Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kitchen's argument for Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.

Kitchen makes a very strong argument for the Mosaic composition of the Pentateuch.

Now, for our more liberal readers, it most be born in mind that Kitchen is not a backwoods fundamentalist who teaches at Bob Jones University, but rather a well respected Egyptologist who taught for many years at Liverpool University in England.  He is one of the foremost experts on the 13th to 12th century BC in Egypt.  One of his most respected works is a biography of Rameses the II.  So, he's an expert on the ANE, but he is not a biblical scholar.

Why does Kitchen think that Moses/Moses' assistants composed the Pentateuch?

1. The descriptions of life and political conditions of the eastern delta in the 13th century BC (which Exodus portrays with exactitude) would not have been known to a later author.

2. The geographical information about Sinai (quail migration patterns, water that comes out of rocks, the location of different oasis and deserts) would not have been known to a later in Hebrew author in Israel or Babylon.

3. The Middianites ceased to exist (from what we can tell) after the 11th century BC.  A later author would not have known about them or made up stories about them.

4. The treaty forms used in the covenant making scenes Exodus narratives were not used later than the 11th century BC.  Actually, they were not used before the 14th century BC.  For this reason, Kitchen rejects the early Exodus theory (15th century BC).  As he noted earlier, the archaeological data suggests an Israelite invasion in the mid-late 13th century BC.  This combined with the fact that the treaty/covenantal forms used only existed and were used during this short window, makes it almost certain that the exodus took place in the 13th century BC and that the Pentateuch was composed at that time.  

5. Moses as a figure who spent time in the Egyptian court is highly necessary for this to work to exist as it does.  First, the fact that he did spend time in the Egyptian court makes perfect sense in this period in that it was well documented that the children of Semites or "Asiatics" were taken into the Egyptian court and adopted.  If the Pentateuch displays these treaty forms known the Egyptians via their contact with the Hittites (Deuteronomy follows exactly the format of a Hittite vassal treaty form!), it would take someone educated by the Egyptians to explain how exactly it would make its way into the Hebrew Scriptures.  No author existing during the so-called Deuteronomic reforms (Josiah) would have known these forms and therefore it would be absurd to suggest their authorship during this later period.  Neither would slaves escaped from Egypt know them, anymore than I know what modern American international treaties look like!  Therefore, only a leader who had been trained by the Egyptians during this exact period would have been able to compose the Pentateuch.

6. One objection might be that the Pentateuch is written in standard Hebrew script which did not exist until later.  True.  Nevertheless, their was a Canaanite alphabet that existed with 24 characters that many different western Semite groups used.  In all probability, Moses and his associates wrote down the Pentateuch in this form.  Later on, probably at the time of David or Solomon, when the paleo-Hebrew alphabet had come into existence, the Pentateuch was recopied in this script, which new grammatical forms added.  Updating on the spellings of certain words also probably took place.  This is not merely speculative or special pleading.  Kitchen notes that this was a regular practice in the ANE.  It is well documented and continuous through the period in many different civilizations.  In light of the geographical information, historical conditions and the treaty forms that only a Hebrew (trained by the Egyptians no less!) in the 13th century would know about, claiming that it is a later composition or even non-Mosaic authorship is special pleading.  

Monday, April 26, 2010

Even more problems for the Biblical minimalists.

Kitchen points out more difficulties with the "displaced Canaanite" theory.

1. The population increase is not evenly distributed.  It moves from east to west.  If the poor, oppressed Canaanites were coming up into the hills, would they not be moving from west (close to the plains) to the east?  But if Israel came in through Moab and Edom, then one would expect movement from east to west- which is exactly what we have!

2. Did the Canaanites magically stop eating pigs?  Probably not.  Other Semites in the area definitely did, as did people in Philistia.  But for some interesting reason, the new settlers responsible for the massive population increase of the 13th century BC don't eat pigs.  There are no pig bones in these sites or any other animals considered unclean by Leviticus 11.  What you do have are sheep, goats, and deer bones- all considered clean under Leviticus 11!

Archaeological data defeats "displaced Canaanite" theory.

Kitchen observes that the archaeological data defeats the "displaced Canaanite" theory of the origins of Israel.  This theory posits that although there was a core of Israelites who came up out of Egypt in something like the exodus, the majority of Israelites were actually Canaanites who fled the plain and came up into the hill country to escape heavy taxation and oppression.  This, according to most "Biblical minimalists" is the reason why you have a massive population increase out of no where in the hill country of Palestine during the 13th century BC.

Kitchen demonstrates the problems with from the archaeological data itself.  The main problem according to him is demographic.  The population in Palestine was very small due to Hittite and Egypt oppression.  Also, the amount of population increase is very, very large.  We do not have a doubling of the population, but between the 13th and 12th century BC there is a fivefold population increase.  Now, that's not because Israel started making lots of babies, but because they gradually settled down.  Nomad don't leave any trace of themselves.  

A fivefold increase can't mean merely that Canaanites who are non-nomadic are move to another area where they're non-nomadic again.  We'd get a shift in population if that was the case, not an increase.  In other words, they'd leave material culture traces of themselves in both places.  Or perhaps it would mean that their infant mortality rate went way, way down, while they magically started having a lot more children.  In other words, not very likely.

