Who Am I? Part 8

I study the Bible for my own benefit primarily.  I’ve been on a work binge lately, long days with no time or energy to study.  The sin in my flesh obtrudes, wanting dominion over my thoughts and motives.  Both ʽâbar and nâsâh await my attention, holding out the promise of deeper access and new insights into the mind of Christ.  I’ve had more than enough of the uncertain gossip on my newsfeed.  I crave the word of God.  But I’m putting that on hold to write this essay.

I woke up the morning I began studying for the previous essay with a philosophical insight.  I typed it into my phone before it faded away.  I’ve written before about the philosophical bent[1] of my mind.  I still have philosophical thoughts and insights but usually keep them to myself.  I assume they are the Holy Spirit working out my own particular flavor of ἀσέβεια.  This one seems relevant somehow:

The primary frustration of being a materialist is that the science based on that materialism never discovers any matter, only ideas obeying laws.  It’s absurd, utterly irrational, unless: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

I offer a couple of corroborating testimonies from the “Criticism and alternatives” section of Materialism on Wikipedia for those who don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the relationship between science and materialism:

In 1991, Gribbin and Davies released their book The Matter Myth, the first chapter of which, “The Death of Materialism”, contained the following passage:

Then came our Quantum theory, which totally transformed our image of matter.  The old assumption that the microscopic world of atoms was simply a scaled-down version of the everyday world had to be abandoned.  Newton’s deterministic machine was replaced by a shadowy and paradoxical conjunction of waves and particles, governed by the laws of chance, rather than the rigid rules of causality.  An extension of the quantum theory goes beyond even this; it paints a picture in which solid matter dissolves away, to be replaced by weird excitations and vibrations of invisible field energy.  Quantum physics undermines materialism because it reveals that matter has far less “substance” than we might believe.  But another development goes even further by demolishing Newton’s image of matter as inert lumps.  This development is the theory of chaos, which has recently gained widespread attention.

— Paul Davies and John Gribbin, The Matter Myth, Chapter 1

Their objections were also shared by some founders of quantum theory, such as Max Planck, who wrote:

As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such.  All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together.  We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind.  This Mind is the matrix of all matter.

— Max Planck, Das Wesen der Materie, 1944

My own insight continued:

Though materialism purports to be the idea that posits all of this lawful behavior within matter itself, it is entirely dependent upon the existence of One with the power and patience to keep all of these ideas obeying all of these laws, lest science collapse into a local observation of immediate phenomena: Adam naming the animals.  Instead of establishing the paramount reality of everyday life, science based on materialism transforms everyday life into an illusion.  

Still, I persist perceiving all of this material around me.  I walk on the floor rather than blending insensibly with it.  I breathe the air rather than dissolving amidst it. Likewise I shower in water and soap, and leave the shower distinct from them as they wash away down the drain.  I put on clothes and take them off without the least confusion between them and me.

I also recalled the event that led me to work on The Tripartite Rationality Index.[2]  I had set Psalm 121 to music for a children’s Sunday school class.  The line—He will not allow your foot to slip—had filled me with hope that I was not on my own with my sin problem, until a child dashed that hope.  As I taught the song he raised his hand at the fateful line.  “I fell down yesterday, how come?” he asked.

I told him I would need a week to think about it.  It was a bad week, arguing within myself about how true the Bible was ultimately.  I had thought childlike faith was naïve and gullible.  But I was the naïve and gullible one, getting all excited about the potential “spiritual truth” of an ancient song even as I had ignored the literal meaning of the words.  That was my life at that time, brief moments of faith and hope swallowed up again in a boiling cauldron of doubt.  Fortunately, that child didn’t confront me a week later demanding an answer I didn’t have.

I worked a straight 6 to 2 shift at the time.  I left work one afternoon, waved to a couple of buddies staring out the second floor window of the factory and stepped into an oil slick from a leaky fifty-five gallon drum.  I was going down, my legs doing a split.  Then I threw my left elbow up into the air and stepped out of the oil.

I was embarrassed at the spectacle I made of myself but didn’t turn to see if my buddies were laughing at me.  As I walked on toward the parking lot I began to wonder how I didn’t fall in that oil slick.

I must have lifted myself out by throwing my elbow up in the air, I thought.  Newton’s third law of motion came to mind: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite re-action.”  Throwing my elbow into the air should have pushed me downward, faster and harder.

I must have lifted myself by pulling my legs back together with my thigh muscles, I surmised, throwing my arm in the air stabilized my balance somehow.  As I walked on I realized my thigh muscles didn’t feel like they had done that kind of work.  My left shoulder, however, was killing me.

Only after I stuck my key in the car door did I turn again, look back at the scene and question aloud, “God?”  Only then did the words of the psalm return to my mind: He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.[3]  As I drove home I argued that I wasn’t worth his time and trouble.

As I think about it now, recalling that I had no sensation of being touched[4] by an unseen hand, it seems more efficient to imagine that God—if God intervened at all—switched off Newton’s third law of motion for the time and space I was in that oil slick.  But even that doesn’t account for the crazy thing I did with my left elbow.

Romans, Part 85

I’ve considered, For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth to confirm the promises made to the fathers.[1]  Jesus was the only living descendant of Abraham worthy of the promised land and the kingdom of God at the moment both were taken (70 A.D.) from Abraham’s other descendants through Isaac.  As I write this they have regained partial control of the land and have been wresting more bit by bit from the descendants of Abram through Ishmael.

