Forgiven or Passed Over? Part 4

As I continue to study nâśâʼ[1] and ʽâbar in Exodus 20:7 – Deuteronomy 4:26 I’ll begin with an aside.  The first occurrence of nâśâʼ in this section translated pardon was an angel who will not pardon [Israel’s] transgressions.  A table contrasting two mentions of an angel follows.

The Forty Day Covenant

After the Golden Calf

The Lord said to Moses, “Go up from here, you and the people whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’

Exodus 33:1 (NET)

“I am going to send an angel before you…

Exodus 23:20a (NET)

I will send an angel before you…

Exodus 33:2a (NET)

…to protect you as you journey and to bring you into the place that I have prepared.  Take heed because of him, and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgressions, for my name is in him.  But if you diligently obey him and do all that I command, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will be an adversary to your adversaries.

Exodus 23:20b-22 (NET)

For my angel will go before you and bring you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and I will destroy them completely.

Exodus 23:23 (NET)

…and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite.

Exodus 33:2b (NET)

Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey.  But I will not go up among you, for you are a stiff-necked people, and I might destroy you on the way.”

Exodus 33:3 (NET)

When the people heard this troubling word they mourned; no one put on his ornaments.  For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people.  If I went up among you for a moment, I might destroy you.  Now take off your ornaments, that I may know what I should do to you.’”  So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments by Mount Horeb.

Exodus 33:4-6 (NET)

It’s worth noting that the angel’s function—to protect—and the warning—Take heed—were both forms of shâmar in Hebrew.  The former (לשמרך) was translated φυλάξῃ (a form of φυλάσσω) in the SeptuagintIf anyone hears my words but does not keep (φυλάξῃ, a form of φυλάσσω) them, Jesus said, I do not judge that person.  For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.[2]  The latter (השמר) was translated πρόσεχε (a form of προσέχω) in the SeptuagintUntil I come, Paul wrote Timothy, give attention (πρόσεχε, a form of προσέχω) to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.[3]

The Hebrew word translated obey in obey his voice was shâmaʽ (ושמע; See Table below) which was translated εἰσάκουε (a form of εἰσακούω) in the Septuagint.  But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard (εἰσηκούσθη, another form of εἰσακούω), and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son; you will name him John.[4]  The Hebrew word translated rebel in do not rebel was mârar (תמר) which was translated ἀπείθει (a form of ἀπειθέω) in the Septuagint.  He who believes (πιστεύων, a form of πιστεύω) in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe (ἀπειθῶν, another form of ἀπειθέω) the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.[5]

And finally pardon was nâśâʼ (ישׁא) in Hebrew which was translated ὑποστείληταί (a form of ὑποστέλλω) in the Septuagint.  You know that I did not hold back (ὑπεστειλάμην, another form of ὑποστέλλω) from proclaiming to you anything that would be helpful,[6] Paul declared to the Ephesian elders.  But here the translators of the Septuagint took a different turn since they didn’t even translate peshaʽ (לפשעכם; transgressions): “For he shall not hold you in undue awe, for my name is upon him.”[7]  It makes me wonder if they were trying to put a better spin on for he will not pardon (or, bear) your transgressions for Greek consumption.

The clause detailing the angel’s purpose—to protect you as you journey[8]—was missing from the restatement of the covenant after the golden calf incident, yet for forty years in the wilderness yehôvâh[9] cared and provided for them.  So why don’t I consider that all of the missing elements of the covenant should be assumed in the later restatement?

I’m no lawyer but I did spend several years calculating and writing the conditions that went into my employer’s boilerplate contracts.  It seems pretty apparent to me that when yehôvâh did not destroy Israel and make a great nation of Moses, when He accepted Moses’ description of that act as evil, then both parties had abrogated the covenant and the contract became null and void.  Care and provision for Israel became a matter of grace, no longer stipulated by contract, by law.

What is clearly missing from the restatement of the covenant is the contractual language: But if you diligently obey him and do all that I command, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will be an adversary to your adversaries.  For my angel will go before you and bring you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and I will destroy them completely.[10]  This was replaced by a simple unilateral statement: I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite.[11]

I hesitate to call this grace (though it may qualify as election) since yehôvâh called it dread (Deuteronomy 32:26, 27 Tanakh):

I thought I would make an end of them, I would make their memory cease from among men; Were it not that I dreaded (gûr, אגור) the enemy’s provocation, lest their adversaries should misdeem, lest they should say: Our hand is exalted, and not HaShem hath wrought all this.

Accepting that the clauses missing from the restatement of the covenant are truly missing helps me to track the transition from [Sin] (chaṭṭâʼâh, חטאת; Septuagint: ἥμαρτες, a form of ἁμαρτάνω) desires (teshûqâh, תשוקתו) to dominate you, but you must subdue (mâshal, תמשל) it,[12] to Paul’s declaration to believers in Galatia (Galatians 2:20, 21 NET):

I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!

Who would have thought that the way to subdue or rule over sin was to die to it (Romans 6:8-11 NET)?

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him.  For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God.  So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Who would have thought that the way to subdue or rule over sin was to die to the law (Romans 7:4-6 NET)?

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you could be joined to another, to the one who was raised from the dead, to bear fruit to God.  For when we were in the flesh, the sinful desires, aroused by the law, were active in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.  But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code.

Viewed from this perspective the worship of the golden calf and yehôvâh’s restatement of the covenant follows the pattern of Paul’s explanation to believers in Rome (Romans 5:20, 21 NET):

Now the law came in so that the transgression may increase, but where sin increased, grace multiplied all the more, so that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Why would anyone want transgression to increase?  This is scandalous to the religious mind.  But Jesus taught a Pharisee (Luke 7:40-47 NET):

“Simon, I have something to say to you.”  He replied, “Say it, Teacher.”  “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty.  When they could not pay, he canceled the debts of both.  Now which of them will love him more?”  Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”  Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Then, turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?  I entered your house.  You gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss of greeting, but from the time I entered she has not stopped kissing my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfumed oil.  Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little loves little.”

Ultimately, this love from God Himself subdues and rules over sin (Romans 13:8-10 NET):

Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” (and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Jesus warned (Matthew 5:17-20 NET):

“Do not think that I have come to abolish (καταλῦσαι, a form of καταλύω) the law or the prophets.  I have not come to abolish (καταλῦσαι, a form of καταλύω) these things but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place.  So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

After explaining that the law came in so that the transgression may increase, but where sin increased, grace multiplied all the more, Paul continued (Romans 6:1-4 NET):

What shall we say then?  Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase?  Absolutely not!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.

In other words, believers can say with Paul: We have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer we who live, but Christ lives in us.  So the life we now live in the body, we live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.  We do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!

For we too were once foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved to various passions and desires, spending our lives in evil and envy, hateful and hating one another.  But “when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing (ἀνακαινώσεως , a form of ἀνακαίνωσις) of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior.  And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.”[13]

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.[14]  This is the salvation believers in Philippi were enjoined to continue working out (Philippians 2:12-18 NET):

So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed (ὑπηκούσατε, a form of ὑπακούω), not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort – for the sake of his good pleasure – is God.  Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world by holding on to the word of life so that on the day of Christ I will have a reason to boast that I did not run in vain nor labor in vain.  But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice together with all of you.  And in the same way you also should be glad and rejoice together with me.

It is much better news than the Septuagint’s translation of Exodus 23:21b: “For he shall not hold you in undue awe, for my name is upon him.”  A table of the translations of shâmaʽ in the KJV, NET and Septuagint from Genesis through Exodus 23:22 follows.