Kitchen also points out the absurdity of the idea that they were trying to escape the city-states on the plain to gain freedom from heavy taxation.  If so, then they would simply have been followed into the hills by the tax-gathers.  Jerusalem and other Canaanite city-states certainly controlled the hill country and could tax people there just as well as they did on the plain.

From my own person study, I would also mention some other problems with the thesis.

1. If the exodus was only a historical memory for a very small part of the population, why was there no continuing folk-memory of escaping the city-states and only one of escaping Egypt?  After all, why would one be inclined to believe one had been a slave (something fairly shameful in the ANE), when one hadn't been?

2. Where did the Hebrew language magically come from?  Why wouldn't the Israelites (if they were displaced Canaanites) just speak Urgaritic like everyone else in Canaan?  Instead, we have a very, very different language that has arisen, not just a new dialect.

Kitchen says Solomon not that impressive by ANE standsards.

K.A. Kitchen in his On the Reliability of the Old Testament argues convincingly that Solomon is not as impressive as once thought.  Many liberal scholars claim that his reign is is over blown and therefore must be more like that of King Arthur.  Kitchen says that this is not true if we know something about historical context.

He compares the data of Solomon's reign as it is described in 1 Kings with other ANE monarchs.  Whereas Solomon receives tributes of 120 shekels of gold, other kings (notably Rameses III) received much more.  Even his 666 shekels of gold in taxes every year isn't that impressive compared to Mari and Egypt.  Similarly, Solomon only has one golden and ivory throne.  The Egyptians would give 10 at a time as gifts to the Aramians and Hittites.  

Kitchen's point is that in reading about Solomon, we are not reading about King Arthur.  As a believer in the reliability of Scripture, I would never disbelieve 1 Kings even if it said more spectacular things about the early United Monarchy.  Nevertheless, even if we look at the narrative without a high view of Scripture, what it says about the United Monarchy is totally plausible by the standards of the times.

Friday, April 23, 2010

My take on Revelation.

Another excerpt from the book- My reading of the book of Revelation.