Manfred Davidmann wrote “that the Jewish people were expelled twice from the country God promised them with their grip on the country weakening at the present time.”  His prescription was that the Israelis should fashion a welfare state more or less like the federal government of the United States of America.  I will suggest that recognizing Jesus the Messiah as yehôvâh their God will better serve both purposes, holding the promised land and regaining the kingdom of God.

Not all the children [are] Abraham’s true descendants, Paul wrote believers in Rome, rather through Isaac will your descendants be counted.”  This means it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God; rather, the children of promise are counted as descendantsFor this is what the promise declared: “About a year from now I will return and Sarah will have a son.”[2]  That alone may be reason enough for present day Israelis to defeat the present day descendants of Ishmael militarily.  But a lack of military prowess was probably not the reason the descendants of Isaac lost the land, and certainly not the reason they lost the kingdom of God.  It was always their failure to placate yehôvâh with sacrifices and offerings (Isaiah 66:1-3 Tanakh):

Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?  For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol.

Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.

Not only that, Paul continued his letter to Roman believers, but when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our ancestor Isaac – even before they were born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose in election would stand, not by works but by his calling) – it was said to her,The older will serve the younger,” just as it is written:Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”[3]  God’s purpose in election is where I can see how the Gentiles glorify God for his mercy[4] is logically dependent on Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth to confirm the promises made to the fathers.  Paul also wrote believers in Rome (Romans 11:5-8 NET):

So in the same way [e.g., as in the time of Elijah] at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.  And if it is by grace, it is no longer by works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.  What then?  Israel failed to obtain what it was diligently seeking, but the elect obtained it.  The rest were hardened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, to this very day.”

I take this to mean that apart from nearly eight centuries of yehôvâh’s hardening Jesus is born among a people who receive Him as Messiah and as yehôvâh their God, and that’s all she wrote: For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?[5]  We Gentiles who are alive today and believe in Jesus would never have been born of the flesh, not to mention redeemed by his grace (Romans 11:25-36 NET).

For I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.  And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion; he will remove ungodliness from Jacob.  And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”

In regard to the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but in regard to election they are dearly loved for the sake of the fathers.  For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.  Just as you were formerly disobedient to God, but have now received mercy due to their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy.  For God has consigned all people to disobedience so that he may show mercy to them all.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?  Or who has first given to God, that God needs to repay him?

For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever!  Amen.

And thus the Gentiles glorify God for his mercy.  As it is written,Because of this I will confess you among the Gentiles, and I will sing praises to your name.”[6]

Romans 15:9b (NET)

Parallel Greek

Septuagint Psalm 18:49

Because of this I will confess you among the Gentiles, and I will sing praises to your name. διὰ τοῦτο ἐξομολογήσομαι σοι ἐν ἔθνεσιν καὶ τῷ ὀνόματι σου ψαλῶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐξομολογήσομαί σοι ἐν ἔθνεσιν κύριε καὶ τῷ ὀνόματί σου ψαλῶ

I notice that as Paul put these words in the resurrected Jesus’ mouth he quoted the Septuagint verbatim except he removed the word κύριε (a form of κύριος), Lord, yehôvâh in Hebrew.  By doing likewise I can hear these words as Paul heard them spoken by Messiah to God his Father the morning of his resurrection (Psalm 18:46-50 NET):

The Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) is alive!  My protector is praiseworthy!  The God (ʼĕlôahh, אלוהי) who delivers me is exalted as king!  The one true God (ʼêl, האל) completely vindicates me; he makes nations submit to me.  He delivers me from my enemies; you snatch me away from those who attack me; you rescue me from violent men.  So I will give you thanks before the nations…I will sing praises to you!  He gives his chosen king magnificent victories; he is faithful to his chosen ruler, to David[7] and his descendants (zeraʽ, ולזרעו; singular) forever.

The Hebrew word translated The one true God above was translated High God in Genesis.  Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of the Most High God[8] (ʼêl, לאל).  He blessed Abram, saying (Genesis 14:19, 20 NET):

“Blessed be Abram by the Most High God (ʼêl, לאל), Creator of heaven and earth.  Worthy of praise is the Most High God (ʼêl, אל), who delivered your enemies into your hand.”  Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything.

To Abram yehôvâh (יהוה) was the Most High God (ʼêl, אל), Creator of heaven and earth.[9]  The pattern is similar in Genesis 1 and 2: In the beginning God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהים) created the heavens and the earth.[10]  This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created – when the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהים) made the earth and heavens.[11]  There is no sense of contradiction or correction in either instance.  I described yehôvâh as “one of the ʼĕlôhı̂ym” because I don’t fully grasp the oneness of the ʼĕlôhı̂ym.

The Hebrew word ʼĕlôhı̂ym is “a plural form” which “refers to the one true God” with a “singular verb…as here.”[12]  Linguistically that would be a oneness of action implying a oneness of purpose, significantly different from the warring gods of the Gentiles, created by Gentiles in their own image.  I don’t have any reason to dispute that God is a oneness in essence, I just don’t know what I mean when I say it.  I know Trinitarians get really angry when I don’t say it.  Holy Father, Jesus prayed, keep [those you have given me] safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one.[13]  Am I looking forward to a oneness of action and purpose or a oneness in essence?  So I wondered if ʼêl and ʼĕlôahh might be ones of the ʼĕlôhı̂ym as well as yehôvâh.  But as far as Abram was concerned yehôvâh is ʼêl.

