HERE’S THE DEAL JOB!

job5Job chapter 8 brings in one of my favorite characters: Bildad the Shuhite. It was always the running gag in seminary to ask the incoming freshmen who has the shortest character in the Bible. Of course they would always answer together, “Zacchaeus!” We would correct them right away that it was Bildad, as he was only a Shuhite—a Shoe Height—[insert groan]. But, as chapter 8 seems to bear out, Bildad was short—short in his dealing with Job’s circumstance.

Bildad begins with a technique familiar to Israeli wisdom literature: attack that last speaker’s speech. And in true form and fashion Bildad attacks and does not seem to let up until possibly at the end. If it was thought that Eliphaz was easy on Job, after reading chapter 8 no-one will make that assertion about Bildad.

“How long will you say these things and the words of your mouth be a great wind?” Bildad could have well said, “Come on Job, how much longer are you going to continue speaking all this nonsense?”  Job follows it up with a question—possibly a rhetorical question—asking, “Does God pervert justice?” Yet, that is not exactly Job’s complaint. Job’s lament was that God was treating him rather harshly.

Bildad differs from Eliphaz though in his appeal is to past history and nature to justify his message 8-10. Eliphaz justified his message recanting a dream. Then, in verses 11-19, Blidad launches into a series of rhetorical questions (11-13) and answers/explanations (14-19) to begin closing out his speech.  The bottom line of Bildad’s speech however, is summed up in verse 20: Behold, God will not reject a blameless man [remember we have been told that Job is blameless], nor take the hands of the evildoers. If we think of Israel as the legalists that they have always been made out to be, this might bear some weight. But we have to actually see Israel as they were; they were never ones who believed their salvation was in perfect Law keeping. There was atonement for sins in Israel. Yet, it must be remembered that this story comes before the Law and possibly Israel. So, while we have been told that Job is blameless, there were none who were blameless before God. And, this statement by Bildad, in all his bluntness and shortness sets the stage for Job’s reply in chapter 9.

COLLECT FOR TODAY:

Lord God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ triumphed over the powers of death and prepared for us our place in the new Jerusalem: Grant that we, who have this day given thanks for his resurrection, may praise you in that City of which he is the light, and where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Until Next Time, May the Good Lord Bless and Keep you!

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GOD, SAY WHAT?

Looking at Job Chapter Seven

 

saywhatJob begins chapter 7 continuing his discourse; yet the recipient will seem to change. While chapter 6 had Job responding somewhat to Eliphaz, chapter 7  Job’s peroration will become aimed at God. While verse 2:22 asserts, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong,” the reader now has to determine if the same can be true after reading chapter seven.

            The first pericope of chapter 7 (vv.1-6) begin with the parallelism that is common to Hebrew poetry and has been a feature of the book of Job. Verses 1 and 2 form individual parallel lines while verse 5 and 6 perform the same. Yet, tuck neatly in the middle of all the parallelism are verse 3 and 4. They are written in another vice of Hebrew poetry: chiasm. And, their place in the middle points to Job’s emotional state—because of the misfortunes mentioned in the surrounding verses [this is brought out by the use of conjunction ‘so’ beginning verse 3] (1-2;5-6).

Verses 3 and 4 and their chiastic structure:

             A1                                 B1

V3. so I am allotted         months of emptiness

              B2                                                  A2

      And nights of misery      are appointed me.

 

The center of the chiasm points to emptiness and misery as the emotional components of Job’s current life. Job interestingly forms the next pericope of 7 (7-10) into 2 chiasms—7-8 form the first while 9-10 form the later.

 

 

Verses 7-8:

              A1                                                                              B1

7 Remember that my life is but a breath   my eye will never again see good.

                B2                                                                           A2

8 The eye of him who sees me            will behold me no more.

 

For Job, a man whose life is emptiness and misery, his eyes will never see good again, nor will the eyes of him who sees him—while many attribute the ‘eyes of him who sees me’ as being God, it almost seems a better interpretation to see the ‘eyes …’ as anyone who now sees job including his friends who are taking part in the discussion. If we believe to be able to see all then we would have to concede that God would be able to see Job in sheol—see him anymore, his life is but a breath and will be no more. While it is tempting to want to make an appeal to James 4:14 when interpreting  ‘life is but a breath,’ we should refrain from using the New Testament in interpreting Job—a case could be made however when handling James 4:14 to make an appeal to Job 7:7.