The book of Revelation centers on Jesus Christ as both the author and object of the Church's liturgical activity. Jesus Christ has by his death and resurrection actualized a new creation and determines his bride the Church as a new creation by freeing her from sin, death, the devil and the law. He thereby actualizes her as a creature capable of reflecting his glory through a sacrifice of praise. This occurs when humanity is re-created in the divine service through Word and sacrament in accordance with God's original design through faith. Nevertheless, as the book reveals, the divine act of redemption has a corresponding act of judgment. Jesus acts through both the law and the gospel. By his opening the book of the testament (the book of the seven seals) he unleashes the law's condemnation and its destructive effects. The opening of the book annihilates the old creation and its dependency on false worship centered on autopoesis. He also redeems his Church so that the message of judgment becomes glad tidings to the elect.
The book begins with the John encountering the risen Jesus (Rev. 1:7-8, 13, 19-20). Jesus is dressed in the garb of a high priest, and is described as being one like the “Son of Man” who has received universal dominion.[1] In chapter 4, Jesus is further described both as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (referring to the messianic prophecy of Genesis 49:9-10), as a “Lamb” “looking as if it had been slain” (4:5-6) (a priestly image borrowed from the Passover and Exodus narratives). In this, Christ is portrayed as a second Adam (who as we have seen was both a king and priest) and thus the progenitor of a new creation. Because as Genesis tells us, creation is inherently liturgical, with a new creation comes a new liturgy of creation (Heb. 7:12). This fact alerts us both to Jesus' identity and the liturgical nature of the book as a whole.
This new liturgy centers on the worship of the risen and ascended Jesus. When John enters heaven (Rev. 4:4), he discovers representatives of the people of God (the twenty-four elders- possibly representing the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles)[2] worshiping God the Father and Jesus (4:4) in the power of the sevenfold Spirit. They do so along with symbols of the creation (the four living beasts (4:6-8) are likely, according to David Chilton, symbols of the zodiac and therefore images of the starry heavens).[3] Jesus is portrayed as possessing a throne just as the hypostatized Divine kavod or glory does in many other contemporary Jewish apocalypses.[4] In this, Revelation is clear that Jesus is the Divine kavod who occupied the earthly Tabernacle and Temple from Exodus 40 to Ezekiel 10, come again (Is. 40) to "tabernacled" among us, as John puts it in his Gospel (Jn 1:14-5).
Because of this, we are shown that the worship of the New Testament is no different than that of the Old. Jesus who was the kavod worshiped and encountered in the Tabernacle and Temple, dwelling in the midst of Israel, is now the incarnate one dwelling the midst of the Church through Word and sacrament. The only difference is that whereas the old covenant restricted access to the Holy of Holies, Jesus has now torn the veil of the Temple (Mt 27:51, Mk 15:38, Lk 23:45-6) and given the Church direct access by way of his presence in Word and sacrament. He has now not only been exalted to the right hand of God (which is everywhere, since it is God's power and glory (Heb. 9:11), but in a special sense also dwells in the midst of and within believers through Word and sacrament. In this, the exile from the divine presence that occurred from Genesis 3 onward has been reverse via the divine Service. Each divine Service is a sharing in the act of heavenly worship. Each divine Service is also a restoration and completion of creation.
Jesus is praised as one who by shedding his blood has freed the Church to be a true liturgical community, a “kingdom and priests to serve our God” (Rev. 5:5). Not only does this represent a fulfillment of Isaiah 61, but it is a description of what Luther described as the freedom of a Christian. As "kings" (as some manuscript have it) or "a kingdom" they are "lords of all," as "priests" they are "servants of all." This freedom has occurred through the substitionary death of Jesus, typologically described as the true Passover lamb. The Passover lamb itself the substitutionary victim that freed Israel to come out of exile. Leaving exile, Israel gained the land of Canaan and partially restored the dominion that Adam had over the whole creation (Gen. 1:28). Christians, united with Christ through faith, have now received the whole creation again by being ". . . raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:16). Similarly, Israel itself became a "priestly nation" (Exod. 19:6) both prefiguring of the restored liturgical humanity of the Church and looking back to the original role of Adam in the garden as the protological high priest. Now, the Church has come out of the true exile of spiritual alienation from God byway of Christ and therefore become the eternally restored humanity (Eph. 2:12-3).
Though it would appear that the people of God have already been conformed to the true eschatological goal of creation by the divine service, the temporal world still stands under the sway of demonic forces. The lamb who sits at the “right hand” of God (an intertextual echo of Psalm 110:1), is given a scroll with seven seals that he alone can open. In the first century AD any scroll sealed seven times represented a "will" or "testament."[5] The Lamb is worthy to open it because he was slain and his blood is the catalyst for the giving of the redeeming testament of the gospel. As we shall see, the opening of this testament (the gospel of the forgiveness of sins) results in the re-creation of the world. Indeed, as Luther notes in the Small Catechism, "where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation."[6] Nevertheless, it also leads to the judgment and destruction of the old creation, much like God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 15 led to the judgment of Egypt and Canaan. In the same way, in baptism, not only does the promise create the new person in Christ, but also drowns the old Adam or Eve (Rom 6).
The throne room scene of Revelation (which portrays the slain Lamb enthroned at the right hand of God giving his testament to his people won by his blood) provides a description of the Church's fellowship with Christ in the Lord's Supper mixed together with a description of the fellowship of the heavenly Church. In establishing the Lord's Supper (Mt 26:26-28, Mk 14:20-25, Lk 22:19-20, 1 Cor. 11:20-26), Jesus himself characterized his death as a means for the forgiveness of sins which enacts the new "testament" (diatheke) through his body and blood.[7] Jesus, therefore, dies so that he might "will" us his own life and righteousness to the Church. The Lord's Supper is a tangible giving of this testament. In Lord's Supper, Christ gives us his flesh and blood to eat in order to confirm his testament of forgiveness. We can be certain that this sacrifice has been offered for us in that God himself in Christ donates his own person to us in the form of his sacrificed body and blood (to sacrifice in the Old Testament is to drain the blood and thereby separate body and blood, see Lev. 17: 11-14). Similarly, just as by eating Adam had fellowship with Satan and fell into sin at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, by eating the Lamb sacrificed on the altar and tree of the cross, we reenter this fellowship with God who is bodily present "in, under, and with" the elements. As Revelation demonstrates, this also gives us a foretaste of the heavenly feast wherein we will have direct and unmediated fellowship with Christ in eternity.
The Word of the testament can also be a destructive law if it is rejected (Mt. 10:15, 1 Cor. 11:27-32). Because of this, the seals opened by the Lamb not only result in the redemption of the new creation, but the destructive judgment of the old. It is difficult, as Richard Bauckham notes, to directly identify any of the judgments unleashed by the opening of the seven seals with any particular historical events.[8] The apostle John, nevertheless, appears to see the pretentions of fallen humanity and its master the Devil as manifested in the prevalence of emperor worship under the Pax Romana. This does not of course mean that he sees this present embodiment of the spirit of Antichrist does not exclude his manifestation other forms. Doubtless, as he wrote his church, "many Antichrists have appeared"(1Jn 2:18).
John describes Satan as being thrown down from his place in the heavenly court (where he serves as chief prosecuting attorney- much as in Zech 3 and Job 1-3) by the blood the Lamb who has atoned for sin (Rev. 12:7-9). Due to his loss of power he seeks to make war against the temporal manifestation of the true liturgical community and its leader the Lamb through the organs of religion and state. The war of Christ and his people with Satan are portrayed with the image of the conflict between the seed of the woman and the dragon/serpent (13).[9] The imagery of the strife between the “Son of Man” and the serpent/dragon represent the culmination and fulfillment of the protevangelium (compare Gen. 3:15 and Rev. 13).
The Beast and his community are the antithesis of the Lamb and his community. Not only does the image of the Beast suggest a loss of the divine image through idolatry (most ancient idolatry took the form of the worship of animals- i.e., those who worship beasts lose the divine image through false worship[10]), but it describes an ethos counter to the testament of the gospel. The false community and “The Beast” (Rev. 13) are described as “Babylon” throughout the book. This suggests that several intertextual echoes are meant to be evoked by John. First, much as Babylon was the source of Israel’s greatest exile and the destroyer of Israel’s Temple, the universal world system of evil (presently manifest in the Roman emperor and the false worship of his cult) seeks to make the cosmic exile persist and to destroy the eschatological Temple, the Church (Eph. 2:20-2).[11] Babylon is thus a community that seeks to destroy creation through its stifling and rejection of the purpose of creation, namely the glorification of God. Similarly, as G. K. Beale notes, Babylon is associated with the tower of Babel.[12] Just as “ancient Babylon attempted to link earth to heaven through self-glorifying pride (Genesis 11:1-9) . . . latter-day Babylon would “pile-up” her sins “high as heaven.”[13] We might go a step further than Beale and suggest that just as ancient Babel once attempted to exalt itself into heaven, the Lamb is one who comes down from heaven and gives himself over to the service of his people. It is his self-surrender that makes him worthy to receive worship. For this reason, we must see Babel as something of an antithesis of the Tabernacle and Temple. Whereas the Temple and its true worship are established by God, the tower of Babel is established by humans. Whereas the Temple represented the descent of God to be in solidarity with his liturgical community (Exod. 40:34-5, 1 Kgs 8:10), Babel represented the exaltation of humanity of itself to God. In this sense, the true worship brought about by the gospel centers on the action of God for humanity, stands in contradistinction with the false worship of the Beast and Babel, which centers on human exaltation and autopoesis. In this, the community of the Beast is the culmination of Adam's original sin of false worship.
After a lengthy series of judgment, Christ leads his heavenly armies to conqueror the nations as the prophetic Word of God. We are told that Jesus wears a “robe dipped in blood” (Rev. 19:11-16) much like the earthly high priest. We are further meant to identify Christ with the heavenly high priest, the Angel of the Lord (Zech 3:1-5),[14] in light of the direct allusion to Isaiah 63. Just as the high priest prefigured Christ's expiation sins, he also prefigured his office as the divine warrior. The high priest reenters God's presence in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur in order to cleanse Israel from its sin. In this, he prefigured Jesus' defeat of the serpent which had led Adam into sin and removed him from God's direct presence. Christ is therefore the true heavenly high priest in that by expiation of sins he has defeated the chaos serpent (Is 27:1) that is, the Devil, and inaugurated a new creation. As the result of a decisive victory against his temporal opponents and the Devil, Christ reigns for a figurative thousand years (Rev. 20:1-6). After a final judgment, the new heaven and new earth are established.
The new heavens and new earth recapitulate Eden and the Temple. The New Jerusalem is described as an "arboreal temple-city."[15] We are also told that this new creation is a culmination of Christ’s atoning work. Just as he surrendered himself to the Church as the its priest-king in his eschatological battles and atoning work, so at the end of all things he finally gives his entire being over to the new creation in order that it might be a Tabernacle of his presence: “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them” (21:3) and again, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (21:22). In this, the new creation based on God's own self-donation in the gospel of Christ is completed by his establishment of the heavenly Jerusalem where there is no distinction between the city and the Temple. All existence delights in the presence of God and is devoted to the liturgy of the God and the Lamb

