Friday, April 20, 2018

Never-ending mystery

Quite the opposite, however, is true for revelational mysteries. Here the mysterious sense is not something to be overcome but, rather, something to be apprehended and taken into account as such. This prospect is not to be lamented but rather championed and celebrated in that a revelational mystery, by continuing to retain its mysterious quality, has an available storehouse of riches to be perpetually discovered and mined. The specific kind of ignorance at work in this case is not so much an exposure of human frailty as it is an invitation to anticipate surprise, awe, wonder, and amazement. A revelational mystery has the potential for being beautiful, true, and good in that it can enrapture and enchant those engaging it.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 49 (emphasis original)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Table of Contents for Forti, Like a Bird on a Roof"

Here's the Table of Contents for Forti, "Like a Bird on a Roof":
Preface
Introduction
The Psalms as Liturgy
Imagery, Metaphor, and Simile
Synopsis of Research on Metaphors in the Psalms
The Focus of Investigation and Methodology
Chapter 1 Faunal Imagery in Psalmodic Refrains
Psalm 49:13, 21: A wisdom motif of human ignorance and the futility of wealth—בהמות ‘beasts’
Psalms 59:7, 15; 22:13–14, 17, 21–22; and 118:10–12: Animal imagery as representing the psalmist’s adversary
Psalm 59:7, 15: Wild-dog imagery to denote the psalmist’s enemy—כלב ‘dog’
Psalm 22:13–14, 17: Bulls, mighty ones of Bashan, lions, dogs, and wild oxen as metonyms for the psalmist’s adversaries—כלב ‘dog,’ פר ‘bull,’ אריה ‘lion’
Psalm 118:10–12: Bee imagery as denoting the psalmist’s enemies—דבורה ‘bee’
Chapter 2 Faunal Imagery as Secondary Interpolation
Proverbs 1:10–19
Psalm 84:4: Intimacy with God—צפור ‘bird’ and 'sparrow' דרור
Psalm 102:7–8: Desolation and isolation—קאת ‘great owl,’ כוס ‘owl,’ and צפור ‘bird’
Psalms 33:16–17 and 32:8–9: Wisdom motifs within theological contemplation—סוס ‘horse’ and פרד ‘mule’
Psalm 32:8–9 83
Conclusion
Faunal Imagery in Psalmodic Refrains
Faunal Imagery as Secondary Interpolation
Bibliography
Indexes
Index of Authors
Index of Scripture
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Table of Contents for Rollston's Enemies and Friends of the State

For some unknown reason, the ToC of Enemies and Friends of the State isn't showing up on the web site, so here it is:
Part 1: Setting the Stage
Defining the State (pp. 3-23). Alexander H. Joffe.
The Politics of Voice: Reflections on Prophetic Speech as Voices from the Margins (pp. 25-56). Miriam Y. Perkins
Part 2: The Ancient Near East
A Land without Prophets? Examining the Presumed Lack of Prophecy in Ancient Egypt (pp. 59-86). Thomas Schneider.
A Royal Advisory Service: Prophecy and the State in Mesopotamia (pp. 87-114). Jonathan Stökl.
Prophecy in Syria: Zakkur of Hamath and Luʿash (pp. 115-134). Hélène Sader.
Prophecy in Transjordan: Balaam Son of Beor (pp. 135-196). Joel S. Burnett.
Part 3: Prophets in the Deuteronomistic History and the Chronicler
Prophets in the Early Monarchy (pp. 207-217). William M. Schniedewind.
Friends or Foes? Elijah and Other Prophets in the Deuteronomistic History (pp. 219-256). Gary N. Knoppers and Eric L. Welch
Unnamed Prophets in the Deuteronomistic History (pp. 257-275). Jason Bembry.
The Prophet Huldah and the Stuff of State (pp. 277-296). Francesca Stavrakopoulou.
Prophets in the Chronicler: The Books of 1 and 2 Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah (pp. 297-310). Lester L. Grabbe.
Part 4: Prophets in the Prophetic Books of the First Temple and Exilic Periods
Prophecy and the State in 8th-Century Israel: Amos and Hosea (pp. 313-328). Robert R. Wilson.
Enemies and Friends of the State: First Isaiah and Micah (pp. 329-338). J. J. M. Roberts.
Jeremiah as State-Enemy of Judah: Critical Moments in the Biblical Narratives about the “Weeping Prophet” (pp. 339-358). Christopher A. Rollston.
Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (pp. 359-383). C. L. Crouch.
Obadiah: Judah and Its Frenemy (pp. 385-394). Alejandro F. Botta and Mónica I. Rey.
The Prophet Ezekiel: State Priest, State Enemy (pp. 395-410). Stephen L. Cook.
Yhwh’s Cosmic Estate: Politics in Second Isaiah (411-430). Mark W. Hamilton.
Part 5: Prophets and Patriots of the Second Temple Period and Early Postbiblical Period
Haggai and Zechariah: A Maximalist View of the Return in a Minimalist Social Context (pp. 433-448). Eric M. Meyers.
Apocalyptic Resistance in the Visions of Daniel (pp. 449-462). John J. Collins.
References to the Prophets in the Old Testament Apocrypha (pp. 463-485). Robert J. Owens.
Prophets, Kittim, and Divine Communication in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Condemning the Enemy Without, Fighting the Enemy Within (pp. 487-512). James E. Bowley.
John the Baptizer: More Than a Prophet (pp. 513-523). James D. Tabor.
Jesus of Nazareth: Prophet of Renewal and Resistance (pp. 525-544). Richard A. Horsley.
Late First-Century Christian Apocalyptic: Revelation (pp. 545-564). Jennifer Knust.
Oracles on Accommodation versus Confrontation: The View from Josephus and the Rabbis (pp. 565-581). Andrew D. Gross.
Index of Authors (pp. 583-591).
Index of Scripture (pp. 592-613).
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Mystery as an ever-deepening experience

[A] theological account of mystery must be of another order. They [Boyer & Hall The Mystery of God] argue that God is a mystery who reveals Godself through what God does within various contexts; that is, God is a revelational mystery. On this score, the mystery in question is to be considered primarily in terms of what is known: Christians behold a self-disclosing God, and within such moments of disclosure God is apprehended as One who defies categorization and definition. Notice the distinction: people approach an investigative mystery out of ignorance with the goal of finding more so as to explain it away, whereas a revelational mystery involves some basis of knowledge that over time reveals ever deeper and richer dimensions that cannot be adequately categorized or defined. Boyer and Hall summarize the point as follows: “A revelational mystery is one that remains a mystery even after it has been revealed. It is precisely in its revelation that its distinctive character as mystery is displayed.”—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 48

I wish I had said this!