Moses prophesied (Deuteronomy 32:15-18 NET):

But Jeshurun[14] became fat and kicked, you got fat, thick, and stuffed!  Then he deserted the God (ʼĕlôahh, אלוה) who made him, and treated the Rock who saved him with contempt.  They made him jealous with other gods (zûr, בזרים), they enraged him with abhorrent idols.  They sacrificed to demons, not God (ʼĕlôahh, אלה), to gods (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהים) they had not known; to new gods who had recently come along, gods your ancestors had not known about.  You have forgotten the Rock who fathered you, and put out of mind the God (ʼêl, אל) who gave you birth.

But David wrote: Indeed, who is God (ʼĕlôahh, אלוה) besides the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה)?  Who is a protector besides our God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהינו)?  The one true God (ʼêl, האל) gives me strength.[15]  Much as I would like to see ʼêl, yehôvâh, and ʼĕlôahh as the three persons of a triune ʼĕlôhı̂ym, unless David was writing some I-am-he-as-you-are-he-as-you-are-me[16] mysticism, I think I must accept ʼêl and ʼĕlôahh as generic terms for god.

And again it says, Paul continued, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”[17]

Romans 15:10b (NET) Parallel Greek

Septuagint Deuteronomy 32:43b

Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people. εὐφράνθητε, ἔθνη, μετὰ τοῦ λαοῦ αὐτοῦ εὐφράνθητε ἔθνη μετὰ τοῦ λαοῦ αὐτοῦ

It comes at the end of Moses’ prophecy about Israel’s defection (Deuteronomy 32:36-39a Septuagint).

For the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) will judge his people and be comforted over his slaves.  For he saw them paralyzed, both failed under attack and enfeebled.  And the Lord said: Where are their gods (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהימו), they in whom they trusted, the fat of whose sacrifices you were eating and were drinking the wine of their libations?  See, see that I am, and there is no god (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהים) except me.

Each of us re-enacts this scenario to some degree, trusting in ourselves, the pagan gods or something other than yehôvâh/Jesus until our strength is gone.  I chose a translation of the Septuagint here because I learned something from the ancient rabbis I might have missed otherwise: He is comforted (Hebrew: nâcham, יתנחם; Greek: παρακληθήσεται, a form of παρακαλέω) by our helpless plight.  We do not return to an angry, vengeful God who seeks to return us evil for our evil, but One who is comforted.  And we are his slaves (Hebrew: ʽebed, עבדיו; Greek: δούλοις, a form δοῦλος) not because we have behaved obediently—we have been unbelieving and disobedient in this scenario—but because He has redeemed us with his blood (Isaiah 53:3-12 NET).

He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him; he was despised, and we considered him insignificant.  But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done.  He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed.

All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path, but the Lord (yehôvâh, ויהוה) caused the sin of all of us to attack him.  He (e.g., yehôvâh) was treated harshly and afflicted, but he did not even open his mouth.  Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block, like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not even open his mouth.  He was led away after an unjust trial – but who even cared?

Indeed, he was cut off from the land of the living; because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded.  They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb, because he had committed no violent deeds, nor had he spoken deceitfully.

Though the Lord (yehôvâh, ויהוה) desired to crush him and make him ill, once restitution is made, he will see descendants and enjoy long life, and the Lord’s (yehôvâh, יהוה) purpose will be accomplished through him.  Having suffered, he will reflect on his work, he will be satisfied when he understands what he has done.  “My servant will acquit many, for he carried their sins.  So I will assign him a portion with the multitudes, he will divide the spoils of victory with the powerful, because he willingly submitted to death and was numbered with the rebels, when he lifted up the sin of many and intervened on behalf of the rebels.”

Though He is comforted over his slaves (those redeemed by his blood), yehôvâh’s enemies incur his wrath (Deuteronomy 32:41b-43 Septuagint):

I will repay my enemies with a sentence, and those who hate me I will repay.  I will make my arrows drunk with blood—and my dagger shall devour flesh—with the blood of the wounded and of captives, from the head of the commanders of the enemies.

Be glad, O skies, with him, and let all the divine sons do obeisance to him.  Be glad, O nations, with his people, and let all the angels of God prevail for him.  For he will avenge the blood of his sons and take revenge and repay the enemies with a sentence, and he will repay those who hate, and the Lord shall cleanse the land of his people [NET: make atonement for his land and people].  

And again, Paul continued, “Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him.”[18]

Romans 15:11 (NET)

Parallel Greek

Septuagint Psalm 117:1

Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him. αἰνεῖτε, πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, τὸν κύριον καὶ ἐπαινεσάτωσαν αὐτὸν πάντες οἱ λαοί αλληλουια αἰνεῖτε τὸν κύριον πάντα τὰ ἔθνη ἐπαινέσατε[19] αὐτόν πάντες οἱ λαοί

In context [Psalm 116(117) Septuagint]:

Hallelouia.  Praise the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה), all you nations!  Commend him, all you peoples, because his mercy became strong toward us, and the truth of the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) endures forever.