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Some other connections between Joseph and Christ.

Another connection that I noticed this morning.  When Pharaoh gives Joseph a wife, she is the daughter of an Egyptian priest.  This means that Joseph unites kingship and priesthood in his reign.  Again, this prefigures Christ's office as priest-king.

Joseph's family numbers 70.  The number of nations in chapter 10 of Genesis is also 70.  It means that Israel is the nucleus of the new humanity.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Joseph is a type of Christ.

I'm doing my "attempt to re-read the Bible every 6 months" thing still (Luther had the idea first, I'm just imitating him) and I'm at the Joseph stories in Genesis right now.

Interesting typological connections between Joseph and Christ. First, Shem is told that Japheth (that is, the progenitor of most of the Gentiles) will dwell in his tents. Joseph reigns over a kingdom of Gentiles (though mostly Hamites) and Israelites- anticipating the Church which is made up of both Jews and Gentiles, which is the ultimate fulfillment of this promise. Secondly, Joseph is given a coat of many colors. This is the sign of the rainbow given to Noah and suggesting that God will enact peace and not judge but redeem his creation. Revelation 4 sees this most definitively fulfilled in Christ. John sees a rainbow behind Christ on his throne. Lastly, and of course most importantly (this one has been emphasized throughout the history of Christian exegesis!) Joseph was humiliated and oppressed by his own family and then exalted. This was of course true of Christ as well.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Natural Law vs. Autonomy.

Last night my wife and I went to see a panel discussion of homosexuality. There were three scientists there (a Christians psychologist, a secular psychologist who teaches in the psychology dept. and a biologist) and there was a priest and a theologian. In my theology class today we had a discussion about the talk. I suggested to them that people get so angry about this particular subject not because the subject in and of itself is worth getting really angry about (on some level, it's been talked about so much its boring) but because it represents two moral visions of the world. I suggested that there were essentially two visions:

Vision 1: Natural Law (whether Catholic "ordering principles" or Lutheran "orders of creation"): The world was created by God. If we look at anything in the world, we can therefore analyze it on the basis of the question of purpose. So, when I look at a car, just on the basis of how it was built, I can figure out why it was made the way it was- to go places. When I look at human reproductive organs I can do the same thing. The male organ and the female organs work together perfectly- and to a specific end or goal- making babies and all the other things that that entails (i.e. personal intimacy to create a healthy and safe environment, etc.). Bottom line- things are they way they are and function correctly when we use them the way God desired them. Just as a car doesn't work if we try to put oil in the fuel tank, human sexuality doesn't work if we use it in ways that God didn't design.