From today's Anxious Bench
Here, ironically, the attempt by some evangelicals to sanctify Donald Trump might work well if given a quarter turn: he is no Cyrus, a pagan ordained of God to restore Jews to Israel, but Nebuchadnezzar, the pagan invader of Israel ordained of God to punish them for their unfaithfulness, and banishing the best of them from the promised land in the bargain. As intriguing might be the possibility of seeing that pagan’s later fate play out again—that is, to see the proud trumpet of egotistical greatness reduced to crawling around like a beast in the field, eating grass and growing literal instead of just figurative claws (Daniel 4)—one’s relish at the prospect bespeaks an unsanctified longing of its own.
<idle musing>
Nothing quite like turning the mirror back on oneself, is there? Before congratulating ourselves that we haven't fallen prey to nationalism, perhaps we should find the log (whatever it might be) in our own eye.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What's your starting point?

I sometimes point out to my students that Protestant primers of theology commonly have a first chapter on revelation or the Bible, whereas their Orthodox counterparts often start with a treatment of mystery. The differences here no doubt relate to the various ways that theologians view God-knowledge. Whereas some Christians may be suspicious of the term “mystery," a renowned theologian like Vladimir Lossky can make the following claim: “In a certain sense all theology is mystical, inasmuch as it shows forth the divine mystery.” For such an assertion to make sense, we need to recognize a certain epistemological sensibility present here involving how we form and develop God-knowledge.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 47–48

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

First, let's define the terms…

If the term “mysticism” is to be of any use for Pentecostals, it will have to be conceived, appropriated, and applied largely in emic (i.e., insider) ways. “Mysticism” would have to be a term Pentecostals use of themselves to affirm their identity as distinct from, and yet part of, the larger Christian world. It would have a use different from that of religious studies scholars. Such distinctions are difficult, if not impossible, to maintain for those who both use and hear the term. Many contemporary discourses tend to overlook such distinctions, even while claiming to be accommodating uniqueness, diversity, and openness. But such is the challenge with any range of terms, including “scripture,” “tradition,” “experience,” “spirit,” “the sacred,” “charisma,” and “sect.” For widely employed language to be useful for specific ends, it must be deliberately and determinedly limited. The running assumption in what follows is that this process can and should happen in the case of “mysticism" as Pentecostals articulate their identity in productive ways.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 47

Friday, April 13, 2018

The act of theologizing and the Holy Spirit

Origen strives after consistency within a given methodology, and his starting point includes a rationalistic rigor. lrenaeus, in contrast, is striving after faithfulness within an economy of holiness—the theater of God's participation and engagement with the world that leads to its healing and divinization.

As I understand them, Irenaeus’s vision and those like it will typically be appealing to Pentecostals. This vision calls for the systematic theologian and his or her writing, speaking, and conceptualizing (i.e., systematizing) to be located within the economy of God's activity and purposes. On this score, sanctification is a more fundamental category than scholarly completeness—conviction and passion are more determinative here than coherence and rationality. What sets the tone for Pentecostal theologizing is the reality and confession that God is at work in the world, including the academic realm. With such a baseline and orienting claim, Pentecostals cannot help but think that falling prostrate on one’s knees in prayer is more basic to a faithful form of engagement than typing one's thoughts on a keyboard. The prayer-logic, however, can be sustained to a deeper level still: typing on a keyboard can in some sense—when it is construed as an activity within the framework of God’s self presentation and work—be a prayerful act of faithfulness.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 35–36

<idle musing>
I like that: "typing on a keyboard can in some sense—when it is construed as an activity within the framework of God’s self presentation and work—be a prayerful act of faithfulness." I'd like to think that's what I do when I'm editing and marketing books.
</idle musing>

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Print versus digital

I'm reading a report about the differences in comprehension and analytical thought between digital and print (ironically, I'm reading it digitally on a MacBook Pro!). After pages of conflicting studies and evidence of reader preferences, here's what he says:
How is the current threat of digital distraction any greater when reading an e-book versus a print codex? Isn’t it just as easy to put down a print book and pick up a tablet or smartphone as it is to close out your e-reading app and start browsing Facebook? The answer, in my view, is no, and again I return to neuroplasticity. The digital environment is literally rewiring our brains to seek stimulative, short-­term gratification at the expense of our ability to think and read in depth. In this situation, how much more challenging is it to read at length on the very same screen from which your brain expects quick scanning, 140-­character tweets, and amusing cat videos than it is to read from a printed page or on a dedicated e-reader that does not offer such opportunities for distraction?

Thus the digital reading environment offers not a difference in degree but a difference in kind, one that is transformational in nature rather than evolutionary. As the digital age unfolds, it is likely to substantially alter both the nature of reading and the nature of the book itself as deep linear reading fades in importance and functional tabular reading becomes more widespread than ever. This will in turn alter the way people write and even the ways they think, leading to a likely decline of deep analytical thought for the purpose of forming broad conceptual frameworks in favor of a more immediate, purely functional form of decision-­oriented thinking based on rapidly acquired snippets of information.—Reading in a Digital Age doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/mpub.9944117 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
I agree. I read voluminously—both digitally and in print—and I know it is much easier to get distracted when I'm reading on a screen. Take this study as an example. I keep getting distracted by incoming email. I get tempted to check this or that. Not so when I grab a book. Consequently, I remember better what I read in print than what I read digitally.
</idle musing>

Learning styles?

I've been hearing about learning styles for what seems like forever—especially related to language acquisition. It sounds good in theory, but...
“by the time we get students at college,” said the Indiana University professor Polly Husmann, “they’ve already been told ‘You’re a visual learner.’” Or aural, or what have you.

