enoch 20-i; Ap. Abr. g-18). John (and thereby his readers with him) is taken up into heaven in order to see the world from the heavenly perspective. He is given a glimpse behind the scenes of history so that he can see what is really going on in the events of his time and place.

The throne is the heavenly temple.  What does John see  from there?  That's where the messages to the churches enter the picture:

The whole book of Revelation is a circular letter addressed to seven specific churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea (I:I I; cf. I:4; 22:16). They are probably named in the order in which they would be visited by a messenger starting from Patmos. ...
Thus the call to conquer, addressed to the Christians in each of the seven churches in chapters 2-3, is a call to engage in the eschatological battle ....

In future posts I will discuss the message given to each church.


Quotes in green text are from Bauckham, Richard. 1993. The Theology of the Book of Revelation, Cambridge [England]; New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lighten Up - G.K. Chesterton

Spiritual knowledge may come  from doctrine, biblical history, and discursive teaching.   But we can also learn and grow from contemplating simple images from nature and  from religious art,   and today thanks to G.K. Chesterton I'm seeing how the saints and the angels, and even the birds,  help to teach the idea that people should "take themselves lightly."   I am making my way through Orthodoxy by Chesterton, and I love this from the book:

Modern investigators of miraculous history have solemnly admitted that a characteristic of the great saints is their power of “levitation.” They might go further; a characteristic of the great saints is their power of levity. Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly. This has been always the instinct of Christendom, and especially the instinct of Christian art

By contrast, the aristocracy, the rich and powerful, take themselves seriously.  Chesterton says that aristocracy is "a slide of men into a sort of natural pomposity or praise of the powerful, which is the most easy and powerful affair in the world."    Seriousness "is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one's self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do."  Seriousness is heavy, like kings with their gold and their robes: 

Remember how the most earnest medieval art was full of light and fluttering draperies, of quick and capering feet. It was the one thing that the modern Pre-raphaelites could not imitate in the real Pre-raphaelites. Burne-Jones could never recover the deep levity of the Middle Ages. In the old Christian pictures the sky over every figure is like a blue or gold parachute. Every figure seems ready to fly up and float about in the heavens. The tattered cloak of the beggar will bear him up like the rayed plumes of the angels. But the kings in their heavy gold and the proud in their robes of purple will all of their nature sink downwards, for pride cannot rise to levity or levitation.

People who are rich in the things of this world will not be able to take those things with them when they die.  This "natural slide" of the culture into praise of the powerful makes no sense.  God is not impressed by the pomposity of the rich.   That is the message of the prophets who brought God's message of justice to the powerful.  And that's also the great message which we are hearing these days from Pope Francis.  Those pompous rich who think that their riches make them more important  than others are carrying a heavy load that is sinking them downwards.  

What about the image of the bird?  Chesterton contrasts the bird  with the stone:  "A bird is active, because a bird is soft.  A stone is helpless, because a stone is hard.  The stone must by its nature go downwards, because the hardness is weakness."    And all of this bring to mind the Sermon on the Mount: 

"Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"  Matt 6:26 (RSV). 

Quotes above from Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton  (London, William Clowes & Sons Limited, 1908) are in green text.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Newbigin - Gospel of John

Bishop James Edward Lesslie Newbigin (8 December 1909 – 30 January 1998)  was a Church of Scotland missionary.   Newbigin's book, The Light Has Come,  teaches the Gospel of John chapter by chapter, but in it Newbigin also teaches you how to think.   He changed my way of thinking by illustrating from the stories of Jesus' opponents that  people have presuppositions which are tough to change.   Only God can change a person. Nobody comes to Jesus unless the heavenly Father draws him.  But conversely, anyone who comes to Jesus 'he will in no wise cast out.'  Jn. 6:37  That is, the gospel is for everyone.   Newbigin compares the worldview of those 'who loved darkness rather than light' to the worldview of the followers of Jesus, the light of the world.   Newbigin respects G John as the  inspired word of God, but he is not a fundamentalist.  One of the sources which he relies upon for his insights is the late Fr. Raymond Brown (1928-1998), who for years was a top Johannine scholar.  Two large subjects that I plan to study further after reading this great book:  1) Jesus and the temple and  2) the  'Lamb of God'  which we see at the beginning and at the end of G John. 

Kingdom Ideas of Jesus - David Flusser

David Flusser explains a difference between the kingdom ideas of Jesus as compared to rabbinic thought of the time: 

For Jesus the messianic period no longer lay as a hope in the future. It had already begun with John the Baptist, and Jesus was now the Messiah. It is also possible to understand how Jesus modified the structure of the concept of the kingdom of heaven. In the understanding of Jesus, the kingdom of heaven became more dynamic than in rabbinical thinking. Since according to Jesus the kingdom was identical with the messianic period, it was no longer, as in rabbinic thought, an eternal suprahistorical entity. It became a dynamic force which broke through into the world at an identifiable point in history. The kingdom of heaven began to break through with John, and Jesus—the Messiah—was in the center of the movement. “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Matt. 12:30).

The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius, by David Flusser and R. Steven Notley. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007, at page 96 (footnote omitted).   With Jesus "at the center of the movement"  the kingdom has a dynamic presence in this world.