Verse 9-10’

             A1                                                                                  B1

  1. As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to sheol does not come up,

             B2                                                                                  A2

  1. He returns to no more to his house, nor does his place know him anymore.

 

 

We now have a man whose life is misery and emptiness, whose eye will never see good any longer, nor will anyone see him any longer because when one goes to sheol—this is not hell but simply the place of the dead—he does not anymore return [This predates resurrection theologies]. Because of this Job feels unrestrained in addressing God at t he beginning of the final pericope of verse 7: “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth.”

            For Job, all of his problems are coming from God, and God does not—in Job’s eyes—want to let up. Job makes this clear in the last pericope of chapter 7.  Job, for all of his problems simply needs a break. He can’t sleep because—in his opinion—God sends bad dreams (v.14). Job just wants God to back off for long enough for him (Job) to swallow his spit (v.19).

            But, what is very interesting in this final passage is this man Job, who is upright and blameless, who is so upright that he makes sacrifices on behalf of his children in case they might have sinned, has now to come to the conclusion that he has sinned and that is the reason for his problems. He seems to have taken Eliphaz’s cause and effect theory to heart: Verse 20- Why do you not pardon my transgressions and take away my iniquity?

            Job has come from being upright to believe he has sinned so bad that God now is tormenting him. And for Job this torment will go on until death—For now I shall lie in the earth, you will seek me, but I shall not be (v.21).

            While we always speak of the “patience of Job,” as we read more into Job that patience seems to have been replaced with bitterness. Job sees himself as man tormented by God. As a result, he lives a life of emptiness and misery—remember this is a man who sum five chapters earlier had it all and was upright before God—he will go to the grave in this condition and all he wants is just a break for the amount of time it would take to swallow his spit.

            We have all been in that situation where it seemed that the ‘bad’ would not let up. It is at that time that cheerful hymns just do not seem to comfort. And, like Job, we seem to feel like the good and gracious God has it out for us. As well, we have all probably been angry at God. And Job is not the only person in the Bible who has felt betrayed by the almighty. Jerimiah said:

 

 

            O Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived;

                You over powered me and prevailed.

            I am ridiculed all day long;

              Everyone mocks me (Jeremiah 20:7).

 

Bad things happen in a good world and to good people. There are not always, though they definitely can be, the result of cause and effect. And, we will at times get mad at God. As I have been meditating on this chapter, over in England baby Charlie Gard is dying—as a result of a genetic condition [there have been many court cases about him receiving help that would not help him], and it would be safe to assume that his parents, if they are Christians, might have a bit of anger directed towards God. Why would you God not step in and heal this genetic problem; why would you God not allow him to cross the big pond for treatment in the USA; Why would you not step in and let him come home and be well; why would you not step in and let him come home to die? The questions could go on and on, but the point is we all can get angry at God. Some people might not express it as forcefully as Job, while others might express it stronger. But, not matter how it is expressed, we have to see God as sovereign over all creation. We have to remember the word’s that Job has seemed to have forgotten, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil [at this point he has not attributed the evil to God] (v. 2:10)? The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord (1:21).

We serve a good God in an evil world. We, like Job, will receive good. But, like Job, we also will receive bad. While we love God, just like the family member we love, we will at times feel angry his way. But in all things we should remember, blessed be the name of the Lord.

 

Collect for today:

O God, you make us glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord: Give us this day such blessing through our worship of you, that the week to come may be spent in your favor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Until next time, may the good Lord bless and keep you!

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GOD’S INFINITY: QUALATATIVE OR QUANTATATIVE?

handsIt is understood that God is all powerful as well as all knowing. The question that has to be answered is ‘how,’ in what capacity is God’s infinity to be understood?

No scripture confesses that “God does not know all things,”[1] wrote Ron Highfield. This statement while seemingly true, and I believe it is true, seems innocent. But, when we say God knows all things, the question that comes to mind is what “all” does God know and when does he know? Did God know of the Paris or San Bernardino terrorist attacks before they happened? Or, did God know about them perfectly as the unfolded, whereas man knew of them in some partial form as they transpired?

What needs to be separated and understood is do we speak of God’s infinity as quantitative or qualitative?  But can God’s perfect knowledge be limited to ‘what can be known at a given time.’ This allows God to respond to man’s actions and God’s infinite knowledge can remain intact. Right now it is 12:40 am. God has perfect knowledge of 12:40 am. But there is no knowledge of 12:41 as it is not yet 12:41. Thus God’s knowledge is perfect and up to date. Hmmm? God has perfect and infinite knowledge of everything that is; but can/does he have knowledge of what is not? 12:41 is not yet here so can there be any knowledge of it? God knows all things that can be known at any given time.