The thing is, they’re not. Or at least, a lot of evidence suggests that people aren’t really one certain kind of learner or another. In a study published last month in the journal Anatomical Sciences Education, Husmann and her colleagues had hundreds of students take the vark questionnaire to determine what kind of learner they supposedly were. The survey then gave them some study strategies that seem like they would correlate with that learning style. Husmann found that not only did students not study in ways that seemed to reflect their learning style, those who did tailor their studying to suit their style didn’t do any better on their tests.—The Atlantic, April 11, 2018

<idle musing>
Yep.
</idle musing>

The spiritual matters

[I]f theology is to be theo-logical (i.e., properly about God), then it must be understood as directly related to spirituality. To separate the two is always a theological mistake. If the object of theology is the God of Christian confession, then how and in what manner this object is engaged and known is significant.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 31 (emphasis original)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Your way of life matters

On Pentecostal terms, the life of piety is the essential and orienting grounding for one's work of theological reflection. This way of putting the matter may sound altogether too pietistic for some, but early Pentecostals were explicitly disposed to consider the theological effort as necessarily dependent upon something greater than intellectual prowess and creativity. There was something vitally at stake for them in assessing and taking into account a person's Spirit-imbued power and anointing before moving on to evaluate his or her theological proposals. The theologian, in other words, had to be located within a broader context and reality, one in which spiritual matters were front and center.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 20–21

<idle musing>
Amen and amen! That's why Barth's theology, as interesting and provocative as it is, doesn't pass the scratch and sniff test. Anyone who can justify having their mistress move into the family dwelling and live with them has a serious issue. It will affect their theology in ways that aren't immediately obvious, but are foundational.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The tools are missing

Pentecostals have repeatedly tried to account for something that can be labeled "Pentecostal theology," but they have struggled mightily before such a task largely because of the fragmented nature of the contemporary theological enterprise out of which they have pursued such work. Pentecostal scholars often have had some intuited sense of what Pentecostalism is generally and experientially, but they have been ill served by the academy in finding categories and methods that can help them account for and articulate what they know at a tacit and visceral level about their tradition.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 6–7

Monday, April 09, 2018

Academic theology and life

Academic theology in the modern West has taken a number of twists and turns, but the divide between theology and spirituality is a legacy that more often than not obfuscates a working understanding of the Christian life. Whereas Christianity is in many ways declining in the trans-Atlantic North, it is flourishing in the global South, and these developments may well represent at least a partial indictment of some of the most troubling features coming out of the modernization of the West, one of these being the splintering and dissolution of theological knowledge. As a case in point, those in the global South are often able to speak of God out of a more confident posture than their Northern counterparts. Sadly, the latter, in a manner further indicated their malaise, might deem the former as naive and simplistic; the former constituency, however, may very well claim to be the future of Christianity on this planet, asserting that the latter have lost their theological and spiritual bearings.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page xvi

<idle musing>
I guess you could call me naive! I firmly believe in the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the individual and the world. Anyone who has followed this blog very long should be aware that I frequently bemoan the "practical atheism" of most christians in the Western world in general and the US specifically. If we don't believe God is active in our lives on a daily basis, talking to us, prompting, empowering us, then what is our claim to historic Christianity?
</idle musing>

Friday, April 06, 2018

Grammar fun!

This was on yesterday's Eisenbrauns Twitter feed.
For those of you who might not get it, a verbal system in a language typically is either tense (time) prominent, aspect prominent (type of action—continuous, intermittent, etc.), or mood prominent (command, wish, statement, etc.). What she is saying is that she got so engrossed in an aspect paper that she forgot all about tense. OK, it sounds flat when you have to explain it…

New book!

Today we begin a new book, Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition. Here's the first excerpt:
Pentecostalism is best understood as a mystical tradition of the church catholic. The claim may not be self-evident to readers because of the number of reservations and objections on a host of matters, but I would say that this way of casting Pentecostalism is the most faithful way to preserve its traditional impulses, concerns, priorities, and overall ethos—features that continue to be present in its most vital contemporary forms. These mystical features have been prominent at different stages of the church's history, but sadly, Protestantism generally and evangelicalism particularly have often avoided or dismissed these as part of the gospel witness.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page xvi (emphasis original)
<idle musing>
I would qualify that statement a bit and say that the Reformed wing of Protestantism and evangelicalism has avoided it. The Wesleyan-Arminian wing, and to a lesser extent the Lutheran-German wing have embraced it. One only needs to consult Wesley's writings to see the embrace of the best of the mystical tradition, and it continued through out the nineteenth century as well. In the Lutheran-Germanic wing you have the pietistic impulse, which emphasized the mystical.

Because the Reformed are the ones who tend to write the history books and control the narrative, the assumption is made that they speak for all. Not much different than now, is it, with the Gospel Coalition claiming to speak for evangelicalism. But, that small caveat aside he is correct and this book looks to be a marvelous read. Come along for the ride!
</idle musing>

Thursday, April 05, 2018

There really is continuity

[T]he double name formed by the personal name “Jesus” (yšwʿ as the short form of yhwšʿ, yhwšwʿ / ”Ιησοῦς) and the title “Christ” (mʿsyḥ, mšyḥʾ / μέσσιας, χριστός) programmatically encapsulates the New Testament. Thus, when read as a sentence, the name Jesus Christ means “(The one who is called) ‘Yahweh is deliverance’ (is) the Anointed One/ Messiah.” On the basis of the divine names used in the Bible, the Old and New Testaments can be read as a reflection of the history of Yahweh and Jesus Christ. A textual linchpin of such an approach oriented around the names “Yahweh” and “Jesus Christ” is the motif of the transferral of God’s name to Jesus Christ in Phil 2:9–11 (cf. Isa 42:8).—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 63

<idle musing>
That's the final extract from this book. Quite short compared to the last one, isn't it? It's really a nice read at only 150 or so pages. Next up is a book that I received from Eerdmans about a year or so ago:

</idle musing>

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

It all ties together

The theological question of Jesus Christ necessarily leads to the question of the nature and development of God in the Old Testament; to reflection over God’s role as creator and as director of history by accompanying, freeing, teaching, and sanctifying his people; as well as to the interpretation of metaphors for God’s wisdom, kingship, and role as shepherd and father, which also took on significance in the New Testament. Christology thus requires a presentation of the basic theologies in the Old Testament and of a theology of the Old Testament. The history of Yahweh that emerges in the Old Testament and the theologies of creation, history, law, the cult, and wisdom collected therein—which, from the perspective of the New Testament, find their goal (τέλος [telos]) in the spatial-temporal focus and embodiment of God’s actions through Jesus Christ—thus contribute to the history of God in the New Testament, to the discourse on Jesus Christ, and to a biblical theology.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 101

Monday, April 02, 2018

April snow brings May flowers?