Form of shâmaʽ Reference KJV NET Septuagint
שמע Genesis 16:11 …because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. …for the Lord has heard your painful groans. ἐπήκουσεν, a form of ἐπακούω
Genesis 21:12 hearken unto her voice… Do all that Sarah is telling you… ἄκουε, a form of ἀκούω
Genesis 21:17 …for God hath heard the voice of the lad… …for God has heard the boy’s voice… ἐπακήκοεν, another form of ἐπακούω
Genesis 24:52 …when Abraham’s servant heard their words… When Abraham’s servant heard their words… ἀκοῦσαι, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 26:5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice… …this will come to pass because Abraham obeyed[15] me… ὑπήκουσεν, a form of ὑπακούω
Genesis 27:8 obey my voice according to that which I command thee. do exactly what I tell you! ἄκουσόν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 27:13 …only obey my voice… Just obey me! ὑπάκουσον, another form of ὑπακούω
Genesis 27:43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice… Now then, my son, do what I say. ἄκουσόν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 29:33 Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated… Because the Lord heard that I was unloved… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 30:6 …and hath also heard my voice… He has responded to my prayer… ἐπήκουσεν, a form of ἐπακούω
Genesis 34:5 And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah… When Jacob heard that Shechem had violated his daughter… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 39:10 …that he hearkened not unto her… …he did not respond to her invitation… ὑπήκουσεν, a form of ὑπακούω
Genesis 42:21 …and we would not hear …but we refused to listen. εἰσηκούσαμεν a form of εἰσακούω
Genesis 42:23 …they knew not that Joseph understood them… …they did not know that Joseph could understand them… ἀκούει, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 7:13 …that he hearkened not unto them… …and he did not listen to them… εἰσήκουσεν, another form of εἰσακούω
Exodus 7:22 …neither did he hearken unto them… …and he refused to listen to Moses and Aaron…
Exodus 8:15 …and hearkened not unto them… …and did not listen to them…
Exodus 8:19 …and he hearkened not unto them… …and he did not listen to them…
Exodus 9:12 …and he hearkened not unto them… …and he did not listen to them…
Exodus 16:9 …for he hath heard your murmurings. …because he has heard your murmurings. εἰσακήκοεν, another form of εἰσακούω
Exodus 18:19 Hearken now unto my voice… Now listen to me… ἄκουσόν, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 22:23 I will surely hear their cry… I will surely hear their cry… ἀκοῇ, a form of ἀκοή
Exodus 23:22 But if thou shalt indeed obey… But if you diligently obey him…
ושמע Exodus 23:21 Beware of him, and obey his voice… Take heed because of him, and obey his voice… εἰσάκουε, another form of εἰσακούω
ישמע Exodus 6:30 …and how shall Pharaoh hearken unto me? …why should Pharaoh listen to me? εἰσακούσεταί, another form of εἰσακούω
Exodus 7:4 But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you… Pharaoh will not listen to you.
Exodus 11:9 Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you… Pharaoh will not listen to you…
Exodus 19:9 …that the people may hear when I speak… …so that the people may hear when I speak… ἀκούσῃ, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 23:13 …neither let it be heard out of thy mouth. do not let them be heard on your lips. ἀκουσθῇ, another form of ἀκούω
וישמע Genesis 14:14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive… When Abram heard that his nephew had been taken captive… ἀκούσας, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 16:2 And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. Abram did what Sarai told him. ὑπήκουσεν, a form of ὑπακούω
Genesis 21:17 And God heard the voice of the lad… But God heard the boy’s voice. εἰσήκουσεν, another form of εἰσακούω
Genesis 23:16 And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron… So Abraham agreed to Ephron’s price… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 28:7 And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother… Jacob obeyed his father and mother…
Genesis 30:17 And God hearkened unto Leah… God paid attention to Leah… ἐπήκουσεν, a form of ἐπακούω
Genesis 30:22 and God hearkened to her… He paid attention to her…
Genesis 31:1 And he heard the words of Laban’s sons… Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were complaining… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 35:22 and Israel heard it. and Israel heard about it.
Genesis 37:21 And Reuben heard it… When Reuben heard this… ἀκούσας, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 45:2 and the house of Pharaoh heard. and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. ἀκουστὸν, a form of ἀκουστός
Exodus 2:15 Now when Pharaoh heard this thing… When Pharaoh heard about this event… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 2:24 And God heard their groaning… God heard their groaning… εἰσήκουσεν, another form of εἰσακούω
Exodus 18:1 heard of all that God had done for Moses… heard about all that God had done for Moses… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 18:24 So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law… Moses listened to his father-in-law…
שמעו Genesis 37:6 Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: Listen to this dream I had: ἀκούσατε, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 43:25 they heard that they should eat bread… they had heard that they were to have a meal… ἤκουσαν, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 6:9 …but they hearkened not unto Moses… …but they did not listen to him… εἰσήκουσαν, another form of εἰσακούω
Exodus 6:12 …the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me… If the Israelites did not listen to me…
Exodus 15:14 The people shall hear, and be afraid… The nations will hear and tremble… ἤκουσαν, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 16:20 they hearkened not unto Moses… But they did not listen to Moses… εἰσήκουσαν, another form of εἰσακούω
וישמעו Genesis 3:8 And they heard the voice… Then the man and his wife heard the sound… ἤκουσαν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 34:24 And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all… …the men who assembled at the city gate agreed εἰσήκουσαν, another form of εἰσακούω
Genesis 37:27 And his brethren were content. His brothers agreed. ἤκουσαν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 45:2 Not translated …the Egyptians heard it…
Exodus 4:31 and when they heard that the LORD… When they heard that the Lord… Not Translated
ושמעו Genesis 49:2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob… Assemble and listen, you sons of Jacob… ἀκούσατε, another form of ἀκούω
and hearken unto Israel your father. listen to Israel, your father.
Exodus 3:18 And they shall hearken to thy voice: The elders will listen to you… εἰσακούσονταί, another form of εἰσακούω
ישמעו Genesis 11:7 …they may not understand one another’s speech. …they won’t be able to understand each other. ἀκούσωσιν, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 4:1 …nor hearken unto my voice: …or pay attention to me… εἰσακούσωσιν, another form of εἰσακούω
Exodus 4:8 …neither hearken to the voice of the first sign… …or pay attention to the former sign…
שמען Genesis 4:23 Hear my voice… Listen to me! ἀκούσατέ, another form of ἀκούω
ישמעון Exodus 4:9 …neither hearken unto thy voice… …or listen to you… εἰσακούσωσιν, another form of εἰσακούω
שמעת Genesis 3:17 Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife… Because you obeyed your wife… ἤκουσας, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 18:10 And Sarah heard it in the tent door… Now Sarah was listening at the entrance… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 22:18 …because thou hast obeyed my voice. Because you have obeyed me… ὑπήκουσας, another form of ὑπακούω
Genesis 27:5 And Rebekah heard[16] Now Rebekah had been listening ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 7:16 …hitherto thou wouldest not hear. But until now you have not listened. εἰσήκουσας, another form of εἰσακούω
ושמעתי Exodus 22:27 that I will hear; for I am gracious. I will hear, for I am gracious. εἰσακούσομαι, another form of εἰσακούω
שמעתם Genesis 42:22 and ye would not hear? but you wouldn’t listen? εἰσηκούσατέ, another form of εἰσακούω
שמעתי Genesis 3:10 I heard thy voice in the garden… I heard you moving about in the orchard… ἤκουσα, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 21:26 …neither yet heard I of it, but to day. I did not hear about it until today.
Genesis 27:6 Behold, I heard thy father… Look, I overheard your father…
Genesis 37:17 …for I heard them say… …for I heard them say…
Genesis 41:15 …and I have heard say of thee… But I have heard about you… ἀκήκοα, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 42:2 I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: I hear that there is grain in Egypt.
Exodus 3:7 and have heard their cry… I have heard their cry…
Exodus 6:5 And I have also heard the groaning of the children of… I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites… εἰσήκουσα, another form of ἐπακούω
Exodus 16:12 I have heard the murmurings… I have heard the murmurings… εἰσακήκοα, another form of εἰσακούω
שמעתיך Genesis 17:20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: As for Ishmael, I have heard you. ἐπήκουσά, another form of ἐπακούω
שמעני Genesis 23:11 hear me… Hear me out. ἄκουσόν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 23:13 I pray thee, hear me: Hear me, if you will.
Genesis 23:15 My Lord, hearken unto me: Hear me, my lord. ἀκήκοα, another form of ἀκούω
ישמעני Exodus 6:12 …how then shall Pharaoh hear me… …then how will Pharaoh listen to me… εἰσακούσεταί, another form of ἐπακούω
שמענו Genesis 23:6 Hear us, my Lord: thou art a mighty prince… Listen, sir, you are a mighty prince… ἄκουσον, another form of ἀκούω
שמעוני Genesis 23:8 hear me… then hear me out. ἀκούσατέ, another form of ἀκούω
שמוע Exodus 15:26 If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God… If you will diligently obey the Lord your God… ἀκοῇ, a form of ἀκοή
Exodus 19:5 Not translated …if you will diligently listen to me…
השמע Genesis 21:6 …so that all that hear will laugh… Everyone who hears about this will laugh… ἀκούσῃ, another form of ἀκούω
נשמע Genesis 45:16 And the fame thereof was heard in Pharaoh’s house… Now it was reported in the household of Pharaoh… διεβοήθη, a form of διαβοάω
ונשמעה Exodus 20:19 Speak thou with us, and we will hear You speak to us and we will listen Not Translated
כשמע Genesis 27:34 And when Esau heard the words of his father… When Esau heard his father’s words… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 29:13 when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob… When Laban heard this news about Jacob…
Genesis 39:19 when his master heard the words of his wife… When his master heard his wife say…
Exodus 16:8 …for that the LORD heareth your murmurings… …because the Lord has heard your murmurings… εἰσακοῦσαι, another form of εἰσακούω
כשמעו Genesis 39:15 when he heard that I lifted up my voice… When he heard me raise my voice… ἀκοῦσαι, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 16:7 for that he heareth your murmurings… because he has heard your murmurings… εἰσακοῦσαι, another form of εἰσακούω
כשמעם Genesis 34:7 when they heard it: when they heard the news. ἤκουσαν, another form of ἀκούω
וכשמעו Genesis 24:30 and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying… and heard his sister Rebekah say… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
תשמע Genesis 41:15 …that thou canst understand a dream… Not translated ἀκούσαντά, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 15:26 If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God… If you will diligently obey the Lord your God… ἀκούσῃς, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 23:22 But if thou shalt indeed obey But if you diligently obey him… ἀκούσητε, another form of ἀκούω
תשמעו Genesis 34:17 But if ye will not hearken unto us… But if you do not agree to our terms… εἰσακούσητε, another form of εἰσακούω
Exodus 19:5 …if ye will obey my voice… …if you will diligently listen to me… ἀκούσητε, another form of ἀκούω
אשמע Exodus 5:2 Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice… Who is the Lord that I should obey him… εἰσακούσομαι, another form of εἰσακούω
Exodus 22:23 …I will surely hear their cry… …I will surely hear their cry…