And again Isaiah says, Paul continued, “The root of Jesse will come, and the one who rises to rule over the Gentiles, in him will the Gentiles hope.”[20]

Romans 15:12 (NET)

Parallel Greek

Septuagint Isaiah 11:10a

The root of Jesse will come, and the one who rises to rule over the Gentiles, in him will the Gentiles hope. ἔσται ἡ ρίζα τοῦ Ἰεσσαὶ καὶ ὁ ἀνιστάμενος ἄρχειν ἐθνῶν, ἐπ᾿ αὐτῷ ἔθνη ἐλπιοῦσιν ἔσται ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ (a form of ἐκεῖνος) ἡ ῥίζα τοῦ Ιεσσαι καὶ ὁ ἀνιστάμενος ἄρχειν ἐθνῶν ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ ἔθνη ἐλπιοῦσιν

In context (Isaiah 11:10-13 Septuagint):

And it shall be on that day [ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ; e.g., when asps will not hurt or be able to destroy anyone on my holy mountain, vv. 8, 9] the root of Iessai [e.g., Jessie], even the one who stands up to rule nations; nations shall hope in him, and his rest shall be honor.  And it shall be on that day that the Lord (ʼădônây, אדני) will further display his hand to show zeal for the remnant that is left of the people, whatever is left from the Assyrians, and from Egypt and Babylonia and Ethiopia and from the Ailamites and from where the sun rises and out of Arabia.  And he will raise a signal for the nations and will gather the lost ones of Israel and gather the dispersed of Ioudas (e.g., Judah, the southern kingdom) from the four points of the earth.  And the jealousy of Ephraim (e.g., the northern kingdom of divided Israel) shall be taken away, and the enemies of Ioudas shall perish; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Ioudas, and Ioudas shall not afflict Ephraim.

Now may the God of hope, Paul continued, fill you with all joy (χαρᾶς, a form of χαρά) and peace (εἰρήνης, a form of εἰρήνη) as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.[21]  And, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy (χαρὰ, another form of χαρά), peace (εἰρήνη), patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.[22]

Romans, Part 86

[1] Romans 15:8 (NET)

[2] Romans 9:7-9 (NET)

[3] Romans 9:10-12 (NET)

[4] Romans 15:9a (NET)

[5] Romans 11:15 (NET)

[6] Romans 15:9 (NET)

[7] 2 Samuel 7:12-16 (NET)

[8] Genesis 14:18 (NET)

[9] Genesis 14:22 (NET)

[10] Genesis 1:1 (NET)

[11] Genesis 2:4 (NET)

[12] NET note 2

[13] John 17:11b (NET)

[14] NET note 32: “Jeshurun is a term of affection derived from the Hebrew verb יָשַׁר (yashar, ‘be upright’).  Here it speaks of Israel ‘in an ideal situation, with its “uprightness” due more to God’s help than his own efforts’ (M. Mulder, TDOT 6:475).”

[15] Psalm 18:31, 32a (NET)

[16] http://www.metrolyrics.com/i-am-the-walrus-lyrics-beatles.html

[17] Romans 15:10 (NET)

[18] Romans 15:11 (NET)

[19] http://biblehub.com/text/romans/15-11.htm

[20] Romans 15:12 (NET)

[21] Romans 15:13 (NET)

[22] Galatians 5:22, 23 (NET)

Romans, Part 55

I am continuing my attempt to view—Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord[1]—as a definition of love (ἀγάπη) rather than as rules.  This particular essay is focused on the story of Jesus feeding five thousand plus people in the light of his assessment of the Jewish authorities (Ἰουδαῖοι) as an answer to how the Father seeking his own is not self-seeking.  I don’t know the official status of the “Jewish authorities.”

The  Ἰουδαῖοι (translated, Jewish leaders) sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask [John the Baptist], “Who are you?”[2]  I’ve assumed that the Ἰουδαῖοι called out the big guns (though they may have sent their servants to do their bidding).  In the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman John explained, For Jews ( Ἰουδαῖοι) use nothing in common with Samaritans.[3]  This sounds like a description of “Jewishness.”  The  Ἰουδαῖοι (translated, Jewish leaders) said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and you are not permitted to carry your mat.”[4]  The healed man didn’t immediately drop his mat, but he didn’t blow off the Ἰουδαῖοι completely either.  He felt obliged to answer their charges in some fashion, at least to turn their gaze (and wrath) toward Jesus.

I certainly think of the Jewishness of the moment as the true adversary in this story (and perhaps all of John’s gospel narrative).  I might be more accurate to call these “authorities” accepted exemplars of then current Jewishness, but I’ll probably stick with  Ἰουδαῖοι for now.

It’s getting pretty deep here.  I need to remind myself what is at stake just to follow through with this level of detail.  First is my own issue:  Rules leap off the page and dance lewdly before my eyes.  Love and grace have always been more difficult for me to see in the Bible.  I’ve already written about how 1 Corinthians served to undo almost everything I thought I had learned in Romans.  Perceiving Romans 12:9-21 as rules to be obeyed clearly began that process.