Vision 2: Autonomy. The highest good is individual autonomy. Any act is justified on the basis of it merely being exercise of human desire. Desire has no purpose or goal. It does not have a design. I should not ask the question "what is the goal of this desire" and "does this fulfill the design that the creator intended?" Rather, the only issue is whether or not it is a free act and whether it is a matter of my exercise of autonomy. Within this system of thought, because highest good is autonomy, one talks about "rights" rather than "obligations" to follow the design of the creator. The only conceivable sin within this system of ethics is interference with the autonomy of the other. Sexuality would then be conceived as being a matter of the autonomous exercise of the fulfillment of desire. If said fulfillment did not hamper the fulfillment of others desires, then there could be nothing wrong it.

I would suggest that vision 2 is problematic not only because it conflicts with the Christian doctrine of creation, but because it is in many ways logically contradictory. First, our desires and the design of our bodies must come from somewhere and have some greater purpose. The idea that our desires are just there and serve no purpose beyond our fulfillment of them doesn't make any sense. We must first be designed and then our desires which are part of our design must have some greater purpose. Otherwise, why would we have them?

Secondly, there's no particular rationale for respecting the rights of autonomy of others within vision 2. Here's why I think most advocates for gay marriage and other thing have strange moral reasoning. First, we're supposed to believe that desire to perform an act is moral self-justifying. This I don't get. Why does the fact that people want to do something make it right? In a wide variety of other acts that people desire are also not right. No advocate of gay marriage will, for example, advocate murder because people want to do it. The next argument that an advocate will likely give is "well, no one is being harmed by it." But this introduces a higher principle than desire into the mix. This means that desire cannot merely exist for itself, but can be discipled and order to a higher goal (i.e. tolerance for the sake harmonious existence).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hahn on "signs" and "works" in John's Gospel

Scott Hahn makes two interesting suggestions.  First, he posits that "sign" (that is, the miracles that Jesus does) are sacramental.  They convey Jesus' reality as "living water" (point to Baptism) "living bread" (Eucharist), etc.  Secondly, he says that these "signs" identical with what he speaks of as divine "works."  If that's the case, it places some light on Jesus statement that the disciples would do "greater works" than Jesus.  Obviously Jesus is not saying that the disciples will do better miracles.  Rather it talks about their ministry.  Whereas we are constantly told that no one understands the words or miracles of Jesus, we are also told that the disciples did understand after the resurrection.  Because the signs are understood after Jesus rises, the disciples "sacraments" are better than those of Jesus that they are understood, whereas Jesus' mystify temporarily.  

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Abraham prefigures Israel's exodus.

Abraham's time in Egypt prefigures Israel's time in Egypt.  Just as Jacob and his sons were driven into Egypt because of a famine, so was Abraham.  Just as they were pushed into slavery, so Sarah was taken captive into the King's harem.  Just as they Egyptians suffered a plague because they enslaved Israel, the King suffers an undefined plague. Just as Israel was sent out with the plunder, so the King gives Abraham all sorts of livestock and other gifts.

Isaac and Ishmael prefigure the Church and Israel?

Paul claims that Isaac and Ishmael are "allegories" of the people of the law and the people of the gospel.  Now, as I have previously read him, it seemed to me that he was just making a kind of illustration.  But the Reformed theologian Peter Leithart demonstrates that both stories prefigure the history of Israel and the Church.

Ishmael has the right of inheritance by the law of primogeniture- much like Israel in relation to the Gentiles.  He has rights under the law.  He is nevertheless rejected for the child of the promise.  He is exiled twice and the second time permanently- like Israel.  We are told that he oppresses Isaac and is exiled for it- much like Israel's persecution Christ and the Church.

Isaac is born by a miracle like Christ.  He is persecuted like by his older brother, like Christ by Israel and the Church by its "older brother" so to speak.  He is elected though he does not have that right via the law- like the NT Church.  Finally, he goes to his death and is "resurrected"- like Christ.  On the other hand, a substitute (the Ram) is offer for him- again, like the Church.

This is, I think, rather remarkable and I think it goes a long way to showing that Paul's allegory is not merely illustrative or far fetched as some interpreters suggest it is.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Luther and Rabbinic Interpretation.

In dealing with the Old Testament in general and Genesis in particular, Luther frequently makes reference to Nicholas of Lyra. Lyra was a Jew who had been converted to Christianity and became a Franciscan. He was knowledgeable about rabbinical interpretation and also the Hebrew language.

Ironically, although Luther is very critical of rabbinical interpretation of the OT, he frequently accepts certain aspects of it. For example, like the rabbis, Luther hold that Melchizedek is the patriarch Shem. Conversely, although Luther knew the Church Fathers, he very infrequently considered their readings of much value. Again, this is ironic in light of the fact that Luther said in The Last Words of David, that although the Jews had grammar, the Church Fathers (particularly Augustine) had a better interpretation of the OT because they had Christ. In practice though, Luther does not seem to follow them much.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

God's "ordered" and "absolute" power in Luther's Genesis commentary.