The weather forecast for the beginning of April. Seems more like February, but after all, this is Minnesota!

Yep. They pegged me

Debbie pointed this picture out to me at the local library. Not sure where it came from, as I can't find it online anywhere.

She laughed when she saw it, because it describes me when I get involved in reading a fiction book. Can you relate?

On its head

What is common to the different sapiential figurations of the righteous sufferer in the Old Testament, whether Job, the supplicants of Pss 35, 69, and 73, or in Wis 2–3, is the notion that suffering is not a sign of divine absence but is instead—as in the case of Jeremiah’s suffering or of the suffering servant—understood as a sign of unusual closeness to God, whose nature as creator and teacher is confirmed (Wis 3:1–9).—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 100

Friday, March 30, 2018

And three chapters later…

The conception of the sovereign creator-God in Gen 1 is set in contrast with the image of God as a punishing judge in Gen 3. The kingly human in Gen 1 is countered by the debased human who hides before God in Gen 3. The vitality of humanity emphasized by the blessing of multiplication in Gen 1 is contrasted with the prospect of mortality and the hope in eternal life in Gen 3. The human who was called and equipped to shape the world in Gen 1 is juxtaposed with the human who, despite having knowledge of what promotes life and what destroys it, kills his brother and is thereby confronted directly by death in Gen 3–4. Despite all of the failures that humanity experiences in the events constructed as a paradigm for human existence, what remains constant is the relationship to God as the one who gives life, who is known as the creator, and who can be invoked in prayer (Gen 4:25–26). In this respect, prayer represents a fundamental human constant.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 73

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Son of God

An appropriate post for Maundy Thursday, I would say.
The reference to Yahweh as the father of the individual believer is not attested in the Hebrew texts of the Old Testament but is found in the Greek version of Ben Sira from the second century BCE and in a Hebrew text from Qumran. In light of personal names that contain the element -ʾāb-, however, it is clear that Yahweh was also venerated in ancient Israel as “father,” that is, as the personal protector of an individual. [fn. Cf. Joab “Yahweh is [my] father” (1 Sam 26:6); Abijah “My father is Yahweh” (2 Chr 13:20–21).]

According to the Old Testament, the father-son relationship between Yahweh and the Judahite king is based in a historically conditioned choice or adoption, not in a mythical ancestry. Functionally, it characterizes the temporal designation of the king as the representative of God as well as the earthly guarantor of divine order and justice (Ps 2:7, 89:27). The functionality of the father-son metaphor is also reflected in its sapiential use with reference to a wise person who, by showing mercy to the poor, receives the title “son of God/son of the Most High” (Sir 4:10). The earliest profession that Jesus is the Son of God is in line with such a functional understanding (Mark 1:9–11). As a son, Jesus represents divine justice, the kingdom of heaven, and divine Wisdom.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 69

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Too true!

We moved to Red Wing, MN back in December. One of the joys of this new location is a much larger library. Of course, being interested in obscure stuff, I still live on Interlibrary Loan, but being closer to a large metro area means time in transit for those loans is a lot less : ) Anyway, all that to say, the library recently (or I just recently noticed it) put up this poster:

There is a difference

In early Christianity, the title παντοκράτωρ [pantokratōr] with reference to Jesus Christ marked Christ’s universal rule and position against pagan gods who bore this title, while the title Sebaoth remained restricted to God the Father in distinction to the Son.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 68

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A conundrum

Despite the need to value the literary and religio-historical value of the Old Testament texts and to be conscious of Jewish theology, which draws on the scriptures of ancient Israel, as a possible and authentic way of reading the texts, corresponding aberrations over the course of the history of the Church and the history of interpretation show that eschewing Christian and Christ-oriented interpretation is not only theologically inappropriate but also regularly led to a devaluation of the Old Testament and, by extension, often to a devaluation or even persecution of Judaism as well. Conversely, a Christian and Christ-oriented interpretation of the Old Testament is not in itself immune to taking on an anti-Jewish tendency, particularly if it sets up a sharp antithesis between Jesus Christ, understood as the definitive revelation of God, and the divine revelations to Abraham and Moses, regarded as provisional and obsolete.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 60

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The source of christology

For the New Testament authors, the God who is accessible in the person of Jesus is identical to the God to whom the Old Testament bears witness, and Jesus is the eschatological savior expected in the Old Testament, to whom the New Testament authors (at the latest) gave the title “Messiah/Christ,” which was also used in Judaism during the same period to designate an eschatological savior and deliverer. Finally, early Christianity, which adopted the sacred scriptures of early Judaism, understood itself both in continuity and discontinuity with biblical Israel as representing the (new) people of God. Yet if Jesus Christ is understood as the definitive revelation of God, then within the context of Christian theology, the discourse on God in the Old Testament ultimately becomes part of Christology.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, pages 53–54

Monday, March 19, 2018

A difference in vocabulary

The term θέμις [themis] (“custom/law/legislation”), which was important in pagan Greek law and was mythically personified as Themis, daughter of Uranus and Gē/Gaia and mother (with Zeus as the father) of the Hours, of Dike, Eunomia, and Eirene (cf. Hesiod, Theog. 135, 901–2), only appears in the LXX in 2 Macc 6:20 and 12:14 in the expression “it is just/equitable,” while the New Testament authors do not use the term at all.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, pages 49–50 n. 73