My reason these days almost shouts, “Of course these are definitions of love.  How could the one who said of God’s law— no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law[5]—turn back, institute his own rules and expect any sane person to take him seriously?”  My experience of human nature, however, argues that we perceive that fault in others of which we are most guilty.  It makes perfect sense then that one who accused others of ignoring the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking instead to establish their own righteousness[6] would deny the efficacy of God’s law vis-a-vis righteousness only to establish his own rules of righteousness.  These arguments are mutually canceling.  I need to do the work studying the words to find the love and grace embedded in these apparent rules.

Here I want to recount what Jesus said about the  Ἰουδαῖοι of the only God-ordained religion on the planet[7]:

1) You people have never heard [the Father’s] voice nor seen his form at any time, nor do you have his word residing in you, because you do not believe the one whom he sent.[8]

2) You study the scriptures thoroughlyit is these same scriptures that testify about me, but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life.[9]

3) If you believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me.[10]

On point number 3 I want to clarify my own thinking.  The Bible begins: In the beginning ʼĕlôhı̂ym created the heavens and the earth.[11]  Then in chapter 2 one of the ʼĕlôhı̂ym is specified: This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created – when the yehôvâh ʼĕlôhı̂ym made the earth and heavens.[12]  From this point on the Bible becomes his story.  If you believe (as I did) that yehôvâh ʼĕlôhı̂ym corresponds to the Father in the New Testament, Eric Chabot has an article online detailing the few times Moses wrote about Jesus.

These days I am thinking that yehôvâh ʼĕlôhı̂ym corresponds to the Son in the New Testament.  I think that was Jesus’ point when He said, I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am![13]  God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) said to Moses, “I am (hâyâh) that I am.”  And he said, “You must say this to the Israelites, ‘I am (hâyâh) has sent me to you.’”  God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) also said to Moses, “You must say this to the Israelites, ‘The Lord (yehôvâh)– the God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) of your fathers, the God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) of Abraham, the God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) of Isaac, and the God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) of Jacob – has sent me to you.  This is my name forever, and this is my memorial from generation to generation.’”[14]

I think this was John’s point when he penned: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God.  The Word was with God in the beginning.  All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.[15]  Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us.  We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.[16]

And I think this was Paul’s point when he prophesied of Jesus: who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.  He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!  As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.[17]

What this means to me here is that I take Eric Chabot’s list and add virtually everything else Moses wrote to it.  In this light I’ll continue to look into the feeding of the five thousand men plus women and children.

Jesus and his disciples left by boat for an isolated place outside of BethsaidaBut when the crowd heard about it, they followed him on foot from the towns, and arrived there ahead of them.  John added the reason they followed Him: they were observing (ἐθεώρουν, a form of θεωρέω) the miraculous signs (σημεῖα, a form of σημεῖον) he was performing on the sick.

Matthew Mark Luke

John

Now when Jesus heard this he went away from there privately in a boat to an isolated place.

Matthew 14:13a (NET)

Then the apostles gathered around Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught.  He said to them, “Come with me privately to an isolated place and rest a while” (for many were coming and going, and there was no time to eat).  So they went away by themselves in a boat to some remote place.

Mark 6:30-32 (NET)

When the apostles returned, they told Jesus everything they had done.  Then he took them with him and they withdrew privately to a town called Bethsaida.

Luke 9:10 (NET)

After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (also called the Sea of Tiberias).

John 6:1 (NET)

But when the crowd heard about it, they followed him on foot from the towns.

 Matthew 14:13b (NET)

But many saw them leaving and recognized them, and they hurried on foot from all the towns and arrived there ahead of them.

Mark 6:33 (NET)

But when the crowds found out, they followed him.

Luke 9:11a (NET)

A large crowd was following him because they were observing the miraculous signs he was performing on the sick.

John 6:2 (NET)

Though Jesus had gone away with his disciples for rest and perhaps an opportunity to grieve,[18] when He got out of the boat he saw the large crowd, and he had compassion on themHe welcomed them, spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and cured those who needed healing.  He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd (ποιμένα, a form of ποιμήν).

Matthew

Mark

Luke

As he got out he saw the large crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Matthew 14:14 (NET)

As Jesus came ashore he saw the large crowd and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So he taught them many things.

Mark 6:34 (NET)

He welcomed them, spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and cured those who needed healing.

Luke 9:11b (NET)

The people had many  Ἰουδαῖοι who did not have God’s word residing in them,  though the  Ἰουδαῖοι studied the Old Testament scriptures thoroughly, because they thought in them they possessed eternal life.  The  Ἰουδαῖοι functioned as thought police not as shepherds of the people.  Thought police exert their influence from the outside.  Shepherds feed the sheep.

I didn’t always recognize this distinction.  I remembered that the good shepherd breaks the legs of lambs that wander away from the flock.  I had to decide whether I would believe the shepherd lore I was taught as a child or the Word of God, as shepherds must decide whether they will feed the lambs shepherd lore or the Word of God (John 21:15-17 NET).

Then when they had finished breakfast [that Jesus had prepared for them], Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love (ἀγαπᾷς, a form of ἀγαπάω) me more than these do?”  He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love (φιλῶ, a form of φιλέω) you.”  Jesus told him, “Feed (βόσκε, a form of βόσκω) my lambs.”  Jesus said a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (ἀγαπᾷς, a form of ἀγαπάω) me?”  He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love (φιλῶ, a form of φιλέω) you.”  Jesus told him, “Shepherd (ποίμαινε, a form of ποιμαίνω) my sheep.”  Jesus said a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (φιλεῖς, another form of φιλέω) me?”  Peter was distressed that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love (φιλεῖς, another form of φιλέω) me?” and said, “Lord, you know everything.  You know that I love (φιλῶ, a form of φιλέω) you.”  Jesus replied, “Feed (βόσκε, a form of βόσκω) my sheep.