[1] I used the second spelling (nâsâh) offered in Strong’s Concordance in the tables and in a previous essay, which confused me when I linked to the Hebrew dictionary.

[2] John 12:47 (NIV)

[3] 1 Timothy 4:13 (NET)

[4] Luke 1:13 (NET)

[5] John 3:36 (NKJV)

[6] Acts 20:20a (NET)

[7] Exodus 23:21b (NETS)  The Tanakh reads: for he will not pardon your transgression; for My name is in him.

[8] I won’t argue that the angel’s purpose was to keep believing Israelites within the covenant, though I considered it.

[9] In these essays I’ve used several names for the Hebrew יהוה.  Admittedly, I was being catty when I used Jehovah to obliquely reference the undercurrent in religious thought that Jesus died to save us from an evil god.  I abandoned the name Yahweh for reasons akin to the genetic fallacy: I learned Yahweh from Nietzsche.  He was not only an atheist but a philologist as well.  I settled on yehôvâh because it was in Strong’s Concordance, the same source I’ve used for all the other Hebrew words addressed in these essays.  Subsequently I’ve come across an argument favoring Yahweh on YAHWEH’S restoration ministry online in an article titled “The Yehovah Deception: Reinventing a Misnomer.”

The most succinct form of their argument reads: “As confirmed by the Jewish Talmud, hundreds of years before the birth of Yahshua the Messiah the Jews stopped pronouncing the divine Name and began concealing it by reading the vowel points from Adonai into the Tetragrammaton.  The motivation behind this practice was not from irreverence but through a strong veneration for the Name.  They were afraid that if it were pronounced, someone might misuse or blaspheme the Name.  Part of this hesitation doubtless arose from their time in Babylon.  While their reasoning was admirable, it is against the clear teachings of Scripture.”

I find that argument plausible and discouraging.  My own working hypothesis concerning the Masoretes was that they were generally honorable when dealing with the words of Scripture but may have shaded the meaning of certain Hebrew words a bit to defend Jewish religion from Christian scholarship.  As a working hypothesis it limited the search field to points of contention.  The idea that they may be the heirs of those who deliberately corrupted the name of God with vowels from a different word offers no limit to the mischief they may have perpetrated on words of lesser importance.  If true, a searchable list of Hebrew homographs is no mere convenience but an absolute necessity for Old Testament study.  Creating such a list is well beyond my abilities.

My only purpose in using yehôvâh is to remind myself that Lord is not the word used in Scripture.  I was taught from the pulpit that it is disrespectful to call Jesus by name, that Paul called Him Lord, though now I think that was Paul’s way of designating Him yehôvâh (Isaiah 45:18-23; Romans 14:10-12; Philippians 2:5-11; John 5:22, 23).  So for the time being I’ll continue using yehôvâh since I definitely don’t believe the name of God is a magical incantation that must be pronounced correctly for the magic to work.

[10] Exodus 23:22, 23 (NET)

[11] Exodus 33:2 (NET)

[12] Genesis 4:7b (NET)  Here, the Tanakh presents the subduing of sin as a comforting possibility rather than an imperative: …and unto thee is its desire, but thou mayest rule over it (Genesis 4:7b Tanakh).  The Septuagint comforted Cain that he would once again rule over Abel (if he offered the appropriate sacrifice): “Be still, his recourse is to you, and you will rule over him” (Genesis 4:7b NETS).

[13] Titus 3:3-7 (NET)

[14] Romans 10:10, 11 (KJV)

[15] So then faith comes by hearing (ἀκοῆς, a form of ἀκοή), and hearing (ἀκοὴ, another form of ἀκοή) by the word of God (Romans 10:17 NKJV).  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws (ἑλκύσῃ, a form of ἑλκύω) him (John 6:44a NET)…  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw (ἑλκύσω, another form of ἑλκύω) all people to myself.

[16] For it is not those who hear (ἀκροαταὶ, a form of ἀκροατής) the law who are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be declared righteous (Romans 2:13 NET).  This is an interesting example.  Relative to Isaac’s word Rebekah was a hearer only because she did everything in her power to deceive her husband and change the outcome of his word.  But was she hearing/obeying yehôvâh (Genesis 25:21-26) instead?  Was her deception necessary?  Would we be reading the history of Esau/Israel rather than Jacob/Israel without it?  Or would yehôvâh have chosen (Malachi 1:1-5) Jacob even if Isaac had blessed Esau as he intended (Romans 9:10-18)?  Was Rebekah’s deception righteous?  Or might her faith have been counted as righteousness (Romans 4:1-5)?

To Make Holy, Part 3

When I began to study the Bible I thought Paul wrote Hebrews.[1]  The more I studied, the more I began to know Paul’s other writings, the more I began to suspect that Paul did not write Hebrews.  Someone who knew Paul and his writings must have written it.  But I thought that Romans was the literary parent and Hebrews the literary child until Andrew Schlafly’s entry on Conservapedia—“Mystery: Did Jesus Write the Epistle to the Hebrews?”—flipped me out of the rut I was in.

It’s probably more prudent to say that the Holy Spirit flipped me out of my rut with Mr. Schlafly’s writing, but I want to be sure to share my gratitude with him since I reject his main point: “Jesus spent 40 days on Earth between the Resurrection and the Ascension, and it is implausible that He did not continue His ministry in an effective way.  Writing (or distributing) an Epistle is most plausible activity, given what had transpired.”[2]  After God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, the writer of Hebrews began, in these last days he has spoken to us in a son[3]

The words to us aren’t an artifact of translating Greek to English.  It is ἡμῖν penned by the author.  Did Jesus write that God spoke to Jesus in a sonThe Son [who] is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and [who] sustains all things by his powerful word?[4]  The writer of Hebrews continued, so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.[5]  Did Jesus write that He was on earth writing Hebrews and sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on high simultaneously?  Or did He mean that He was someone distinct from this mysterious Son?  “Sit on my right” the Septuagint reads.  The author of Hebrews changed κάθου (a form of κάθημαι; second person present tense) to ἐκάθισεν (a form of καθίζω; third person past tense).