Psalm 147 states, “… his understanding is beyond measure.” But the question that has to be answered is this quantitative or qualitative? Can God know what is yet unknown, when he created beings with free-will? It seems that God’s infinite knowledge is best to be seen as qualitative. God can and does know everything at any given point perfectly. He knows everything there is to know about whatever there is to know at any given time. But, being as the future is not a point in time (the future is not anything, nothing is anything until the time it comes into being), in fact the future may not even come to pass, God’s knowledge is perfect and infinite in what can be know. His infinite knowledge is in regards to what is, as what is not cannot be known; the minute it become known it is.  It is unlimited in that God can and does know everything that can be known—what is knowable. It is infinite in quality in that God knows perfect. He is not bogged down in his knowledge with pre-conceived notions. The Apostle Paul wrote that now he—in essence mankind—knows ‘in part’ but at some later time the ‘partial things will pass away. (1 Corinthians 13:9-10).  God’s knowledge is not partial as is man’s. Everything that is ‘knowable’ God knows and perfectly whereas man only knows in part and even then that knowledge is clouded. There is a difference in the quality of the knowledge. This allows for man’s free-will and God’s infinite knowledge—qualitative—both to remain intact.

Important for understanding evil is understanding God’s providence. It has to be understood that God can know infinitely everything that is knowable; he can do infinitely everything that is logically doable. Yet, man’s free-will choice is something not known even when man commits to it—though the intent can be known, it is only knowable when man engages his free-will choice. God’s immanence— immanence means that God is present to and in the natural order, human nature, and history[2]—has to also be kept in the equation. Understanding God’s infinite knowledge as qualitative as opposed to quantitative keeps God’s immanence in proper check for to venture to far along the lines of quantitative can led on to pantheism. Feinberg asserts, “As Barth frequently reminds us, in Christ God both draws near to us but remains also hidden. God is veiled in his unveiling and unveiled in his hiddenness”[3]

It can be argued then that God cannot control every event, as wells, it can be argued that God does not control every event. Both lead to their own particular conundrums. If it is argued that God cannot control every event then the conclusion can be drawn that God is not all powerful. If research then concludes that God does not control every event then it could be argued that God does not care. It would be hard to see a symbol of a benevolent God a God that does not care. Yet, if the free-will defense is factored into the equation the results change.

If man acts upon his own free-will it does not limit the power of God for God can act in response to what is knowable. It also sets up the premise that it is not God who does not care but man. For God has set his ways in the heart of man; man chooses to act contrary to God’s ways. Yet, when man engages a plan of evil God can and does act. There is an immense difference in the fact that God does not control every event and in that God cannot control every event.

King writes, “The Christian religion, in the modern period has been its failure to deal adequately with the problem of evil. Innocent suffering both as a result of natural calamity and human malevolence is presumed to count decisively against the existence of a benevolent and omnipotent God. A ‘God of Love’ such as Christians profess to worship, surely would not permit such wanton destruction of human life as represented by the Lisbon earthquake or the Holocaust.”[4]

Yet, when God’s omnipotence is seen as qualitative as opposed to quantitative this situation does not exist. God has the power to work in everything that is logically doable—it is not logical to stop a tsunami before it happens as it is not known until it happens, until it becomes known. Yet, God can, and does, work in all these situations.

The free-will defense keeps man’s free-will intact and as well keeps God’sinfinite knowledge and power both intact. As Plantiga asserts, “A world where creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures but he can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, he must create creatures capable of moral evil: and he can’t give these creatures their freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so.”[5]

While Bonting believes in the existence of evil, it is creatio ex nihilo where he has the problem. “In my view the commonly accepted creation theology, creatio ex nihilo (“creation out of nothing”), is at fault because it implies that God created everything, including evil.”[6] Geisler combats this problem writing, “God made evil possible by creating free creatures; they are responsible for making it actual.”[7] He continues, “Given that He has willed to create free creatures, it would go against His own will to destroy our free will.”[8]

With God controlling everything can there be free-will? With God controlling everything can there be real love for God, or is simple forced, built in, robot love? God created man with free-will; with free-will cane the possibility of man doing evil. For God to stop man from doing evil would be to go against the very order, free-will, that God created. With God’s infinite knowledge he can know everything that is knowable, and know it perfectly. With his infinite power he can do everything that is logically doable. God (1) cannot know evil until it happens because before it happens it is not knowable and (2) God cannot not stop the evil of man—even when it is knowable—because to do so would be to go against what he created and called good—freewill-beings.