The Word of God does its work from the inside, unleashing the power of God (Hebrews 13:20, 21 NET):

Now may the God of peace who by the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead the great shepherd (ποιμένα, a form of ποιμήν) of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, equip (καταρτίσαι, a form of καταρτίζω) you with every good thing (ἀγαθῷ, a form of ἀγαθός) to do (ποιῆσαι, a form of ποιέω) his will, working (ποιῶν, another form of ποιέω; in other words doing) in us what is pleasing before him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever.  Amen.

And, of course, every shepherd must decide for himself whether he trusts God’s power enough to forego leg-breaking and thought police (Hebrews 13:20, 21 CEV).

God gives peace, and he raised our Lord Jesus Christ from death.  Now Jesus is like a Great Shepherd whose blood was used to make God’s eternal agreement with his flock.  I pray that God will make you ready to obey him and that you will always be eager to do right.  May Jesus help you do what pleases God.  To Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever!  Amen.

Here, I think, is a prime example of Bible translation as interpretation tailored to fit a lesser[19] confidence in God’s power.  My obedience is the real key.  And I think it entirely fair to ask why Jesus, who only mayhelp, should rob me of my glory for my obedience.  This is the second-chance-gospel I grew up believing, a second chance to keep the law.  It is not God Himself doing in us what is pleasing before Him.

When evening arrived, [Jesus’] disciples came to him saying, “This is an isolated place and the hour is already late.  Send the crowds away so that they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”  But he replied, “They don’t need to go.  You give them something to eat.”  On this Matthew, Mark and Luke agree.

Matthew Mark

Luke

When evening arrived, his disciples came to him saying, “This is an isolated place and the hour is already late.  Send the crowds away so that they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”  But he replied, “They don’t need to go.  You give them something to eat.”

Matthew 14:15, 16 (NET)

When it was already late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is an isolated place and it is already very late.  Send them away so that they can go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.”  But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.”

Mark 6:35-37a (NET)

Now the day began to draw to a close, so the twelve came and said to Jesus, “Send the crowd away, so they can go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and food, because we are in an isolated place.”  But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.”

Luke 9:12, 13a (NET)

It left me with the impression that after Jesus spent a long day doing the will of the one who sent[20] Him, having food to eat that they knew nothing about,[21] it fell to his disciples to consider the practical matter of feeding so many hungry people.  But as I turn to John’s Gospel narrative I think this is precisely the false impression he wrote to correct.

John didn’t reiterate that Jesus healed the sick or taught the people many things about the kingdom of God.  That had been written already.  He wrote that Jesus went on up the mountainside and sat down there with his disciples.[22]  Then Jesus, when he looked up and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread so that these people may eat?”  (Now Jesus said this to test him, for he knew what he was going to do.)[23]

Jesus was concerned about feeding the people from the very moment he saw them following him because they were observing the miraculous signs he was performing on the sick.  It is exactly what He had promised them in the name of his Father (Matthew 6:25-33 NET):

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing?  Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Aren’t you more valuable than they are?  And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life?  Why do you worry about clothing?  Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these!  And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith (ὀλιγόπιστοι, a form of ὀλιγόπιστος)?  So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

I’ll take this up again in the next essay.

Jesus the Leg-breaker, Part 1

Romans, Part 56

Back to Romans, Part 57

Back to Romans, Part 58

Back to Romans, Part 60

Back to Romans, Part 70

Back to Romans, Part 73

Back to Romans, Part 78

Back to Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited – Part 1

Back to Romans, Part 85

Back to To Make Holy, Part 2

Back to Who Am I? Part 7

Back to Romans, Part 88

[1] Romans 12:11 (NET)

[2] John 1:19 (NET)

[3] John 4:9b (NET)

[4] John 5:10  (NET)

[5] Romans 3:20a (NET)

[6] Romans 10:3a (NET)

[7] I am beginning to think that might be overstated.  Don Richardson, for instance, might argue that with me.  I would listen to him, but for now I will stick with this understanding of the Old Testament.

[8] John 5:37b, 38 (NET)

[9] John 5:39, 40 (NET)

[10] John 5:46 (NET)

[11] Genesis 1:1 (NET)

[12] Genesis 2:4 (NET)

[13] John 8:58 (NET)

[14] Exodus 3:14, 15 (NET)

[15] John 1:1-3 (NET)

[16] John 1:14 (NET)

[17] Philippians 2:6-11 (NET)

[18] John 14:10-13 (NET)

[19] 2 Timothy 3:5 (NET)

[20] John 4:34 (NET)

[21] John 4:32 (NET)

[22] John 6:3 (NET)

[23] John 6:5, 6 (NET)

Fear – Exodus, Part 6

The Lord spoke to Moses: “Go quickly, descend, because your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have acted corruptly.  They have quickly turned aside from the way that I commanded them – they have made for themselves a molten calf and have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt.’”[1]

What follows is the classic story of the jealous Jehovah dissuaded by the brave hero Moses from carrying out his “evil” wrath on the descendants of Israel.  Moses seems to me like a man who would be horrified by this reading of his story.  I think his matter-of-fact writing style doesn’t convey tone or some of the nuance that a more artful writer (Luke, for instance) might convey.