All in all it seems simpler to conclude that Jesus did not write Hebrews personally and that it was written after his ascension (Acts 1:9-11).  But what has grabbed me and won’t let go is Mr. Schlafly’s insight: “this sermon appears identical to the sermon given by Jesus on the road to Emmaus…”[6]  I have carped at Cleopas and the other disciple[7] almost every time I’ve read their story, “Don’t tell me how you felt.  Who cares how you felt!?  Tell me what He said!”  I was utterly unable to hear Hebrews as Jesus’ teaching on the Emmaus road because I was stuck thinking it was a late development dependent upon Paul’s theology in Romans.

This “Epistle was written before any physical persecution of the disciples: ‘In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.’ (12:4) Stephen was martyred around A.D. 37, merely a few years after the Crucifixion of Jesus, so this Epistle was written before then.”[8]  Was Hebrews one of the scrolls or parchments Paul prized?  Was it the literary parent of Romans?

I’ll approach the next occurrence of ἁγιάσῃ (a form of ἁγιάζω) with this possibility in mind, not hearing the scratching of Jesus’ pen perhaps, but listening for the teaching that was foremost in his mind during the forty days between his resurrection and ascension (Hebrews 13:9-16 NET):

Do not be carried away by all sorts of strange teachings.  For it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not ritual meals, which have never benefited those who participated in them.  We have an altar that those who serve in the tabernacle have no right to eat from.  For the bodies of those animals whose blood the high priest brings into the sanctuary as an offering for sin are burned outside the camp.  Therefore, to sanctify (ἁγιάσῃ, a form of ἁγιάζω) the people by his own blood, Jesus also suffered outside the camp (πύλης; literally, gate).  We must go out to him, then, outside the camp, bearing the abuse he experienced.  For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come (Revelation 21:9-27).  Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, acknowledging his name.  And do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.

To sanctify the people by his own blood, Jesus also suffered outside the camp.  We must go out to him, then, outside (ἔξω) the camp (παρεμβολῆς, a form of παρεμβολή)…  The anonymous author of “Sacrifice Outside the Camp” concluded: “So just as Christ went outside the camp, the readers are also to go outside the camp and thus bear reproach by abandoning the established fellowship and ordinances of Judaism.”  That’s what I thought, too.  In fact, I thought that would be the point of this essay when I thought Hebrews was a late development from the mind of some unknown disciple.  Considering Hebrews as Jesus’ teaching during the forty days between his resurrection and ascension pushes me harder.

I assume that going out to Jesus, outside the camp, is a result of being sanctified by his own blood as opposed to its cause, though the NET translation (We must go out) of ἐξερχώμεθα (a form of ἐξέρχομαι; KJV: Let us go forth) sounds more like a prerequisite.  Are we to go outside the Israelite camp only to join the Roman Catholic camp, the Greek Orthodox camp, the Lutheran camp, the Baptist camp, the Presbyterian camp, the Pentecostal camp or the name-your-favorite-religion camp?  It got me thinking about yehôvâh.

He wasn’t a big fan of law or religion, at least it wasn’t his first choice.  Yet, when he got down to it He spent a good deal of verbiage establishing a legal/religious category called outside (chûts, מחוץ) the camp (machăneh, למחנה), ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς in the Septuagint.  It caused me to wonder if going outside the camp (see table below) meant anything more than trading in one legal/religious system for another.

I thought outside the camp was equivalent to not the camp.  But outside the camp was as much a part of the Israelite camp as the Holy of Holies.  It moved with Israel in total (or in part with its army).  It was a place of execution (Leviticus 24:14, 23; Numbers 15:36).  Or do you not know, Paul wrote the Romans, that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.[9]

It was a place for the unclean (Leviticus 13:46; 14:3), including every leper, everyone who has a discharge (Deuteronomy 23:10), and whoever becomes defiled by a corpse[10] (Numbers 5:3, 4).  Those who are well don’t need a physician, Jesus answered the Pharisees, but those who are sick do.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.[11]

Latrines were there outside the camp (Deuteronomy 23:12).  If someone thinks he has good reasons to put confidence in human credentials (σαρκί, a form of σάρξ), I have more, Paul wrote believers in Philippi: I was circumcised on the eighth day, from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews.  I lived according to the law as a Pharisee.  In my zeal for God I persecuted the church.  According to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless.  But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ.  More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness.  My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.[12]

The bodies of Nadab and Abihu were carried off there (Leviticus 10:4, 5).  In him you also were circumcised, Paul wrote the Colossians, not, however, with a circumcision performed by human hands, but by the removal of the fleshly body, that is, through the circumcision done by Christ.  Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead.  And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions.  He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us.  He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.[13]

But it was not a lawless place (Leviticus 17:3-5 NET).

Blood guilt will be accounted to any man from the house of Israel who slaughters an ox or a lamb or a goat inside the camp or outside the camp, but has not brought it to the entrance of the Meeting Tent to present it as an offering to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord.  He has shed blood, so that man will be cut off from the midst of his people.  This is so that the Israelites will bring their sacrifices that they are sacrificing in the open field to the Lord at the entrance of the Meeting Tent to the priest and sacrifice them there as peace offering sacrifices to the Lord.

Do we then nullify the law through faith?  Absolutely not!  Instead we uphold the law.[14]  For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.[15]  Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments,Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,(and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this,Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.[16]

It was a place of purification.  The red heifer was slaughtered outside the camp (Numbers 19:3) and its ashes were kept there (Numbers 19:9).  They must be kept for the community of the Israelites for use in the water of purification – it is a purification for sin.[17]  It was a way station for soldiers returning from battle (Numbers 31:19), the spoils of war (Numbers 31:11-13) and Rahab, her father, mother, brothers, and all who belonged to her[18] (Joshua 6:23).  Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, her father’s family, and all who belonged to her.  She lives in Israel (NET note 46 Heb “in the midst of Israel”) to this very day because she hid the messengers Joshua sent to spy on Jericho.[19]

For the grace of God has appeared, Paul wrote Titus, bringing salvation to all people.  It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good.[20]

It was above all else the place where the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, the way a person speaks to a friend[21] and where Joshua lived (Exodus 33:7-11 NET):

Moses took the tent and pitched it outside the camp, at a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting.  Anyone seeking the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting that was outside the camp.

And when Moses went out to the tent, all the people would get up and stand at the entrance to their tents and watch Moses until he entered the tent.  And whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses.  When all the people would see the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people, each one at the entrance of his own tent, would rise and worship.  The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, the way a person speaks to a friend.  Then Moses would return to the camp, but his servant, Joshua son of Nun, a young man, did not leave the tent.

Just as the Father has loved me, Jesus said, I have also loved you; remain in my love.  If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.  My commandment is this – to love one another just as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.  I no longer call you slaves, because the slave does not understand what his master is doing.  But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.  This I command you – to love one another.[22]

More than a geographical location or an institutional affiliation to go to Jesus outside the camp seems like a state of the believing heart and mind.  The Spirit is the one who gives life, Jesus said, human nature is of no help!  The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.[23]  To go to Jesus outside the camp is integrally associated with sanctification, but doesn’t appear to be something one does once, rather continually, maybe even progressively until like Joshua one resides there permanently.  Jesus said (John 14:23-26 NET):

If anyone loves me, he will obey (τηρήσει, a form of τηρέω) my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him.  The person who does not love me does not obey (τηρεῖ, another form of τηρέω) my words.  And the word you hear (ἀκούετε, a form of ἀκούω) is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.  I have spoken these things while staying with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.

