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