For Plantinga, “A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all.”[9] Geisler sums it up well writing, “So more properly speaking, omnipotence means God can do anything that is possible to do, not what is impossible or contradictory. Given that He has willed to create free creatures, it would go against His own will to destroy our free will. There are some things even God cannot do. He cannot force anyone to freely accept Him. Forced freedom is a contradiction in terms.”[10]

Collect:

Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that the course of this world
may be peaceably governed by thy providence; and that thy
Church may joyfully serve thee in confidence and serenity;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with
thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Until next time, may the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

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[1]William Lane Craig, Ron Highfield;  Gregory A. Boyd, Paul Kjoss  Helseth, Four Views on Divine Providence (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), Kindle Location 2788.

[2] John Feinberg, No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), 29.

[3] Feinberg, 31. Referencing Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. 1, part 1 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1960), pp. 368-372.

.[4] Robert King, “Review of Diogenes Allen’s The Traces of God,Princeton Seminary Review, vol. 3, no. 3 1982, 336.

  [5] Alvin Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1974), 30

[6] Sjoerd L. Bonting, “The Problem of Evil,” Sewanee Theological Review 47, no. 4 (2014):405.

[7] Geisler, 31.

[8] Geisler, 37.

[9] Plantinga, Chapter 4 under The Free Will Defense.

[10] Geisler, 38.

The New Life To Come

“For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have”

Jesus, Luke 24:39

Jesus-ResurrectionEveryone holds a belief about what happens at death, from a “you are dead and that is it” belief of the atheist to a “you inhabit your own planet” type belief of the LDS church. There is a fascination with the after death, and afterlife, happenings of the body and soul. At a death most people try offering comforting words to the bereaved, but in most cases these words, while they may comfort, offer little of a biblical understanding of the afterlife, and most especially the resurrection.

Even in Christian circles among scholars the view varies by as many different people who are putting forth the views. Views have been put forth everywhere from a “Life in the Air” existence to a “full bodily resurrection here on earth.” Yet, all use the same Bible. As with many things Christian many times finding agreement elusive.

A key to understanding and interpreting resurrection pericope, as well as any biblical subject for that matter, lies in the worldview of the biblical author and the message he was trying to impart to his original audience. While it is understood that the Bible is a book inspired by the Holy Spirit, it is also understood that the writers wrote to particular communities and the information was shaped around the particular community’s needs. This accounts for the differences in tone of Paul’s letter to the Galatians as compared with Romans or Timothy. Thus the differences in the Gospels can be seen showing a truer picture of Christ when examined together as all communities are seen together.

Understanding, then, the worldview of the author and original audience is essential in understanding the concepts that writings put forth. As Duvall and Scott put it, Since God spoke his message in specific, historical situations (i.e., to people living in particular places, speaking particular languages, adopting a particular way of life), we should take the ancient historical-cultural situation seriously.”[1] While most commentators have capitalized on one verse, 1 Corinthians 15:50, and from that one phrase, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God,”[2] the Second Temple period had a distinct understanding of what the resurrection would be.

Stendahl, Sanders, and others have spoken to the importance of the Second Temple worldview when interpreting 1st century Jewish documents. Yet, many times this worldview is not factored in as it would challenge preconceived notions held by the commentator. The best interpretation will be the one that takes into account both the biblical record as well as the biblical worldview. And as will be shown the Second Temple worldview was of a full bodily resurrection. It was with this worldview that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 50. It is with this world view that scripture needs to be interpreted.

The Intertestamental period writings shed light on the worldview of both Jesus and Paul. It was in this world, with this worldview, they lived. It will be in this period that the worldview pertaining to resurrection will be brought out. This worldview will be long beside Paul’s writing to the church in Corinth. Modern views will not be filtered in but will be filtered out, as N.T Wright has asserted, “Resurrection belongs within the revolutionary worldview of Second-Temple Judaism.”[3] For purposes of this paper that is where it shall stay.

With the biblical evidence at hand, filtering in the Second Temple Worldview, this paper will argue in total agreement that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom,” while asserting that flesh and blood will inherit the kingdom. It will be the position that in 1 Corinthians 50 “flesh and blood” is used as a euphemism for the unredeemed, the lost, those who have never had a relationship with Christ, or those who have had a relationship and from it they have walked away.  The Bible teaches a full bodily resurrection—flesh and blood—as the renewed form of mankind at the end of time.