 

Reference NET Hebrew – outside Hebrew – the camp Septuagint
Exodus 29:14 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Exodus 33:7 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Exodus 33:7 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Leviticus 4:12 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Leviticus 4:21 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Leviticus 6:11 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Leviticus 8:17 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Leviticus 9:11 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Leviticus 10:4 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Leviticus 10:5 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Leviticus 13:46 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Leviticus 14:3 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Leviticus 16:27 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Leviticus 17:3 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Leviticus 24:14 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Leviticus 24:23 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Numbers 5:3 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Numbers 5:4 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Numbers 15:35 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה Both are in verse 36
Numbers 15:36 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Numbers 19:3 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Numbers 19:9 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Numbers 31:13 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Numbers 31:19 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Deuteronomy 23:10 he must leave the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Deuteronomy 23:12 outside the camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς
Joshua 6:23 outside the…camp מחוץ למחנה ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς

[1] “As early as the second century, this treatise, which is of great rhetorical power and force in its admonition to faithful pilgrimage under Christ’s leadership, bore the title ‘To the Hebrews.’  It was assumed to be directed to Jewish Christians.  Usually Hebrews was attached in Greek manuscripts to the collection of letters by Paul… As early as the end of the second century, the church of Alexandria in Egypt accepted Hebrews as a letter of Paul, and that became the view commonly held in the East.  Pauline authorship was contested in the West into the fourth century, but then accepted.  In the sixteenth century, doubts about that position were again raised, and the modern consensus is that the letter was not written by Paul.” THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS

[2] Andrew Schlafly, “Mystery: Did Jesus Write the Epistle to the Hebrews?,” Conservapedia

[3] Hebrews 1:1, 2a (NET)

[4] Hebrews 1:3a (NET)

[5] Hebrews 1:3b (NET)

[6] Andrew Schlafly, “Mystery: Did Jesus Write the Epistle to the Hebrews?,” Conservapedia

[7] His wife, my mother speculates, as do others.  “Would Cleopas leave her in Jerusalem?”

[8] Andrew Schlafly, “Mystery: Did Jesus Write the Epistle to the Hebrews?,” Conservapedia

[9] Romans 6:3, 4 (NET)

[10] Numbers 5:2 (NET)

[11] Luke 5:31, 32 (NET)

[12] Philippians 3:4b-11 (NET)

[13] Colossians 2:11-14 (NET)

[14] Romans 3:31 (NET)

[15] Romans 8:3, 4 (NET)

[16] Romans 13:8-10 (NET)

[17] Numbers 19:9b (NET)

[18] Joshua 6:23a (NET)

[19] Joshua 6:25 (NET)

[20] Titus 2:11-14 (NET)

[21] Exodus 33:11a (NET)

[22] John 15:9-17 (NET)

[23] John 6:63 (NET)

Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited, Part 3

The movie Spotlight is named after a team of investigative journalists at the Boston Globe.  They pierce a smokescreen of secrecy—fueled by police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, businessmen, civil servants, their own bosses and colleagues, even their own subconscious desires to protect the reputation of the Catholic Church—to shine a spotlight on priests’ abuse of children, both sexual and spiritual, in articles published in 2002.  There are spoilers here.  Though the film is based on actual events and people, I’m writing about characters in a movie, including the Catholic Church.

The scope of investigative journalist Mike Rezendes’ (Mark Ruffalo) research is broadened by phone conversations with Richard Sipe (Richard Jenkins – voice only), a psychiatrist and former priest, who treated pedophile priests during the last half of the 1960’s.  I quote one of their conversations, more personal than professional.

“Richard, do you still go to mass?” Mike asks.

“No.  No, I haven’t been to church for some time now.  But I still consider myself a Catholic.”

“How does that work?”

“Well, the church is an institution, Mike, made of men.  It’s passing.  My faith is in the eternal.  I try to separate the two.”

“Sounds tricky.”

“It is,” Richard agrees.

Cardinal Law (Len Cariou) presides over a shell game in the Boston Archdiocese, moving pedophile priests from parish to parish.  A super at the end of Spotlight reads, “In December 2002, Cardinal Law resigned from the Boston Archdiocese.  He was reassigned to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, one of the highest ranking Roman Catholic churches in the world.”

The producers expect us to feel a certain way about that fact.  I want to use it to distinguish church—a not-for-profit business—from what I’ll call ἐκκλησία, those called by God through Jesus Christ to be led by his Holy Spirit.  Cardinal Law was promoted by the church.  He was a company man defending it from scandal.  Richard says: “the secretary-canonist for the papal nuncio…co-authored a report warning pedophile priests were a billion-dollar liability” sixteen years earlier than the present in the film.  But this faithfulness to the church doesn’t work out so well for the ἐκκλησία, especially the little ones Jesus mentioned (Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:1, 2).

Spotlight editor Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) threatens attorney Eric Macleish (Billy Crudup)—who profited settling child abuse cases against the Church privately—for information and confirmation: “We’ve got two stories here.  We’ve got a story about degenerate clergy, and we’ve got a story about a bunch of lawyers turning child abuse into a cottage industry.  Now, which story do you want us to write?”  Later however Robby admits regretfully:

“We had all the pieces.  Why didn’t we get it sooner?…Macleish sent us a letter on 20 priests, years ago…We buried the story in Metro.  No folo.”

“That was you,” Robby’s boss Ben Bradlee, Jr. (John Slattery) says.  “You were Metro.”

“Yeah.  That was me.  I’d just taken over.  I don’t remember it at all.  But yeah…”

Paul was concerned with both, the church and the ἐκκλησία, without distinguishing between the two.

church

ἐκκλησία

When any of you has a legal dispute with another, does he dare go to court before the unrighteous rather than before the saints?….So if you have ordinary lawsuits, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church?  I say this to your shame!  Is there no one among you wise enough to settle disputes between fellow Christians?  Instead, does a Christian sue a Christian, and do this before unbelievers?

1 Corinthians 6:1, 4-6 (NET)

The fact that you have lawsuits among yourselves demonstrates that you have already been defeated.  Why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be cheated?  But you yourselves wrong and cheat, and you do this to your brothers and sisters!

1 Corinthians 6:7, 8 (NET)

His most beautiful words to the ἐκκλησία and to the church are his words on love.  In his letter to the Corinthians love was presented as one way, albeit, a way that is beyond comparison,[1] a more excellent way (KJV), a still more excellent way (ESV), a way of life that is best of all (NLV), the most excellent way (NIV), the same way Jesus preached in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:13-48 NET).  In his letter to the Romans Paul presented love as the only way (Romans 13:8-10 NET):

Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” (and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Cleary, the love of natural humans will not fulfill the law.  We must all be born from above[2] through faith in Jesus Christ, dependent instead on the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe,[3] the love that is an aspect of the fruit of his Holy Spirit.  I’ll continue contrasting Paul’s regime in 1 Corinthians 5 to Jesus’ regime in Revelation 2:18-29.

Paul’s Regime

Jesus’ Regime

Your boasting is not good.  Don’t you know that a little yeast (ζύμη) affects the whole batch of dough?

1 Corinthians 5:6 (NET)

But to the rest of you in Thyatira, all who do not hold to this teaching (who have not learned the so-called “deep secrets of Satan”), to you I say: I do not put any additional burden on you.  However, hold on to what you have until I come.

Revelation 2:24, 25 (NET)

Clean out the old yeast (ζύμην, another form of ζύμη) so that you may be a new batch of dough – you are, in fact, without yeast (ἄζυμοι, a form of ἄζυμος).  For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  So then, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast (ζύμῃ, another form of ζύμη), the yeast (ζύμῃ, another form of ζύμη) of vice and evil, but with the bread without yeast (ἀζύμοις, another form of ἄζυμος), the bread of sincerity and truth.

1 Corinthians 5:7, 8 (NET)

Not good your boasting (or, glorying, KJV, NKJV), Paul wrote.  The Greek word translated good is καλὸν (a form of καλός).  This is the beautiful good of Jesus’ works.  What follows is a quote from an article by George Long in William Smith’s “A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities,” defining incestum in Roman law:

If a man married a woman whom it was forbidden for him to marry by positive morality (moribus), he was said to commit incestum (Dig. 23 tit. 2 s39). Such a marriage was in fact no marriage, for the necessary connubium between the parties was wanting. Accordingly, incestum is the sexual connection of a male and a female, whether under the form of marriage or not, if such persons cannot marry by reason of consanguinity.

There was no connubium between persons related by blood in the direct line, as parents and children. If such persons contracted a marriage it was Nefariae et Incestae nuptiae. There was no connubium between persons who stood in the relation of parent and child by adoption, not even after the adopted child was emancipated.

With this in mind I would say it was the most likely meaning of the kind of immorality that is not permitted even among the Gentiles.[4]  A man cohabiting with his father’s wife, was against the law, Roman law as well as yehôvâh’s law.  In other words, it was a circumstance not unlike those in the movie Spotlight.  Would anyone consider the conspiratorial cover-up revealed in Spotlight a beautiful good?