I have seen this people, the Lord continued.  Look what a stiff-necked people they are!  So now, leave me alone so that my anger can burn against them and I can destroy them, and I will make from you a great nation.[2]  In his response, O Lord, why does your anger burn against your people, Moses’ writing style paints himself as clueless as it paints Jehovah vengeful.  Yet the provocation for Jehovah’s anger is clearly stated in the rest of Moses’ rhetorical question.  O Lord, why does your anger burn against your people, whom you have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?[3]

Who wouldn’t be angry if his or her beneficence was credited by its recipients to their own work?  How angry should Jehovah be when we claim that his gift of righteousness through his bearing of our sins by his death on a cross and his resurrection is by our own efforts or our own intrinsic goodness?

As I read this I heard Jehovah shouting angrily, Look what a stiff-necked people they are!  So now, leave me alone so that my anger can burn against them and I can destroy them, and I will make from you a great nation.  But would Moses have disobeyed Jehovah’s direct command—leave me alone—spoken in anger?  Or did he hear the lamentation in Jehovah’s voice and understand that Jehovah was asking leave of Moses to stand aside and allow Jehovah’s anger to follow its natural course and burn against them and destroy them?

Why should the Egyptians say, “For evil he led them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth” Moses continued.  Turn from your burning anger, and relent of this evil against your people.[4]  Again, the writing here leaves the impression that Moses didn’t understand the covenant the people agreed to, Whoever sacrifices to a god other than the Lord alone must be utterly destroyed.[5]  They had violated the covenant.  Did Moses expect Jehovah to violate it, too?

Moses had told the people all the Lord’s words and all the decisions.  All the people answered together, “We are willing to do all the words that the Lord has said,” and Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord.[6]  He took the Book of the Covenant and read it aloud to the people, and they said, “We are willing to do and obey all that the Lord has spoken.”[7]  By what authority did Moses declare the Lord Jehovah’s intent to honor the covenant by destroying the people who violated it evil?

I am not saying that Jehovah did wrong by declining to carry out the punishment demanded by the covenant.  Jehovah never bound Himself to that, but said to Moses, I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy.[8]  What I am saying is, though the collection of writings known as the Old Testament continues for many volumes, the Old Covenant as an agreement between Jehovah and the descendants of Israel to keep his commandments and receive his blessing came to its crashing conclusion right here.  When Jehovah declined to exact his vengeance on Israel according to the covenant they agreed to, when He did not purge[9] the evil from Israel by executing them but showed them mercy, He consigned all [Israel] to disobedience so that he may show mercy to them all.[10]

Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel your servants, Moses pleaded, to whom you swore by yourself and told them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken about I will give to your descendants, and they will inherit it forever.”[11]  And Paul wrote the Romans (Romans 4:13-17 NET):

For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not fulfilled through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.  For if they become heirs by the law, faith is empty and the promise is nullified.  For the law brings wrath, because where there is no law there is no transgression either.  For this reason it is by faith so that it may be by grace, with the result that the promise may be certain to all the descendants – not only to those who are under the law, but also to those who have the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”).  He is our father in the presence of God whom he believed – the God who makes the dead alive and summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do.

Then the Lord relented over the evil that he had said he would do to his people.[12]  Moses was not as clueless as his writing style made him appear to be.  As for Jehovah—and I want to say this as reverently as possible—there is always a sense of theatricality in his interactions with human beings, for He knew this particular circumstance, this particular conversation and its particular outcome before the beginning, when He created the heavens and the earth.[13]  For many years I declined to tell Him about my day, my reactions to it, the ways I thought and felt about it all.  It seemed like a waste of time.  He knew me better than I knew myself.  Eventually I realized that fact alone made the retelling valuable—for me.  As I tell Him about it He points out things that I missed or didn’t understand, about me and the things that happened during the day.

As I turn my attention to the authority by which Moses declared the Lord Jehovah’s apparent intent to honor the covenant by destroying the people who violated it evil, I am confronted with three different instances.  All three however are the same word raʽ.[14]  Yes, the Hebrew word for evil sounds like the Egyptian word for sun god.  Allan Langner[15] wrote in the Jewish Bible Quarterly,[16] “in Exodus 32:12, when Moses pleads with God…The word for evil [b’raah] can also be taken as a reference to Ra.  The verse would then read: ‘Wherefore should the Egyptians say, Ra brought them out to slay them in the mountains?’”[17]  Perhaps the Egyptians would have said that.  Perhaps Moses would have said that the Egyptians would say that.  Or, perhaps Moses said that the Egyptians would say that Jehovah had led Israel into, or for, an evil purpose.

None of this compels me to conclude that Jehovah’s apparent intent to honor the covenant by destroying the people who violated it was in fact evil.  But in the next instance—Turn from your burning anger, and relent of this evil (raʽ) against your people[18]—Moses called Jehovah’s apparent intent to honor the covenant by destroying the people who violated it evil.  This was more troubling.  The note in the NET reads: “The word ‘evil’ means any kind of life-threatening or fatal calamity. ‘Evil’ is that which hinders life, interrupts life, causes pain to life, or destroys it.”  In other words, Jehovah’s apparent intent to honor the covenant by destroying the people who violated it would only be apparently evil from a human perspective, not actually evil from Jehovah’s perspective.