 

The Need for a Proper Worldview

In 1963, Krister Stendahl put forth the proposition that 1st Century, Second Temple documents should not be viewed through a modern Western lens, through the lens of a modern Western worldview[4]. Interpreters have the need to take care in not reading a 1st century Jewish document with a modern worldview.  Unlike Luther, who seemed to read his own personal disgust with a corrupt church, 1st century documents have to be examined with as near as possible a 1st century, Second temple world view.

After Stendahl, E. P. Sanders came in 1977 making the same claim.[5] Sanders set theologians on end with has come to be known as the New Perspective on Paul. Since Stendahl and Sanders others have picked up the mantle and followed with the assertion that we need to interpret 1st Century, Second Temple documents as close as possible within a Second Temple Judaism context. While, as it will be shown later in this essay, those who push for this New Perspective do not always agree—Dunn and Sanders will argue for an “in the air” experience while Wright contends for a physical body resurrection—it will be with this New Perspective—which is not new at all, but the Bible’s original perspective—in mind, looking more towards original documents to gain an understanding of resurrection from a Second Temple perspective, which is in fact the perspective of Jesus, Paul, and all the New Testament, as well as intertestamental period, writers.

 

Second Temple Resurrection

While the Bible teaches resurrection, it has to be admitted that there is not a ton of information given as to the particulars of the event. Most people would immediately turn to the Resurrection passage of 1 Corinthians 15. And while this paper will go there, to lay the ground work for that passage, it is best to start in the Old Testament and Intertestamental periods.

The hope of a physical body resurrection is apparent in the writings of the Maccabees. Second Maccabees states, “Better to be killed by men and cherish God’s promise to raise us again” (2 Maccabees 7:14, New English Bible with Apocrypha, 1970). It could be argued that “raise us again” does not have to be raised to a physical existence. And while Dunn, is a proponent of the New Perspective, it is Dunn’s contention that this “raise us again” will be an “in the air experience. Dunn asserts, “the resurrection body will be other, no longer flesh and blood, beyond the reach of corruption and atrophy, and vivified by the life-giving Spirit” (emphasis added).[6] Sanders concurs with the otherworldly existence and an “in the air” type of existence.[7]  It is Dunn’s belief that the transformation of which Paul speaks (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) is a transformation from physical to spiritual existence. This would then be somewhat in line with Teichman who held the opinion that Paul believed at the end time everything would be annihilated except for the spirit.[8]  Yet, a closer look at the Second Temple understanding of resurrection will paint a quite different picture.

Two Baruch poses a question to God, “In which shape will the living live in Your day? Or, how will remain their splendor after that” (2 Baruch 49:2)? The answer, which sheds a bit of life on the Second Temple view is, “For the earth will surely give back the dead at that time; it receives them now in order to keep them, not changing anything in their form. But as it has received them so it will give them back. And as I have delivered them to it so it will raise them” (2 Baruch 50:2, emphasis added). For the writer of 2 Baruch a bodily resurrection was in store at the end times. Though a Jewish pseudepigraphical text, it gives insight into the Jewish worldview of the late 1st and or early 2nd century.[9] From the time of the Maccabees until the time of 2 Baruch little had changed in the thought process of the afterlife. While Dunn looks for an “in the air” experience, and Sanders sees a shift from before the cross—bodily resurrection—to after the cross—a spiritual, “in the air” resurrection—the written record does not bear this out.

Leaving apocryphal works and turning to the Bible works accepted as canonical, Daniel 12:2 asserts, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” While apparently borrowed from Isaiah 26:19,[10] the verse points to a bodily rising up from the dust. As Senior asserts, “resurrection expectation in connection with the coming of the messianic age was a strong current in intertestamental Judaism. A biblical text which seemed to have particular influence in this regard is the vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37.”[11]

 

The New Testament

Having seen that the Second Temple period—this is the era in which Christ lived and Paul wrote—as well as later writings after Messiah held to a belief in physical bodily resurrection. It is time to turn to the New Testament writings. In Particular the writings of Paul will be looked at.

Before turning to Jesus resurrection, however, there was a resurrection in conjunction with that of Messiah. In Matthew 25:51-53, it is recorded that “the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (emphasis added). As Senior writes, “It is the death of Jesus which triggers the resurrection of the saints.”[12] This resurrection, material particular to Matthew, is of a bodily resurrection—people, saints, rising from the tomb. This not a floating down from an “in the air” experience; this is a coming out of the tombs resurrection: physical body resurrection.