Of course, now I need to consider whether turn this man over to Satan (σατανᾷ, a form of Σατανᾶς; adversary) was simply an instruction to turn him over to Roman authorities in the city of Corinth.  But I reject that notion just as quickly.  Roman authorities had no interest in the blasphemy of Hymenaeus and AlexanderI find no guilt in him,[5] Pilate said of Jesus, while the Jewish authorities had Him dead to rights for blasphemy (Matthew 26:25, Mark 14:63, Luke 22:71 NET) if He is not yehôvâh, the Son of God the Father.

Don’t you know that a little yeast (ζύμη) affects the whole batch of dough?[6]  Paul continued.  Yes, that is exactly how Jesus expected his teaching to work in and through those who are called according to his purpose:[7]  He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast (ζύμῃ) that a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour until all the dough had risen.”[8]  To be fair Paul wasn’t writing about Jesus’ teaching.  He wrote about the yeast (ζύμῃ, another form of ζύμη) of vice and evil.  He’d already been-there-done-that as far as Jesus’ teaching was concerned.  In 1 Corinthians he was scrambling to put the toothpaste[9] back in the tube.

I need to pause to spell out what I’m actually thinking.  That is the main purpose of these essays, after all, to remind me what I was thinking as I did a particular word study.  As I worked on this one I stumbled across a website by Sherry Shriner.  She uses many of the Scriptures I use to assert that “The Apostle Paul Was A Deceiver!  He was Satan In The Flesh!  An Antichrist!”[10]  I’m not asserting that at all, only that Paul is a human being, born from above, led by the Holy Spirit, struggling at times with the sinfulness of his own flesh or with overcoming his own religion, which he characterized as my own righteousness derived from the law.[11]

More to the point here in 1 Corinthians 5 I think he struggled with 1) the repercussions of changing[12] his manner of teaching—When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superior eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God.  For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified[13]—and, 2) his allegiance to James’ abbreviated version of the law (Acts 15:19, 20 NET) from the Jerusalem CouncilAs [Paul, Silas and Timothy] went through the towns, they passed on the decrees that had been decided on by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the Gentile believers to obey.[14]  I think what the NET translators called a Corinthian slogan—All things are lawful for me[15]—was the logical consequence of this teaching.  I also think the Corinthians may have been the most sinful people (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NET) to be called to that time—but called they were (Acts 18:9-11 NET):

The Lord said to Paul by a vision in the night, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent, because I am with you, and no one will assault you to harm you, because I have many people in this city.”  So he stayed there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

According to Kyle Harper: “Prostitution [πορνεία; sex with “slaves, prostitutes, and concubines”] was considered a social necessity, an alternative to the violation of respectable women [μοιχεία], in the Roman Empire no less than in classical Greece.”  But “πορνεία was not a common term before Judaism and Christianity infused it with new meaning.”[16]  “Πορνεία in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs functions,” Mr. Harper continued, “as a catchall vice for any sexual transgression….Reuben was guilty of πορνεία for sleeping with Bilhah, Rachel’s maid, because his father had been in the same bed….”[17]  The thought that Paul derived his understanding of πορνεία from a book of fiction sent me to bed for a time.

When I got back to work I realized that the language of popular fiction[18] might well reflect the common word usage of a people and a time.  I realized we are not told whether the man who had his father’s wife was a Jew or proselyte who might be familiar with a usage of πορνεία that would include incestum, or a pagan more familiar with πορνεία as sex with slaves, prostitutes or concubines.  I don’t know whether Paul assumed his hearers understood the breadth of πορνεία that may have been common in Second Temple Judaism or taught it explicitly in Corinth.  I know Paul wrote a sin list in his letter to the Galatians (5:19-21a NET):

NET

Parallel Greek

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. φανερὰ δέ ἐστιν τὰ ἔργα τῆς σαρκός, ἅτινα ἐστιν πορνεία, ἀκαθαρσία, ἀσέλγεια, εἰδωλολατρία, φαρμακεία, ἔχθραι, ἔρις, ζῆλος, θυμοί, ἐριθεῖαι, διχοστασίαι, αἱρέσεις, φθόνοι, |φόνοι,| μέθαι, κῶμοι καὶ τὰ ὅμοια τούτοις

In the Textus Receptus this list begins with μοιχεία (adultery).  But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, Jesus said, and these things defile a person.  For out of the heart come evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality (πορνεῖαι, another form of πορνεία), theft, false testimony, slander.[19]  And, For from within, out of the human heart, come evil ideas, sexual immorality (πορνεῖαι, another form of πορνεία), theft, murder, adultery, greed, evil, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, pride, and folly.[20]

Jesus’ Sin Lists in Greek

Matthew 5:19

Mark 7:21, 22

διαλογισμοὶ πονηροί, φόνοι, μοιχεῖαι, πορνεῖαι, κλοπαί, ψευδομαρτυρίαι, βλασφημίαι διαλογισμοὶ οἱ κακοὶ ἐκπορεύονται, πορνεῖαι, κλοπαί, φόνοι, μοιχεῖαι, πλεονεξίαι, πονηρίαι, δόλος, ἀσέλγεια, ὀφθαλμὸς πονηρός, βλασφημία, ὑπερηφανία, ἀφροσύνη

These sin lists alter the landscape considerably.  It is not possible for the words πορνείας[21] (another form of πορνεία) or πορνείαν[22] (another form of πορνεία) from James’ abbreviated version of the law to stand for every defilement that comes from the human heart, every work of the flesh.  Frankly, I think all of this happened in space and time to push Paul, the human author of so much of the New Testament commentary on the Gospel, to abandon his allegiance to this decision of the Jerusalem Council and to hear better words and gain a better understanding.  And I think these events are recorded in Scripture so that we would see how much better these words and this understanding actually are (Romans 7:7, 12; 3:19-24, 31 NET):

What shall we say then?  Is the law sin?  Absolutely not!  Certainly, I would not have known sin except through the law.  For indeed I would not have known what it means to desire something belonging to someone else if the law had not said, Do not covet.”

So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.  But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed – namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Do we then nullify the law through faith?  Absolutely not!  Instead we uphold the law.

Confronted with a Corinthian man who had his father’s wife, Paul turned to Satan for help.  Confronted with pedophile priests, the Catholic Church turned to psychologists and psychiatrists.[23]  Spotlight, perhaps it is unnecessary to say, is not a movie about the amazing power of psychologists and psychiatrists to take away the sin of pedophile priests.

On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away (αἴρων, a form of αἴρω) the sin of the world!”[24]

For far too long I believed that meant forgiveness only.  I didn’t believe that, Everyone who has been fathered by God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God.[25]  I didn’t believe that all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.[26]  I thought it was all up to me: my faith, my obedience, my love, my joy, my peace, my patience, my kindness, my goodness, my faithfulness, my gentleness, and my self-control.

Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited, Part 4

Back to Sexual Immorality Revisited, Part 2

Back to Sowing to the Flesh, Part 2

[1] 1 Corinthians 12:31b (NET)

[2] John 3:7b (NET)

[3] Romans 3:22 (NET)

[4] 1 Corinthians 5:1b (NET)

[5] John 19:6b (ESV)

[6] 1 Corinthians 5:6b (NET)

[7] Romans 8:28b (NET)

[8] Matthew 13:33 (NET)

[9] Romans, Part 66; Romans, Part 68

[10] http://www.justgivemethetruth.com/paul_was_a_deceiver.htm

[11] Philippians 3:9 (NET)

[12] Paul in Corinth; Romans, Part 2; Paul in Athens

[13] 1 Corinthians 2:1, 2 (NET)

[14] Acts 16:4 (NET)

[15] 1 Corinthians 6:12a (NET)

[16] Kyle Harper: “Porneia—The Making of a Christian Sexual Norm;” Journal of Biblical Literature 131, no. 2 (2012); p. 369; “For all the importance of prostitution in Greek and Roman societies, πορνεία was not a common word.  Πορνεία occurs in only four classical authors (by contrast, the word occurs nearly four hundred times in Jewish and Christian literature before 200 c.e., and over eighteen hundred times between 200 and 600 c.e.).”  (I cannot link to this article directly, but was able to download it at academia.edu.)

[17] ibid, p. 372

[18] What lover of the Old Testament Scriptures wouldn’t want to hear the patriarchs confess their sexual sins according to the law yehôvâh delivered at Sinai so many years after the patriarchs themselves died?