I did entertain the idea that Moses meant trouble as opposed to evilThe Israelite foremen saw that they were in trouble (raʽ) when they were told, “You must not reduce the daily quota of your bricks.”[19]  Moses used a different word (albeit the root verb) when he complained to Jehovah about it.  Moses returned to the Lord, and said, “Lord, why have you caused trouble (râʽaʽ)[20] for this people?  Why did you ever send me?  From the time I went to speak to Pharaoh in your name, he has caused trouble (râʽaʽ) for this people, and you have certainly not rescued them!”[21]  But the third instance was the kicker, if you will.

Then the Lord relented over the evil (raʽ) that he had said he would do to his people.[22]  It is simply a statement of fact, like, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.[23]  Here the Holy Spirit declared that Jehovah’s apparent intent to honor the covenant by destroying the people who violated it would have been evil from Jehovah’s perspective.  And here for Moses Jehovah Himself modeled the behavior of repentance, giving up his right of vengeance by covenant (by law) for a higher righteousness.  Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me, He said later, troubled by his own death.  Yet not my will but yours be done.[24]

This brings me back to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (raʽ).  We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the orchard, Eve replied to the serpent, but concerning the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the orchard God said, “You must not eat from it, and you must not touch it, or else you will die.”[25]  Adam’s gezerahand you must not touch it—and the alteration (whether Adam’s or Eve’s) of you will surely die[26] to or else you will die seems to imply that Adam and Eve thought the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (raʽ) was poisonous or contained some intrinsic property that caused death.

This opened the door for the serpent to say, Surely you will not die.[27]  And Eve handled and tasted the fruit with impunity.  She didn’t die.  Of course, her eyes weren’t opened and she didn’t become like a divine being knowing good and evil (raʽ) either.  But when she approached her husband with the forbidden fruit she had at least part of the assurance of the shrewdest of any of the wild animals that the Lord God had made,[28] and (with every breath she took) a rapidly increasing quantity of empirical proof that Adam, too, would not die from eating forbidden fruit.  Adam had only his memory of God’s word.  When he ate the forbidden fruit, the eyes of both of them opened, and they knew they were naked[29]  It was unpleasant no doubt, but was it death?

My point here is that God did not give Adam knowledge of forbidden fruit when He said, You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.[30]  He gave Adam knowledge of God, what God would do; namely, the Lord God expelled him from the orchard in Eden to cultivate the ground from which he had been taken.  When he drove the man out, he placed on the eastern side of the orchard in Eden angelic sentries who used the flame of a whirling sword to guard the way to the tree of life.[31]

I think it is important not to miss that distinction here as well.  When the Holy Spirit says, Then the Lord relented over the evil (raʽ) that he had said he would do to his people, He is teaching me knowledge of God rather than moral philosophy.  After this interaction with Moses, He said, I will make all my goodness pass before your face, and I will proclaim the Lord by name before you; I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy.[32]  There is a sense here that He said to Moses my new name is, I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy.

It is repeated when the event occurred: The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with [Moses] there and proclaimed the Lord by name.  The Lord passed by before him and proclaimed: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”[33]  And for those who might rightly protest, “But the Lord is not a jolly old soul, an easy-going, devil-may-care sort of fellow,” Jehovah continued proclaiming his name: “But he by no means leaves the guilty unpunished, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children and children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”[34]

Granted, it is a long name, but it does me good from time to time to remember Him by name and repeat it aloud.  It is knowledge of God, who He is, what He is doing and will accomplish—and it is eternal life.[35]


[1] Exodus 32:7, 8 (NET)

[2] Exodus 32:9, 10 (NET)

[3] Exodus 32:11 (NET)

[4] Exodus 32:12 (NET)

[5] Exodus 22:20 (NET)

[6] Exodus 24:3, 4a (NET)

[7] Exodus 24:7 (NET)

[8] Exodus 33:19 (NET)

[9] Deuteronomy 13:5 (NET)

[10] Romans 11:32 (NET)

[11] Exodus 32:13 (NET)

[12] Exodus 32:14 (NET)

[13] Genesis 1:1 (NET)

[15] From the footnote in “THE GOLDEN CALF AND RA”: Allan M. Langner was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1948. He was Rabbi of Congregation Beth-El, Mt. Royal, Quebec, Canada, for 40 years, and is now Rabbi Emeritus.

[16] 31:1 January – March 2003, Vol. XXXI:1 (121), “THE GOLDEN CALF AND RA”

[18] Exodus 32:12b (NET)

[19] Exodus 5:19 (NET)

[21] Exodus 5:22, 23 (NET)

[22] Exodus 32:14 (NET)

[23] Genesis 1:1 (NET)

[24] Luke 22:42 (NET)

[25] Genesis 3:2, 3 (NET)

[26] Genesis 2:17 (NET)

[27] Genesis 3:4 (NET)

[28] Genesis 3:1 (NET)

[29] Genesis 3:7 (NET)

[30] Genesis 2:16, 17 (NET)

[31] Genesis 3:23, 24 (NET)

[32] Genesis 33:19 (NET)

[33] Exodus 34:5-7a (NET)

[34] Exodus 34:7b (NET)