Turning to the resurrected Christ, it has to be asked if His resurrection is a paradigm for the resurrection of the saints at some future time? While Senior believes it is, then the words of Jesus have to be remembered, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). By His own testimony the Christ was resurrected physically. Here we are faced with a dilemma. Paul asserts in 1 Corinthians 15:50 that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, yet the Messiah—who ascended into Heaven—was raised, resurrected, with a physical body of flesh and blood. The two ideas have to harmonize.

Johnson might have the answer writing, “the dead will be raised with a πνευματικόν body, which for all its discontinuity and newness, will have a definite material continuity with the ψυχικόν body that is buried.”[13] What will that continuity Be? The continuity will be the physical body. The discontinuity will be what animates the body. N. T. Wright suggests that the body will be animated by the Holy Spirit, “The present unity of the church is important not least because it will thereby anticipate the perfect harmony of the resurrection world, when members of the soma Christou, the Messiah’s body, who have each exercised their pneumatika, spiritual gifts, are finally raised to life, to be given the soma pneumatikon (15:44–6), the entire body energized and animated by the divine Spirit.”[14] While Sanders, Dunn—among many others—see an existence of a spiritual body, Wright, on the other hand sees a body animated by the God’s own Spirit. Wright explains, “Here is a sub-puzzle within Paul’s language; strictly, the Greek forms ending in –nos refer to the material of which something is composed, while the forms ending in –kos are either ethical or functional, and refer to the sphere within which it belongs or the power which animates it.”[15]

The body, with all of its flesh and blood—just as had the risen body of Christ—will be raised and animated by the Spirit of God. Christ’s resurrection is a paradigm for all believers’ resurrection.  Paul wrote, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Christ as the fristfruits serves as type of the resurrection of the faithful that will come on the last day.

Kistemaker rightly observes that, “The expression [flesh and blood]is a figure of speech for the physical body. It is a Semitic phrase that occurs repeatedly in rabbinic sources to denote the utter frailty and mortality for a human being.”[16] While under its normal operating power the physical body is frail and mortal. And, Kistemaker uses this to make is case for an “in the air” type of resurrection. Yet, where he fails in his analysis is the resurrected physical body will be animated by the Holy Spirit. If Christ’s resurrection is the paradigm for all believers’ resurrection—and Paul says it is—then the animating force will be the same—the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:4). Instead then of being animated as a spirit the resurrected body is animated by the Spirit.  Thus, the resurrected Christ is able to say He has flesh and blood as he has been raised imperishable as the body is animated—not just brought to life, but continually filled with life—of the Holy Spirit. It has to be remembered in writing to the Corinthians Paul is not trying to prove that there is a resurrection, as has been shown by the intertestamental works. Paul is showing (1) that Christ’s resurrection is a paradigm for their own future resurrection and (2) that resurrection would be of their physical bodies animated by God’s Divine Spirit. A few passages, canonical and deuterocanonical, serve to show this point.

Sirach 14:18 states, “Like abundant leaves on a spreading tree that sheds some and puts forth others, so are the generations of flesh and blood: one dies and another is born” (NRSV, emphasis added). Flesh and Blood here refers to mortal living man. Jesus says, “He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:15-17, emphasis added). Flesh and blood is used as an idiom for mortal, living, man. The body sown corruptible, will rise incorruptible. While Jeremias is write to contend that the dead will rise in bodies that are incorruptible,[17] he fails in seeing the continuity that is seen in Jesus’s resurrection and in Paul’s analogy of the seed. The physical body rises—the continuity is kept as it is the same body—yet, there is discontinuity in that it was corruptible and now by the animating force—God’s Spirit—it is raised incorruptible.

 

Conclusion

There are almost as many theories about the resurrection as there are commentators interpreting the biblical literature. And, among those who agree on certain of the points, few, if any, agree on every individual point. Many, if not most, people believe the afterlife experience will be and “in the air,” spiritual existence. Yet, the record of Second Temple Judaism paints quite a different picture. Among the various verses, both canonical and apocryphal, all seem to point the belief in a physical body resurrection. This resurrection has continuity with the past life in that it is the same body, but there is discontinuity in the fact that the body is animated in a different way, by God’s Spirit. Paul uses “flesh and blood” as an idiom for mortal man; it is used that way in other scriptures. Yet, mortal man is just that, mortal. At death, the physical body is sown corruptible; at the resurrection it is raised incorruptible by the animation of God’s Holy Spirit.