Friday, March 16, 2018

The problems with translating from a translation of a translation

Over the course of the literary and theological history of the Old Testament, the term ,תורה [tôrâ] which originally stood for the teaching or instruction given by a priest, a prophet, or a parent, increasingly took on the meaning of “law” (νόμος [nomos]), particularly the “law of Yahweh,” which, according to the narrative of the Pentateuch, was mediated and written down by Moses (cf. Deut 31:24), before ultimately indicating the books of Genesis to Deuteronomy as a whole—that is, the Torah/ὁ νόμος (Greek Prologue to Ben Sira, 4 Macc 18:10). Within the context of the Torah piety that developed during the Persian and Hellenistic periods, obedience to the Torah is regarded as a correlate to the “covenant” and is described as justice. Mediated by its translation in the Septuagint (generally with νόμος) and in the Vulgate (generally with lex), Christian translations of the Bible up to the present tend to translate the term תורה as “law,” which reflects its later use in the Old Testament in a one-sided manner. This also had significant consequences for the history of doctrine and theology and occasionally led to the devaluing of the Old Testament and to Christian anti-Jewish polemics.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, pages 34–35

<idle musing>
Think Augustine, who knew no Hebrew and a smattering of Greek. He was dependent on the Old Latin translations—which frequently were less accurate than Jerome's Vulgate, which was in the process of being completed while Augustine was alive. Jerome knew Hebrew well and not infrequently chided Augustine about his lack of knowledge of Greek and Hebrew (Jerome could be nasty…).
</idle musing>

Thursday, March 15, 2018

New book!

Today we start The Development of God in the Old Testament. It's not totally new, being published in 2017, but it's new in the sense that I've finally finished Standing in the Breach. Here's the first excerpt:
[T]hree characteristic elements of the biblical conception of divine and human justice can be identified. (1) Divine justice as communion between God and humanity is unpredictable and elusive but can nevertheless be experienced. (2) The human experience of injustice does not preclude communion with God and does not absolve one of the social responsibility to act justly toward others. This focus by Gen 4 on the explicit question of justice is also reflected in the earliest Jewish and Christian reception of the narrative: the Wisdom of Solomon characterizes Cain as the archetype of the unjust person (ἄδικος, Wis 10:3), and in the New Testament Abel serves as the archetype of the just person (δίκαιος, Matt 23:35 par. Luke 11:51, Heb 11:4). At the same time, the story of Cain and Abel points to the destructive potential of unequal economic relations, which within the Old Testament is further criticized in the prophetic books (cf. Isa 5:8–24, Mic 2:1–3), yet without legitimizing violence on the part of the disadvantaged. (3) As the figure of Noah demonstrates, actions and behaviors befitting communion with God and with fellow humans are not impossible but are the exception.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 33
<idle musing>
Two things jump out: (1) the destructive potential of economic relations, but without legitimizing violence on the part of the disadvantaged. As I told my kids when they were growing up, "Violence is never an option." It just isn't the Christian way—but neither is complacency. (2) "actions and behaviors befitting communion with God and with fellow humans are not impossible but are the exception." Unfortunately, that's been my experience, too. Including my own actions over the years : (

Let's see what else this little book can tell us…
</idle musing>

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The end of the story

Intercessory prayer is not an option for the believer; rather it is an essential mark of Christ’s followers.—Standing in the Breach, page 529

<idle musing>
That's the final excerpt from this (long, but good) book. And an appropriate ending, to my way of thinking. Next up: The Development of God in the Old Testament. Stay tuned!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Identifying with the guilty

An essential characteristic of the Old Testament intercessory prayer is that the mediator stands in a good relationship with God. Even though the intercessors include themselves at times in their pleas for divine pardon that does not mean that they share in the guilt of the people (e.g., Moses: “pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance,” Exod 34:8). Rather, it means that the intercessors include themselves in a confessionary manner in solidarity with the people (cf. Nehemiah 9, Daniel 9). We have seen that this solidarity with the guilty party is an important aspect of biblical intercessory prayer. It is a solidarity that is characterized by love for the sinful people and reflects a corporate identity. Moses demonstrates in his prayer that genuine solidarity can be very costly: “if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written” (Exod 32:32). In a sense, here the mediator’s solidarity with the people supersedes the guilt of the people.—Standing in the Breach, page 527

Thursday, March 08, 2018

But what about wrath?

God’s wrath is not a divine attribute, but an aspect of God’s love. Like divine jealousy, so God’s wrath is a consequence of His love. As the revealed name of Yhwh shows, grace and mercy are fundamental divine attributes, while wrath is an inevitable outcome of Yhwh’s holy love that was betrayed. For grace and love to have any substance and meaning, sinners cannot but experience this love as wrath. Their sin cannot but produce a negative reaction from God if God is to remain loving and just at the same time.—Standing in the Breach, page 524

<idle musing>
If there is one thing people take away from these excerpts, this is it. I find myself repeating this over and over again to people, "God's wrath is not a divine attribute, but an aspect of God's love." It can't be said enough. If you make divine wrath an attribute, as some theologies do, you end up with a distant and untrustworthy god, not the God of the Bible; not the God revealed in Jesus Christ. But, if you remove wrath from an aspect of God's love, you end up with a vending machine god; the god of far too many prosperity preachers.

You can't pick and choose. God is a God of love, but divine jealousy is real and there are repercussions to straying. But, his love continually is drawing us back to him. And he is patient—extremely patient. And he listens to intercession.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

But where do you find such a person?

The intercessor is called to enter into the dialogue within God Himself. The advocate appeals to God’s larger purposes or divine reputation that would be endangered by fierce judgment. Also, if the intercessor can pray back to God a divine promise or appeal to Yhwh’s revealed gracious name, the prayer is likely to pacify God’s wrath and receive a favorable divine hearing.— ;Standing in the Breach, pages 522–23

Thursday, March 01, 2018

His ḥesed lasts forever

It is true that, according to the Old and New Testament, God acts both in wrath and judgment and in mercy and forgiveness. There is a duality in God’s dealings with humanity. We have seen, however, that divine wrath and judgment are always circumstantial and temporary. The scriptures consistently underline that Yhwh’s love and covenant loyalty lasts forever. Nowhere does it say though that divine anger goes on forever. The proportion that God keeps His steadfast love (ֶחֶסד [ḥesed]) for thousands of generations, but visits the iniquity of the guilty to the fourth generation confirms this.— ;Standing in the Breach, page 520

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

It's effective, but limited…

I would like to draw attention to another important dimension of the prophetic intercessory ministry that comes to expression through the metaphor of the “breached wall,” namely, the notion that the intercessor can only protect temporarily the breached covenant relationship. Just as the breach in the wall needs to be repaired to make the city a safe place in the long term, so intercessory prayer can only pacify divine anger temporarily. Persistent offense will eventually result in a divine prohibition to intercede and lead to severe punishment (e.g. Isa 58:10–12; Jer 15:1; Amos 7). In other words, in the long term the rebellious people need to return to Yhwh and recommit to the covenant stipulations to make the divine-human relationship whole again (cf. Deut 9:18–19, 25–29, 10:12–22). Understanding this dynamic confirms that the ministry of the prophet is essentially twofold: (1) “standing in the breach” in “defensive prayer” and (2) “repairing the breached wall” through calling a wayward people back to Yhwh and teaching the way of God (e.g., 1 Sam 12:23).—Standing in the Breach, pages 518–19

Monday, February 26, 2018

It doesn't come cheaply!