More on the Genesis commentary.

Beginning with St. Thomas Aquinas, but being worked out more fully by Scotus and Occam, the concepts of dei potentia absoluta (God's absolute power) and dei potentia ordinata (God's order power) were mainstays of scholastic thought.

First, what do these terms mean? God's absolute power is God's potential power at the beginning of the world to do basically anything he wanted. So he could have made a world with green unicorns, where murder and lying were good, and truth and friendship were evil. Of course we know that he didn't do this- and that brings us to God's ordered power. God set up a world system and he's going to stick with it. Occam in particular emphasized that God's own commitment to the world system as he made it was absolute. God had made a "pactum" or covenant to tied himself to act in specific ways in response to humanity. This is, I think a fairly intelligent way of understanding divine freedom and I think it's hard to avoid.

Luther in the Genesis commentary makes some interesting formulations in regards to these concepts. First, Luther identifies the Word and the sacraments with God's ordered power. This is tied up in his discussion with revelation that we talked about earlier. Namely, Luther thinks that when God spoke to the Patriarchs he always did it through a medium. So, when we are told that God spoke to Cain, it was really Adam, the minister of the Word speaking to Cain. According to God's ordered power, he doesn't as a rule just inspire people or speak to them out of the blue, but sets up prophetic mediums who speaks his words externally.

He has an interesting twist on things though. He remarks that we should not go looking into God's absolute power, that is, the power he exercises apart from the Word and sacraments. This is a rather different interpretation then what we get in Occam. So, as we noted above, in Occam, the idea was primarily a speculative concept meant to guard God's freedom. It's not about an actual state of affairs. God is now committed to his ordered power, and has abandon his absolute power. For Luther by contrast it appears that this is only true with regard to the Word and sacraments- elsewhere God apparently remains free to act in regard to his absolute power. Absolute power is not a speculative reality then, but rather how God acts apart from Word and sacraments.

Now this raises some interesting issues as to how we interpret Luther's concept of divine hiddenness. Albrecht Ritschl famously believed that it was a hold over from the Occamism. I actually argued this point in an article I wrote for LOGIA about 4 years ago. Primarily I based myself on Bondage of the Will where Luther talks about God "binding" himself to a act a specific way in Word and sacrament, and being "unbound" elsewhere. I identified this as reminiscent of the Occamist concept of divine binding in the pactum.

Now I rethought this interpretation, because one could also point to passages where Luther says that when we see the Son, we see the true heart of the Father and that in the "light of glory" we will see God's true purposes. In other words, God apart from Word and sacrament is not pure, unbounded, arbitrary power, (deus ex lege) but rather there is a certain ratio to God's actions that we can't see. This might possibly be the case in the Genesis commentary as well. Luther states regarding the question of whether or not infants who were not circumcised were sent to hell, that they were not "because we know God by nature is merciful"- in other words, God has a certain nature that we know from the Incarnation and even apart from divine "binding" we can be certain he will act in accordance with that nature.

It could also be that he merely means that God has not bound himself to act graciously apart from Word and sacrament and he is using the scholastic terms in a less than precise manner. Nevertheless, there is much language that suggests that he identifies deus absconditus with deus ex lege.

Consequently, I think that I need to continue to study the question until I come up with a full answer. Perhaps there isn't one.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Inner or Outer Word? Luther on divine revelation in Genesis.

Luther in the Genesis commentary is highly preoccupied with his schwarmer opponents.  He fears any claim that Spirit comes without the Word.  This is one of the most important aspects of Luther's theology and I commend his highlighting this fact in Genesis.

At times though, it gets a bit odd.  For example, when Genesis says "God said such and such to Abraham" Luther will frequently argue that Abraham didn't hear a voice or something, but rather that Shem or some other Patriarch spoke to him.  Since the Holy Spirit was speaking through them, it was in fact the Word of God.  

My question (beyond the fact that this doesn't make much sense exegetically) is what's the difference?  In other words, how does it make it better that the Holy Spirit is inspiring the Patriarch to speak some sort of external Word to Abraham, rather than the Holy Spirit speaking within Abraham?  The functionally the two are no different.  

Also, I see the problem with Medieval popes or with Thomas Munzer thinking that their own thoughts are identical with that of the Holy Spirit, but I don't not see the difficulty or the violation of Luther's principle by positing that the Holy Spirit spoke to Abraham in such a way that he individual heard it without a medium.  For revelation to take place, you have to posit that happening at some point.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Forde Article to be Published in CTQ.

I received word from Charles Gieschen that an article I wrote on Forde's doctrine of the law is going to be published in Concordia Theological Quarterly early next year.  So, if you're interested, keep your eye open for it.

No theology of the cross in the Genesis commentary?

I'm presently reading Luther's Genesis commentary. It's massive, about 8 volumes in the American edition. I already read the first volume years ago, so I skipped it and have been working my way through. I'm up to the third volume. It's fairly slow going due to my work load and my book writing, but I think I can get it done this year.