 

Until Next time, may the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

 

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[1] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 99.

 

[2] All verse The Holy Bible English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

[3] N.T. Wright, “Christian Origins and the Resurrection of Jesus: The Resurrection of Jesus as a Historical Problem,” Sewanee Theological Review 41, no. 2, (1998): Paragraph 14. Retrieved from http://ntwrightpage.com.

 

[4] Cf. Krister Stendahl, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” Harvard Theological Review 56, no. 3 (July 1963).

 

[5] Cf.  Ed Parrish Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1977.

[6] James D. G. Dunn, “How Will The Dead Be Raised? With What Body Do They Come? Reflections on 1 Corinthians 15,” Southwestern Journal of Theology 45, no. 1 (2002): 18.

 

[7] E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), Kindle location 3439.

 

                   [8]Ernst Teichmann, The Pauline Notions of Resurrection and Judgment and their Relations with the Jewish Apocalyptic (Freiburg-Leipzig: Mohr, 1896), 46-53.

[9]Frederick Murphy, “2 Baruch and the Romans,” Journal of Biblical Literature 104, no. 4 (1985), 663.

[10] Daniel Bailey, “The intertextual relationship of Daniel 12:2 and Isaiah 26:19: evidence from Qumran and the Greek versions,” Tyndale Bulletin 51, no.2 (2000): 305.

 

[11] Daniel Senior, “Death of Jesus and the Resurrection of the Holy Ones,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 38, no. 3 (1976): 320.

 

[12] Senior, 328.

[13] Andrew Johnson Jr., “On removing a trump card: flesh and blood and the reign of God.,” Bulletin For Biblical Research 13, no. 2 (2003 2003): 178.

 

[14] N.T. Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2003), Kindle location 677-6780.

[15] Wright, ROSG, Kindle Location 6500-6503.

 

[16] Simon J. Kistemaker, 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1993), 520.

[17] Joachim Jeremias, “Flesh and Blood Cannot Inherit the Kingdom of God,” New Testament Studies 2 (1956): 152.

Lectionarily Speaking: ARE WE LETTING THE FIELDS TURN BROWN?

harvestAs the Season after Pentecost moves along toward the Reign of Christ, the sun of late Spring feels quite a bit like a mid-Summer sun. And, the plants, the gardens, are trying to hold their own.  Quite appropriate is this week’s gospel passage which includes Matthew 9:37-38—Jesus saying, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” While this particular verse holds special significance for me as my ordination service was set around these verse, for the church it holds an even higher significance.

            The church in general has become complacent with indoor Christianity: If we liken the church to a boat most are happy on a pew and sailing toward Heaven each Sunday morning, while the rest of the world goes on by. It seems that the early church, the missional church, under the missio Dei, has, in many instances, been left by the wayside. In a world where the fields need plowing, as well as planting, praying God to send workers into the field has seem to stop. Yet, the passages for this week show us another way, a preferable way.

            What if the 21st century church answered God as the people of Israel answered Moses in Exodus 19:8? “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” If the modern church took this stance Sunday morning sailing wouldn’t be enough. It would have to filter in Matthew 28:19—Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. It’s hard to go while you are simply sitting!

            The Psalmist wrote, “O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant” (Psalm 116:16). But are we serving God, or letting the church serve us with fancy lights, videos, and rock concert atmospheres? While relax inside the church are we letting the fields, once ripe for harvest, turn brown? Are we serving the Lord when a world outside the doors of the church is hurting on a grand level?

            Christ said to pray for workers to be sent into the fields. For Christ, 2000 years ago just as now, the harvest was ready. Yet, are we ready for it? Do we “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” (Psalm 100:1), but make it low enough as to not attract the attention of a hurting world? Do “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1), but keep that peace hidden from those whose lives need peace?

            Yes, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. But, we were told to pray for workers to be sent to the field. And, if we look close at this week’s Gospel passage, as soon as Christ said to pray for workers to be sent, he sent them. He sent them to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven was near! What if the modern church was to turn back to the missio Dei and proclaim that the Kingdom of God was near? Christ has shown that if we pray for workers to be sent to the field he will send them. As we move to the Reign of Christ, let us pray the Lord to send workers into the fields and with a joyful noise proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is a present reality! Let us not become complacent sitting on a pew sailing toward Heaven; Peter only walked on water when he got out of the boat!

 

A Collect for Missions:

Almighty God, who called your Church to witness that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself: help us to proclaim the good news of your love, that all who hear it may be drawn to you; through him who was lifted up on the cross, and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen!