In obedience to his calling, the intercessor embodies a costly solidarity with the people who are often hostile to him. Thus, there is good reason to argue that at the root of biblical substitution is the act of pleading for divine favor on behalf of a guilty and antagonistic party. Related to the theme of substitutionary suffering and intercessory prayer is the key metaphor of “standing in the breach” for the sinful party.— ;Standing in the Breach, page 517

Friday, February 23, 2018

Where's the glamor in that!?

Confronting the sinful party with their sins and reminding them of their covenant obligations often results in strong criticism and personal persecution. Under circumstances such as these, the prophet is vulnerable to personal vindictive emotions. Standing in solidarity with a hostile people that rebels against both intercessors and God demands an immense sense of commitment to the sinful party. It has become evident that prophetic intercession and prophetic suffering belong together. The wilderness generation attempts to stone Moses and Aaron, and yet they intercede for the pardon of their adversaries (cf. Num 14:10–19). Jeremiah is commissioned to confront a corrupt and idolatrous generation (e.g., Jeremiah 7, 26). His judgment speeches eventually result in persecution and imprisonment (cf. Jer 11:18–23, 38:1–6). Although Jeremiah appeals to divine justice on numerous occasions, he prays for his enemies ( Jer 18:20) and even “faithfully disagrees” with God’s prohibition to intercede for them. The fact that interceding for a sinful party often brings a tremendous amount of physical and spiritual suffering comes nowhere clearer to expression than in the life, ministry, and death of the Isaianic servant.—Standing in the Breach, page 516

Monday, February 19, 2018

Grace over justice

The phenomenon of “holy mutability” is often found in the context of a prophetic intercessory prayer that seeks the reversal of God’s will to punish. In other words, the concept of נחם [nḥm] does not connote unreliability but communicates Yhwh’s willingness to show grace over justice. God allows Himself at times to be persuaded to show clemency, defer punishment, or renew the covenant relationship. Miller observes that the will of God “is always open to a transcending appeal to the divine will to mercy and compassion.” [fn. Patrick D. Miller, “Prayer and Divine Action,” in God in the Fray: A Tribute to Walter Brueggemann, ed. T. Linafelt and T. K. Beal (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998), 221].—Standing in the Breach, page 514

Friday, February 16, 2018

The hidden life of a prophet

The main responsibility of the prophets is commonly understood to be that of proclaiming the word of God (cf. Deut 5:23–27, 18:15–18). Acting as Yhwh’s mouthpiece, however, is only one side of the prophet’s role. The prophetic ministry is by its very nature twofold. It includes making known God’s will to the people as well as advocating for the guilty party before the divine judge.—Standing in the Breach, page 512

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Don't stop!

When is it permissible to disobey and “faithfully oppose” Yhwh’s command to refrain from prayer and to persist in knocking on heaven’s door, and when does the prophet need to desist from prayer? The issue of discernment in intercessory prayers for divine forgiveness is complex and deserves further investigation, but here what I like to highlight is that understanding and participating in God’s judgment is a process that evolves in persistent engagement with the mercy and holiness of God on the one hand and the prophet’s observation of the sinful people’s responsiveness to the situation on the other (cf. Amos 7:1–9).

Indeed, intrinsically connected to revealing the divine will is the two-fold prophetic role of being the mouth of God to the people and an advocate of the sinful party before God (cf. Ezek 13:5–7, Amos 3:7).—Standing in the Breach, page 511

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Yes! We need the hymns

There's an interview with Fleming Rutledge over at Jesus Creed that is worth reading, if only for this paragraph:
I believe that the church is worthy of the best hymn texts and the best hymn tunes, and if we don’t treasure them, we become impoverished. I have attended a great many churches over forty years that feature praise bands and praise music, and I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we are robbing the next generations of the deep memory of texts that are not only doctrinally and biblically rich, but also emotionally stirring and communally enriching. My observation is that—generally speaking—praise music trades on repetition, individualism, and theatrical emoting by solo singers. I don’t mean to sound overly critical, but I don’t think there is anything quite like the voices of choir and congregation joined together in the words of a hymn with a text that has a plot—praise and proclamation followed by destabilization and then a powerful, upbuilding resolution with a sense of struggle overcome in the triumph of God—all of it rich in biblical imagery.
<idle musing>
Amen and amen! Don't get me wrong, I like the choruses and sing along with them, but we need to keep the hymns of the church alive; they contain the real core of Christianity. We should supplement them with the choruses, not vice versa. Or, as happens far too often, substitute the choruses for the hymns.
</idle musing>

Friday, February 09, 2018

In the divine council

Though divine grace and patience are immense and will eventually overrule God’s wrath, the revelation of the divine name makes it clear that God’s nature cannot simply be summarized as gracious and loving. God is also just and holy. If necessary, God will visit His people and the nations in judgment. It is a judgment though that flows from love. This is not least evident in the fact that God in His wrath looks for intercessors to stand in the breach “and build a protective wall” around sinful Israel (cf. Ezek 22:30). Interceding for mercy is in effect engaging in a dialogue within God. It is like being invited to the divine council in order to present one’s case and to listen to the viewpoint of the heavenly judge.— ;Standing in the Breach, pages 510–11

<idle musing> I just read a book review of “Thus Speaks Ishtar of Arbela” yesterday in Svensk Exegetisk Årsbok. One of the points made is that the Neo-Assyrian and Mari prophets don't have the same access to the divine council that the Old Testament prophets do. A fascinating observation and a rare privilege that intercessors are given. This idea is developed further in the New Testament. . .
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Not despite, but because of!