Among the "Evangelical Catholics" (notably Yeago and Root) it has become fashionable to claim that the theology of the cross is not central to Luther's thinking. Root in particular has noted that the term only appears 3 times in his corpus. This is rather irrelevant though. A conceptuality obviously be present without a specific term being used. "Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis" is never used in Hegel, but the conception is clearly there.
This brings us to the Genesis commentary. One could of course claim that theologia crucis was only a part of the early Luther's theology. It is also correct to attack certain existentializing tendencies in 20th century Luther studies. Also, the partial form it takes in the Heidelberg Disputation, one could argue is still pre-reformational. I would actually tend to agree with that, in that I would agree with Brecht and Green, and some other people that the Reformation breakthrough occurred in about 1519. I would also tend to agree with Kolb and Arand that a better matrix to understand Luther's thought is two kinds of righeousness or Bayer that the "orders of creation" is central (actually I think a combination of these approaches is good). Certainly the Genesis commentary would bear these approaches out.
Nevertheless, I don't know how one can read the Genesis commentary and think that the theology of the cross also not a valid interpretive matrix. Luther consistently notes how God appears hidden under weakness and how human being always hate weakness and are attracted to big and flashy signs of power. Humans are passive, God is active. God speaks to us under weakness- sinful humans desire power and vision. It's on every page. It's very hard to miss.
In fact, I think it depends on how you construe what the theology of the cross is. For example, I would construe it as an approach to theology that plays knowledge as vision against knowledge as hearing. It would also more generally be an approach to theology that plays divine action which we, (to use Bayer phrase) "suffer" off of an approach to theology where we are active and "participate" in divine knowledge and the process of redemption. If that's the case, then there can no marginalizing these themes in Luther's thought.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Ratzinger is a better Pope.

Some of you might have been following the controversy over Ratzinger's tenure as Pope.  Did he do enough to stop molestation?  Some say no- nevertheless, he was apparently far more aggressive than JPII in wanted to go after priestly offenders and also some Cardinals and Bishops.  In fact, JPII apparently block some of his efforts- which it seems might put his sainthood in jeopardy.  

I find this a particularly interesting revelation because the media and a lot of Catholics I know hate Ratzinger, but loved JPII.  

Now I certainly admire JPII helping free eastern Europe- even if this isn't really part of the job description of a minister of the Word.  I also admire his hardline on abortion and homosexual practice.  Nevertheless, if you read about his tenure as pope, in many respects it wasn't great.  He was an actor as a young man and a lot of his appearance were bizarrely staged and would cost the local bishops so much money that they would go into debt for years.  Also, from a the time he was a young boy, JPII had a extremely devotion to the virgin Mary, who his father told him (after his own mother died) was his "mother now."  Lastly, JPII showed far too much deference towards non-Christian religions- in so far as he showed some at all as far as I'm concerned!  But even in light of the post-Vatican II Catholic teaching (that people can be saved if they have will the good, but are ignorant of the truth of the gospel) he went to extremely.  The most famous example is the Koran-kissing incident.

By contrast, Ratzinger is far more serious.  He's a better theologian.  One thing I admire about his theology is its Christocentricity.  No obsession with the virgin Mary.  He's also been more serious about fighting corruption.  Beyond that, he's of course the author of Dominus Jesu, which reaffirmed the uniqueness and sole truth of the Christian faith.  No Koran kissing for him!  

Irony is of course that he has far worse press- but that's the theology of glory and the cross for you.   A person who just does their job well and does create flashy impressions is much worse off in our society (well, in basically all human societies) than someone who makes a show.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Luke's Christology.

Yet another excerpt from the book.