[19] Matthew 15:18, 19 (NET)

[20] Mark 7:21, 22 (NET)

[21] Acts 15:20, 29 (NET)

[22] Acts 21:25 (NET)

[23] http://www.themediareport.com/2015/11/30/cardinal-law-spotlight-movie/  (I am not the “Dan” who commented on this article, by the way.  I just discovered this site researching the current essay.)

[24] John 1:29 (NET)

[25] 1 John 3:9 (NET)

[26] Romans 8:14 (NET)

The Jerusalem Council

The end of their first mission in Pisidian Antioch became a pattern of sorts for Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:49, 50; 14:1, 2 NET):

So the word of the Lord was spreading through the entire region.  But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high social standing and the prominent men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and threw them out of their region.

The same thing happened in Iconium when Paul and Barnabas went into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a large group of both Jews and Greeks (Ἑλλήνων, a form of Ἕλλην)[1] believed.  But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles (ἐθνῶν, a form of ἔθνος)[2] and poisoned their minds against the brothers.

Paul and Barnabas…fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding region[3] after they learned of an an attempt to mistreat them and stone them.[4]  In Lystra they faced the opposite situation.  They were greeted as gods after Paul healed a lame man (Acts 14:12, 13 NET).

They began to call Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.  The priest of the temple of Zeus, located just outside the city, brought bulls and garlands to the city gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifices to them.

Paul and Barnabas had to do some pretty fast talking.  They had difficulty persuading the people that they were men not gods.  But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and after winning the crowds over, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, presuming him to be dead.  But after the disciples had surrounded him, he got up and went back into the city.  On the next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.[5]

After they proclaimed the Gospel in Derbe, they returned to many of the cities they had already visited, encouraged the new believers and appointed elders.  Finally they made their way back to Antioch in Syria and made their missionary report to their home church.  Sometime later some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”[6]  Paul and Barnabas argued against this.  The church in Antioch sent them again to Jerusalem to resolve this disagreement (Acts 15:4, 5 NET).

When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all the things God had done with them.  But some from the religious party of the Pharisees who had believed stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise the Gentiles and to order them to observe the law of Moses.”

Paul was also from the religious party of the Pharisees.  He gave a bit more insight into his own state of mind in Galatians 2:1, 2 (NET): Then after fourteen years I went up to Jerusalem again with Barnabas, taking Titus along too.  I went there because of a revelation and presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.  But I did so only in a private meeting with the influential people, to make sure that I was not running – or had not run – in vain.

Both the apostles and the elders met together to deliberate about this matter.[7]  I may be reading too much into this, but I get the impression that Paul and Barnabas were not included among the apostles and the elders who met together to deliberate.  I am thinking they were present as something like expert witnesses.  The whole group kept quiet and listened to Barnabas and Paul while they explained all the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.[8]

I quoted Peter’s and James’ addresses from this council elsewhere and won’t do it again here.  Peter’s reasoning was pre– or proto-theological in the sense that it was based on a vision he saw and actual experience more than Scripture.  James brought Old Testament prophecy into the debate, but again it was the apostles’ experience with Gentile believers that was held forth as the fulfillment of that prophecy.  That experience was very persuasive to those who shared it.  But consider Peter’s and James’ conclusions in a table next to Jesus’ teaching.

Peter

James

Jesus

So now why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?

Acts 15:10 (NET)

Therefore I conclude that we should not cause extra difficulty for those among the Gentiles who are turning to God…

Acts 15:19 (NET)

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place.  So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:17-19 (NET)

If this were all I had to go on my religious mind would agree with those from the religious party of the Pharisees who…said, “It is necessary to circumcise the Gentiles and to order them to observe the law of Moses.”[9]  Don’t get me wrong.  I believe wholeheartedly that what was unanimously decided[10] at the Jerusalem Council was on the right track, but the arguments in defense of that position were fairly weak.  I imagine the addition of James’ abbreviated version of the law secured a unanimous consensus in the council.  It was also contrary, however, to what Jesus had taught.  Jesus had not come to καταλῦσαι (a form of καταλύω)[11] the law or the prophets, loosen them down, but to πληρῶσαι (a form of πληρόω),[12] fill them up.

Of course, this is not all I have to go on.  Jesus was fairly clear all things considered that love fulfills the law and the prophets.  But I say to you, love (ἀγαπᾶτε, a form of ἀγαπάω)[13] your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.[14]  Paul was explicit: the one who loves (ἀγαπῶν, a form of ἀγαπάω) his neighbor has fulfilled (πεπλήρωκεν, another form of πληρόω) the law.  For the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,(and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love (ἀγαπήσεις, another form of ἀγαπάω) your neighbor as yourself.”  Love (ἀγάπη)[15] does no wrong to a neighbor.  Therefore love (ἀγάπη) is the fulfillment (πλήρωμα)[16] of the law.[17]

Paul appreciated the whole law for what it was and did accomplish: I would not have known sin except through the law.  For indeed I would not have known what it means to desire something belonging to someone else if the law had not said, “Do not covet.”[18]  And, through the law comes the knowledge (ἐπίγνωσις)[19] of sin.[20]  Paul was also quite explicit about what the law could not do: no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law[21]

He stopped teaching James’ abbreviated version of the law eventually[22] and taught instead that the law is lord over a person as long as he lives.[23]  So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you could be joined to another, to the one who was raised from the dead, to bear fruit to God.  For when we were in the flesh, the sinful desires, aroused by the law, were active in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.  But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code.[24]

But all of this was still in the future when Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch with the following letter (Acts 15:23b-29 NET):

From the apostles and elders, your brothers, to the Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, greetings!  Since we have heard that some have gone out from among us with no orders from us and have confused you, upsetting your minds by what they said, we have unanimously decided to choose men to send to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas who will tell you these things themselves in person.  For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality (πορνείας, a form of πορνεία).[25]  If you keep yourselves from doing these things, you will do well.  Farewell.

This letter was a very satisfactory solution for the Jewish converts, God fearers or Gentile people who had attached themselves to a Jewish synagogue in some fashion in Antioch.  When they read it aloud, the people rejoiced at its encouragement.[26]

Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and proclaiming (along with many others) the word of the Lord.  After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s return and visit the brothers in every town where we proclaimed the word of the Lord to see how they are doing.”  Barnabas wanted to bring John called Mark along with them too, but Paul insisted that they should not take along this one who had left them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work.  They had a sharp disagreement, so that they parted company.  Barnabas took along Mark and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and set out, commended to the grace of the Lord by the brothers and sisters.  He passed through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches…. As they went through the towns, they passed on the decrees that had been decided on by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the Gentile believers to obey.  So the churches were being strengthened in the faith and were increasing in number every day.[27]

I think it is worth mentioning that Barnabas, who sought out the rejected Saul to help in the ministry in Antioch, was true to form when he took the rejected John Mark under his wing as well.  The result of that second chance (and apparently a cousin’s[28] tutelage) was that Paul’s opinion of Mark was altered (2 Timothy 4:9-11 NET).

Make every effort to come to me soon.  For Demas deserted me, since he loved the present age, and he went to Thessalonica.  Crescens went to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia.  Only Luke is with me.  Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is a great help to me in ministry.

 

 


[3] Acts 14:6 (NET)

[4] Acts 14:5 (NET)

[5] Acts 14:19, 20 (NET)

[6] Acts 15:1 (NET)

[7] Acts 15:6 (NET)

[8] Acts 15:12 (NET)

[9] Acts 15:5 (NET)

[14] Matthew 5:44, 45 (NET)

[17] Romans 13:8b-10 (NET)

[18] Romans 7:7 (NET)

[20] Romans 3:20b (NET)

[21] Romans 3:20a (NET)

[22] Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that there is no more mention that Paul passed on the decrees that had been decided on by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem after Acts 16:4 (NET), but Acts 18:23 (NET) seems to me to be saying more than that by silence.  After he spent some time there [in Antioch after greeting the church in Jerusalem], Paul left and went through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.  Granted, this is some of the same ground that Paul covered in the beginning of his second missionary journey, perhaps he (or Luke) simply didn’t feel the need to repeat himself.  But Paul’s own writing and Luke’s choice of words as well as omission of words leads me in the other direction.  In Acts 16:4, 5 the churches were ἐστερεοῦντο (a form of στερεόω, strengthened, established) on the basis of the decrees that had been decided on by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.   In Acts 18:23 Paul went about στηρίζων (a form of ἐπιστηρίζω, strengthening)—the word might have been translated reestablishing—all the disciples without the aforementioned decrees.