Yhwh reveals Himself as a God of grace and mercy who is firmly committed to His covenant relationship with Israel. This understanding reaches a further climax in Moses’ final petition for the pardon of Israel’s sin (Exod 34:9); it is climactic because Moses makes Israel’s sinfulness the basis for his plea for divine forgiveness (“Forgive their iniquity because it is a stiffnecked people”). In other words, Moses, in an audacious yet profound way, makes Israel’s hopeless state the principal reason for his appeal to divine grace and forgiveness.—Standing in the Breach, page 510 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Wow! Did you catch that? Because of their stiffnecks, not despite their stiffnecks! That is ḥesed at its finest! Prevenient grace, the grace that goes before and awakens the sinner.
</idle musing>

Monday, February 05, 2018

With groanings too deep for words

Lohfink probes some of the theological implications of God teaching Moses, and through Moses every believer in the Mosaic tradition, how to pray in providing the divine name as a prayer foundation. It means, Lohfink suggests, that we cannot truly pray ourselves. What is more, we do not know what to pray for, if our prayer is to be a true prayer. God Himself must teach us about prayer and more so, the Lord Himself must pray in us (God Himself provides the words for prayer; cf. Exod 34:5–7; Joel 2:17). In this way we are allowed to tune into His praying in a manner that is worthy of Himself.[fn. Gerhard Lohfink, Beten schenkt Heimat (Freiburg: Herder, 2010), 25] A prayer that is in essence a reflection of God’s will in a human soul, Paul ascribes to the work of the Holy Spirit.— ;Standing in the Breach, page 509

Saturday, February 03, 2018

He takes the initiative

It is theologically important to note that God Himself appoints mediators to intercede for the party that has breached the covenant relationship. In other words, God Himself makes the arrangement to ensure that the covenant relationship will be protected and maintained (cf. 1 Sam 12:23, Jer 1:5, Ezek 22:30). Given Yhwh’s larger purposes with and through Israel (e.g., Gen 12:1–3, Isa 42:1–4), intercession is an indispensable part of God’s larger salvific purposes. In fact, we have seen that God makes the realization of His judgments often dependent on the intercessions of His chosen servants (Exod 32–34, Ps 106:23).—Standing in the Breach, page 508

Bonhoeffer's birthday

Tomorrow (Sunday) is Bonhoeffer's birthday. In anticipation, Englewood Review of Books has posted a few excerpts from his collected works.

Here's the first one, but the other ones are well-worth the reading, as well.

What is the meaning of weakness in this world? We all know that Christianity has been blamed ever since its early days for its message to the weak. Christianity is a religion of slaves, of people with inferiority complexes; it owes its success only to the masses of miserable people whose weakness and misery Christianity has glorified. It was the attitude towards the problem of weakness in the world, which made everybody to followers or enemies of Christianity. Against the new meaning which Christianity gave to the weak, against this glorification of weakness, there has always been the strong and indignant protest of an aristocratic philosophy of life which glorified strength and power and violence as the ultimate ideals of humanity. We have observed this very fight going on up to our present days. Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its apologia for the weak. – I feel that Christianity is rather doing too little in showing these points than doing too much. Christianity has adjusted itself much too easily to the worship of power. It should give much more offence, more shock to the world, than it is doing. Christianity should take a much more definite stand for the weak than to consider the potential moral right of the strong.—Sermon on 2 Corinthians 12:9, London, 1934 in Works, Vol 13, 402-3 (emphasis added by Englewood)

Thursday, February 01, 2018

What's the response?

[E]ven in the New Testament, there appears to be a sin that is beyond prayer for forgiveness. The challenge for the intercessor is to exercise spiritual discernment like Amos, to know when and how long one is to persist in intercession for a particular person or situation. Seeing a brother or sister committing sin, should not lead automatically to a judgmental attitude but, like Amos, to prayer.—Standing in the Breach, pages 503–4

<idle musing>
Not sure how much I agree with the first part, although 1 John does seem to imply what he's saying. But, I can definitely get behind the second half: prayer should always be our first response, although I sadly confess it isn't always. When we hear of, see, or experience firsthand a person sinning, or first response should be an involuntary one similar to Amos's: "Lord, forbear, Israel is so small!"
</idle musing>

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

#metoo isn't enough

Over at Mission Alliance, they have a good article on why #metoo doesn't go far enough. Read the whole thing, but the takeaway is in the final paragraph:
he Church has often been accused of holding a sexual ethic that ultimately represses or diminishes our sexuality. The truth is that our ethic is the only ethic capable of saving our sexuality from certain self-destruction. It’s high time that we remember that, and do all we can to hold before the world the hope given to us in the Incarnation—the very redemption of our bodies.
<idle musing>
Amen and amen!
</idle musing>

Far too common

A church in which only grace is being preached not only reminds us of the temple cult in Amos’s day (cf. Amos 5:21–23) but is a place where sins are easily covered. It is a place where people do not repent of their wrongdoing and certainly do not wish to be freed from their sins (why should they, if God forgives them anyway?). “Cheap grace is justification of the sins and not the sinner.”[fn. My translation of “Billige Gnade heisst Rechtfertigung der Sünde und nicht des Sünders.” By Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Nachfolge: DBW 3] Ignorance, sloth, or a self- serving theology are clear symptoms of a theology of cheap grace.—Standing in the Breach, page 502

Friday, January 26, 2018

Sleeping with the enemy

Like Amos, Jesus also showed a tremendous solidarity with the poor and exploited, and showed an acute awareness of social injustice and religious hypocrisy (cf. Matthew 23; Luke 4:18–21, 10:25–37). Moreover, Jesus’ conflict with the temple authorities reflects in many ways Amos’s conflict with the priesthood at Bethel (cf. Luke 19:45–47). Throughout history, the “established church” has been in danger of protecting its own worldly interests at the exclusion of the prophetic voice. In every age, the priesthood and (false) prophets are susceptible to teaching a “gospel” that the king and the people want to hear (cf. 1 Kgs 22:6–29, Jer 7:4–7, Matthew 23).—Standing in the Breach, page 502

<idle musing>
Now more than ever, as the "Court Evangelicals" drag the name of Christ into the mud : (
</idle musing>

Thursday, January 25, 2018

When is too much too much?