In Luke’s Gospel,[1] the emphasis falls on the Jesus' prophetic ministry as the Servant of Isaiah and YHWH returning to Zion. Luke's Christology is best summarized by the acclamation of the people in their response to Jesus' work: "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people" (Lk 7:16). By recording statements like this and others, Luke makes explicit the fact that he understands Jesus to be a fulfillment of the coming of the coming of the Servant, who, as we saw, Isaiah also identified with return of YHWH.
The Gospel is replete with evidence for this reading. When in chapter 2 Gabriel announces Jesus birth to Mary, she asks how this will be in light of the fact that she is a virgin. The angel response is that "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (1:35, Emphasis added). Arthur Just has demonstrated that this language of "overshadowing" that the LXX version of Exodus 40 uses to describe the descent of the kavod into the Tabernacle.[2] In that she is the new dwelling place of the kavod come in the flesh, Elizabeth can very easily call her "mother of my Lord" (1:42). Simeon makes the final identification in his song. Upon seeing the infant Jesus in the Temple he sings: "For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel" (2:30-2, Emphasis added). This on the one hand represents an allusion to the Servant of the 49:6 who is a "light to the nations," and also to the kavod, who is described as the glory of Israel in 1 Samuel 4:22.[3] Lastly, in reading Isaiah 61 in the Nazareth synagogue, Jesus identifies himself with the anointed Servant of that text, who announces the day of Jubilee and vengeance (4:16-20).
The coming of God in the flesh is, it is emphasized, a fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham to redeem Israel and the entire human race (1:55, 71-3). As the "light to the nations" Jesus unites Jews and Gentiles by his lineage, which Luke traces back to Adam, rather than merely to Abraham as Matthew does (3:23-37). Even in his death, Jesus unites Jews and Gentiles. Herod and Pilate who had previous been enemies are made friends by later handing him over for trial by the former (23:12). Later in Acts, Jesus' disciples will incorporate the Gentiles into the people of God and thereby fulfill the promises of God to Abraham (Gen 12) and the prophecy of Isaiah that all nations will worship the true God (Isa 45, 49).
This emphasis on Christ's prophetic office as the Servant of Isaiah does not preclude his occupancy of the offices of king and priest. Jesus is David's son (Lk 3:31) and therefore the true fulfillment of the Davidic covenant (1:32-33) as Gabriel tells Mary. He is also the Melchizekiah priest-king of Psalm 110 (20:40-5). He is also the Son of Man of Daniel (Lk 6:5, 9:26-27, 9:58, 11:29-32, 18:31-34). N.T. Wright has noted,[4] much of Luke's use of language and narrative imagery is suggests that he is intentionally echoing the LXX version of the 1 and 2 Samuel. Much like in Mark and Matthew, Jesus is also commissioned at his baptism (3:22) in language reminiscent of Psalm 2. Wright has also noted that Jesus wanders through out the Gospel as he awaits the kingdom promised to his mother at the beginning of the Gospel (1:32-3).[5] In these wandering, Jesus’ main opponent is the Devil, whom we are told takes direct possession of Judas as a means to facilitate Jesus’ death (22:3). Later in Acts, just as David is persecuted by Saul of the tribe of Benjamin, Jesus' body the Church is persecuted by a Saul of the tribe of Benjamin (Acts 9:5-6, Phil 3:4-6) as it awaits the reception of the kingdom.
As in Mark and Matthew, Jesus is portrayed as an exorcist and healer. This does not detract from Luke's description of Jesus as a new David, but rather shows how he views Jesus as fulfilling his role in this regard. Jesus is a new David who enters into conflict with the Devil and therefore pursues the Father's apocalyptic war for creation (Lk 11:20). The Devil, as the source of all evil, is also the source of all disease either directly or indirectly. He is also obviously the source of demonic possession. We may connect the forgiveness of sins, which Jesus engages in by his own word (5:21). Though Satan is certainly the enemy of God, he is also an accuser of humanity in the heavenly court as shown by Job 1:6-8, 2:1-7, Zechariah 3:1-10, and later by Revelation 12:10. In this sense, the Devil maintains his power through his ability to accuse (a connection made even more strongly by the last passage in Revelation 12:10). We may observe then, that Jesus as the true fulfillment in kingly mediation in Luke is one who overcomes the Devil by his prophetic Word of forgiveness and his sacrificial death for sin. Luke, it would appear, also envisions the Church throughout Acts as continuing this mission of Jesus to the ends of the earth by persisting in his activities of preaching, teaching, celebrating the sacraments and engaging in healings and exorcisms. In this sense, the Church as the true humanity is conformed to Christ and his offices.
It has often been argued (strange though it may seem) that Luke utterly lacks an atonement theology. Both Hans Conzelman[6] and James D. G. Dunn[7] have claimed that Luke has no understanding of Jesus’ death as being redeeming. Roy Harrisville,[8] while acknowledging both Dunn and Conzelman’s objections, counters their claim by citing Gerhard Fredrich, who points to Luke’s report of the words of institution (Lk 22:19-20), and also Philip’s reading of the Fourth Servant Song (Isaiah 53) with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). Most explicitly, Acts 20:28, Paul states: "Be shepherds of the Church of God, which he bought with his own blood" or one might also translate it "God has purchased the Church with blood of his own" ("τοῦ θεοῦἣν περιεποιήσατο διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου"). More subtly, Jesus' fulfillment of priestly mediation is suggested by the fact that Luke chooses to begin and end his Gospel in the Temple (1:8, 24:52). This implies that the entire story of Jesus that has been bounded by the Temple has fulfilled the function of the Temple. This interpretation makes a great deal of sense in light of the data that we have earlier examined that suggests that Luke views Jesus as the returning kavod, as well as a sacrifice for sins. We are further told that when Jesus begins his ministry he is "about thirty years" (3:23). This is the same age (according to Number 4:3) that priests began service in the Tabernacle/Temple.[9] In this, Luke characterizes Jesus' ministry as one that fulfills and replaces the Temple service. It is the gracious presence of God with Israel and the renewal of creation through forgiveness by way of bloody sacrifice. Nothing could be more explicitly a fulfillment of priestly mediation.

"Let his blood be on us and our children": Covenantal ratification in Matthew's Gospel

Another excerpt from my book.

As the parable of the vineyard indicates (21:33-40), Jesus is the culmination of the rejection of prophetic mediation, in that in rejecting him, they reject the living Word of God come in person. Again, much like the golden calf, such rejection seeks alternative false mediation in the form of Barabbas. As a revolutionary, Barabbas also claims to be one who can bring the kingdom of heaven, the content of Jesus’ ministry of law and promise. Nevertheless, even in their rejection of Jesus, God's faithfulness succeeds. At his trial, those who condemn him demand that "his blood be on us and on our children" (27:25). We are reminded of the fact that Jesus' own blood is that of the "covenant" (26:28) and that the Servant, the new Moses would sprinkle the nations (Isa 52:15), much like Moses sprinkled the children of Israel when he ratified the covenant with them in Exodus 24. In effect, their rejection of the new and everlasting covenant paradoxically means its ratification.