[23] Romans 7:1 (NET)

[24] Romans 7:4-6 (NET)

[26] Acts 15:31 (NET)

[27] Acts 15:35-41; 16:4, 5 (NET)

[28] Colossians 4:10 (NET) Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him).

Jedidiah, Part 2

Imagine if Bill Clinton or George W. Bush did what David did and got off like that.  But I’m more interested in knowing the only true God, and Jesus Christ,[1] and trying to understand Him these days, than fretting over ancient history.  Besides, I’m nobody, and though I probably deserve Nadab’s, Abihu’s and Achan’s fate more than they did, the Lord has treated me more like David (not that any prophets have come calling).  And for all his patience and kindness, what has He gotten in return from me?  Unbelief, at least lingering doubt.  That’s the essence of my perversity.

I laugh at myself when I stumble around wondering if I can really distinguish God’s kindness and patience toward me from his non-existence: “What is it, Dan?  You need Him to strike you with lightning to prove that He loves you?”  But for the most part that doubt is overcome by Bible study.  My day is sort of empty when I’m too tired to study any more.  I wake in the morning excited to get to it again.  I chafe when my “real life” impinges on my study time.  The Eric Liddell character in Chariots of Fire said something like, “When I run, I feel his pleasure.”  I’m not a runner.  But when I study the Bible I feel his pleasure.

If I am honest the real issue of doubt for me is something else now.  Being struck down by lightning is something I can live up to; been there, done that, mission accomplished!  The doubt creeps in when I consider living up to his patience and kindness.  Can I do that in a lifetime? In an eternity?  I know the answer is yes and no.  No, I can’t.  Yes, He can, by his Spirit, through his grace.  But the doubt lingers all the same.  David, however, remained faithful despite God’s forgiveness.

He wrote a song after Nathan confronted him:  Have mercy on me, O God, because I’m not such a bad guy.  No, that’s not what he wrote.   Have mercy on me, O God, because of your loyal love!  Because of your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts!  Wash away my wrongdoing![2]  Somehow, in a way my perversity has forbidden me from fully embracing, David saw through all the commandments, laws, crimes and punishments to a God who is loyal love and great compassion.  And David believed that God’s loyal love and great compassion were sufficient cause to wipe away his rebellious acts and wash away his wrongdoing despite all the commandments, laws, crimes and punishments proscribed against him.

Of course, this might have been desperate emotional hyperbole:  David, the sinner in the hands of an angry God, trying to convince himself and perhaps persuade God that God’s loyal love and great compassion were good reasons to spare David’s life.  I was certainly no stranger to emotional hyperbole.  I wrote off a lot of the sayings of Jesus and most of Paul’s writings as just that—emotional hyperbole, wild exaggeration.  But the more I failed to keep my end of the contract with God, the more I sinned despite my best efforts not to, the more I turned a willing ear to Paul’s letters, to those things that are hard to understand,” as Peter described Paul’s writing (2 Peter 3:14-16 NET).

Therefore, dear friends, since you are waiting for these things, strive to be found at peace, without spot or blemish, when you come into his presence.  And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as also our dear brother Paul wrote to you, according to the wisdom given to him, speaking of these things in all his letters.  Some things in these letters are hard to understand, things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do to the rest of the scriptures.

Paul had written (Romans 13:8-10 NET):

Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” (and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

On this point Jesus and Paul seemed to agree.  When asked, Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?  Jesus answered (Matthew 22:36-40 NET):

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  This is the first and greatest commandment.  The second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.

“I’ve been going about this all wrong,” I thought.  I had been attempting to do a negative.  I was trying not to sin.  What I should have been doing was trying to love.  I had missed the significance of these passages many times because I thought love was an emotion, a feeling.  I knew that no feeling would solve my sin problem.  But this time I had connected these passages with Paul’s definition of love.[3]  Love was anything and everything but an emotion according to Paul.  So I took Paul’s definition and reworked it.  It became my new law.

Love is patient, love is kind,[4] Paul penned.  Thou shalt be patient, I reworked the text.  Thou shalt be kind.  Thou shalt not be envious.  Thou shalt not brag.  Thou shalt not be puffed up.  Thou shalt not be rude.  Thou shalt not be self-serving.  Thou shalt not be easily angered.  Thou shalt not be resentful.  Thou shalt not be glad about injustice.  Thou shalt rejoice in the truth.  Thou shalt bear all things.  Thou shalt believe all things.  Thou shalt hope all things.  Thou shalt endure all things.

Though such things are difficult to measure, I think it is fair to say that I did incrementally better at not sinning by trying to love like this rather than trying not to sin.  But “incrementally better” was a long way from anything anyone would mistake for righteousness.  Meanwhile, I kept reading Paul with my ears slightly more open.  It occurred to me that Paul didn’t think his definition of love was just a list of rules he made for me to obey.  Paul thought he was describing love as Jesus himself loved.  The idea was staggering.

I began to use my commandments, “Thou shalt not be puffed up, rude, or self-serving” to force myself to hear Jesus in a new way.  No matter what I thought or felt about how puffed-up, self-serving and rude Jesus was, I told myself he was not puffed-up, self-serving or rude, because that would be contrary to the law of his own love.  There had to be other explanations.

Also, I began to wonder, if 1 Corinthians actually was a definition of Jesus’ love, of God’s love, could I make myself righteous—love like Jesus—by turning the definition into a law and striving to obey it?  As I considered that, it seemed that Paul was shouting at me:  crazy things, hopeful things, alarming-could-they-possibly-be-true-I’ve-never-heard-anything-like-these-things-in-my-life things.  So I went searching through the Old Testament, looking for any precedent for these wonderful, frightening things.  And in that state of mind David’s confession did not seem like emotional hyperbole to me.  In fact, there are two David’s revealed in the Scripture.

Nathan went home.  The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and the child became very ill.[5]  David fasted and prayed and wept.  He spent the night lying on the ground.  He wouldn’t eat and he refused to listen to those who pleaded with him to take better care of himself.  A week later the child died.  The people around David were afraid to tell him.

While the child was still alive he would not listen to us, they said.  How can we tell him that the child is dead?[6]  David was so distraught they thought he would hurt or possibly kill himself.  He noticed them whispering to one another.  Is the child dead? David asked.  Yes,[7] they replied.

So David got up from the ground, bathed, put on oil, and changed his clothes. He went to the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then, when he entered his palace, he requested that food be brought to him, and he ate.[8]

David’s people didn’t know what to make of this.  While the child was still alive, you fasted and wept, they exclaimed.  Once the child was dead you got up and ate food!   David explained, While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept because I thought, “Perhaps the Lord will show pity and the child will live.”  But now he is dead.  Why should I fast?  Am I able to bring him back?  I will go to him, but he cannot return to me!”[9]

So the former David expressed what I’ll call an experimental faith: Let’s see what God will do if I do this.  The latter David displayed what I can only call a super-rational faith accompanied by a profound peace.  There was nothing cold about it.  On the contrary, David was the same man whose first concern was not for his own welfare but rather how he might change God’s mind and if possible spare the cursed child.

This latter David, I believe, was the one who penned the song I am considering:  Have mercy on me, O God, because of your loyal love!  Because of your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts!  Wash away my wrongdoing!  David was neither emotionally distraught nor particularly concerned for his own welfare when he wrote those words.  For Psalm 51 was written sometime after Nathan informed David:  Yes, and the Lord has forgiven your sin.  You are not going to die.[10]

Jedidiah, Part 3

Back to Romans, Part 1

Back to David’s Forgiveness, Part 12

Back to Romans, Part 31

Back to My Reasons and My Reason, Part 6

Back to Fear – Deuteronomy, Part 1

Back to Sowing to the Flesh, Part 2


[1] John 17:3 (NET)

[2] Psalm 51:1, 2a (NET)

[4] 1 Corinthians 13:4 (NET)

[5] 2 Samuel 12:15 (NET)

[6] 2 Samuel 12:18 (NET)

[7] 2 Samuel 12:19 (NET)

[8] 2 Samuel 12:20 (NET)

[9] 2 Samuel 12:21-23 (NET)

[10] 2 Samuel 12:13 (NET)