In solitude, perhaps like in Abraham’s case, Yhwh not only reveals His intentions but also invites prophetic participation in leading Amos into the realization that Israel has sinned themselves beyond the reach of prophetic intercession. From Amos’s two intercessions, we know that the prophet was fully committed to Israel, even if they could not bear him (cf. Amos 7:10). The overruling theological message of these visions is that when God’s word is consistently rejected, there comes eventually a time when the divine punishment can no longer be postponed. Like Abraham, Amos too is being taught by God about the meaning of divine mercy and justice (Gen 18:16–33). In contrast to Abraham, Amos is called to become a messenger of judgment and doom. This process, as we have seen, is also central to the intercessory ministry of Jeremiah. There too, the sinfulness of the people reached a level at which Yhwh had to prohibit his prophet from praying for his people (cf. Jer 7:16, 11:14, 14:11, 15:1).—Standing in the Breach, page 498

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

God changes his mind

Usually when God changes His mind, it is a gracious response, either to an intercessory prayer or because people turn back (šûb) to Him in repentance (cf. Jer 18:8–10). Thus, we conclude with Jeremias that the change of Yhwh’s mind is intrinsically connected with (1) the divine punitive intentions (2) the prophetic intercession, and (3) the postponement or the annulment of the divine judgment. In other words, divine mutability, according to the first two visions [in Amos], presupposes God’s intention to punish Israel, a prophetic plea for mercy, and God’s willingness to show grace and mercy.—Standing in the Breach, page 495

Monday, January 15, 2018

The waiting game

The God of the Bible is slow to anger and allows His prophet to affect a postponement of the intended punishment. It is important to note though that Yhwh does not explicitly forgive Israel’s guilt for which Amos has seemingly prayed. In other words, Israel is granted a period of grace. Yhwh cannot bring Himself to execute the well-deserved punishment yet.—Standing in the Breach, page 493

The silence is deafening

I've been a bit busy the last month or so. We bought a house in December and moved—to Red Wing. I also have started working for Penn State Press after they bought Eisenbrauns and the learning curve has taken a good bit of my time. In addition, I took on two editing projects that are taking a huge chunk out of the remainder of my time.

Given all that, there isn't a lot of time for reading and writing! Please bear with me for a bit. Things should calm down after January (famous last words!).

Friday, January 05, 2018

Amos or Joel? Which do you choose? And why it matters

In both the book of Joel and Amos, prophet and priest meet each other in the face of Yhwh’s imminent judgment. Interestingly, when we juxtapose the two accounts, the encounters between prophet and priest look very different. In the book of Joel, we get a sense of collaboration. Joel not only summons the priests to lead the national repentance ritual at the temple but also calls the priests to intercede for the people. It looks as though the priests followed the prophetic instructions and placed themselves between the altar of burnt offering and the porch to bring their prayers before God on behalf of the people (cf. Joel 1:13–14, 2:15–17). In the book of Amos, the prophet also meets a priest at the national sanctuary. In stark contrast to the book of Joel, there is a conflict between the prophet and the priest. Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, seeks to ban Amos from preaching a day of divine reckoning (cf. Amos 7:12–17). Interestingly, in the book of Joel the repentance ceremony and the priestly intercession mark the shift from judgment to divine mercy and restoration (Joel 2:17–18), whereas in the book of Amos the shift from divine mercy to divine judgment is marked by the priest’s prohibition on prophesy. We shall see that, by silencing the prophet, the priest also brought an end to Amos’s intercessory prayer and Yhwh’s patience. Thus, one could say that God’s patience ends where the state, represented by the priest, tries to decide when and where God may speak through the prophet.—Standing in the Breach, page 487

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Serving the people? Or serving the Lord?

Amos directs his judgment messages often against a self-indulgent individualism of the upper class of his time. Thereby, Amos and other prophets basically do what Moses did. That is, they seek to enable Israel in their time and context to live faithfully as Yhwh’s covenant people. There are points of contact not only in a common “community ethics” but also with regard to their intercessory ministries.

Let me start by drawing attention to the conflict between Amos and Amaziah. In this confrontation one can discern an ongoing biblical tension between the prophet and the institutionalized cult, a tension that is already foreshadowed in Moses and Aaron and their handling of the golden calf incident. Aaron, Barth observes, is not a charismatic figure like Moses, but the archetype of the institutionalized priesthood. Although Aaron is, as the “administrator” of the tent of meeting indispensable, he seems not to have an independent relationship to God, as do Moses and Amos (Exod 7:1–2, Amos 7:15). Aaron and Amaziah are men of the “established church.” They listen to the people’s voice. Moses and Amos, in contrast, are prophets. It is to them that God speaks directly, and thus they can intercede authoritatively with God on behalf of the sinful people and pass on the Lord’s word to Israel (Num 12:6–8, Amos 3:7). This contrast and tension comes also to expression in Jeremiah’s temple sermon ( Jeremiah 7) and reaches a dramatic climax in Jesus’ conflict with the temple establishment (cf. Matt 26:57–68).—Standing in the Breach, page 483

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Hard-hitting Amos

Amos’s messages are possibly among the darkest of all the prophets. Message after message underlines Israel’s sinfulness and Yhwh’s judgment. But what exactly is the matter? After all, the Israelites of Amos’s time are showing a great religious zeal. They go on pilgrimages to their sanctuaries in Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba. There, they bring freewill and thanksgiving offerings and tithes, and they participate in vibrant festivals (Amos 4:4–5, 5:21–24). The prosperity and peace that Israel enjoyed at that time was probably taken as evidence of divine favor and validated, in a sense, their life styles as the chosen people of God. Amos, however, exposes their hollow behavior by pointing to their self-serving ignorance and attacks primarily three major areas of sin: social injustice, corruption (Amos 2:6–8), and idolatry (Amos 5:26).—Standing in the Breach, page 480

<idle musing>
Sound familiar? What would Amos think of our culture? I suspect what he said to Israel would sound tame in comparison...
</idle musing>