 

Until next time, May the Good Lord Bless and Keep you!

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HOLY TRINITY, ST. PATRICK, AND SHAMROCKS!

cloverThe church year moves right along. This week, as Pentecost has just been celebrated, the year looks at the Holy Trinity. We profess the Holy trinity each week in the Nicene creed when we say, “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” The are always together and in unity: God never has to call the Son and the Spirit in for an emergency meeting! It is awful hard for me as one of Irish descent to even think of the Holy Trinity without thinking of St. Patrick.  While it is debatable if St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach the trinity—as legend has it—the shamrock has come to be both a symbol of the saint as well as the Holy Trinity!

If we think of that clover leaf, we can envisage the three leaves that make the clover, each leaf standing alone, yet together with, equal to, and in unity with the others. If we look at the lectionary readings for Holy Trinity Sunday we can see the three always together, working together, and in unity.

Genesis 1:1-2 states, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” While the Messiah is not explicably mentioned, we know from John’s Gospel that “All things were made through [the Messiah], and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). Together, in unity the three work together, just as the three leaves of the shamrock work together to make up the shamrock; the same DNA. The creed says of the Father and the Son:

“God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.”

The Spirt, the giver of life, proceeds from the Father and the Son—the Son is the bread of life, the Spirit is the giver of life; the Spirit must be then one with the Son—who is one with the Father. While leaf one is not leaf two, and leaf two is not leaf three—which also is not leaf one—the Son is not the Father and the father is not the Son, the Spirit is neither of the two and the two are not the Spirit, they are all three the one God: Hear O Israel, the lord our God, the Lord is one!

In the Bible there is only one command that is given to be done in the name of the Holy Trinity. This points us to the Gospel reading for Holy Trinity Sunday: Matthew 28:16-20. Baptism is to be done in the name of the Holy Trinity: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit …” Again, we look to the creed: We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. One baptism, for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), yet in the name of the three—which are always together, as are the leaves of the Shamrock. And, it is through the one baptism that the Spirit—which proceeds from and is one with the father and the son—is received.

Whether St. Patrick went to Connaught where he met two of King Laoghaire’s daughters, Ethne and Fedelm; St. Patrick had been unable to persuade the king to convert, but he convinced the king’s daughters; during their time of instruction St. Patrick used a shamrock to visualize the mystery of the Trinity, how a single plant with three leaves is analogous to the one Triune God with three separate and distinct Persons, might be open to debate. Or, possibly—or possibly not— St. Patrick was traveling and happened upon a number of Irish chieftains along a meadow. The tribal leaders were curious about the Trinity and asked St. Patrick for an explanation. So he bent down, picked a shamrock, and showed it to them, and explained how the three leaves are part of the one plant, and how similarly the three Persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, are part of one Supreme Being. Even more debatable is whether St. Patrick ran all the snakes out of Ireland.

But, the certainty lies in the fact that the Holy Trinity has existed from eternity past into eternity future. Three, are always together; they were together at the creation. They were together at Jesus’ baptism—the dawning of the new creation. They are together at our baptism—they give us life and all that is needed to have a favorable outcome at the final judgment.

However you describe the Holy Trinity, the words unity and one have to be a part of the description. Does a shamrock do justice to the mystery of the Trinity? Probably not. But, our language has trouble describing all things God. We believe in God; we are saved by the work of Christ on the cross; our bodies are animated by the Holy Spirit.

Until Next Time, may the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

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REIGN OF CHRIST: Pentecost and Beyond

reignofchrist1Pentecost 2017 is now in the history books and for many it is a slow season—the season after Pentecost—as there are no ‘big’ events in the church year until the end of the year with the reign of Christ-or Christ the king. We spend the beginning of the year looking at the Advent; and too many times it seems we concentrate all of our spiritual energy from Advent to Pentecost—and for that matter focusing more of our energy on Advent and Christmas than on Easter through Pentecost. The season after Pentecost seems to get push aside. Yet, it moves toward the final date of the year—the Reign of Christ—and its teaching is rich.

We too often lose sight of the fact that the Gospels teach how Jesus—God—became King. And in the creeds themselves the middle part of the gospel message is left out. Whether you The Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed they go from being ‘born to the Virgin Mary’ to ‘suffering under Pontius Pilate.’  The miracles, the parables, as well as His teachings are sadly absent. If we rely solely on the creeds we would be left to see the Messiah as being born and being crucified and resurrected. The in between 33 years he really didn’t do much. Yet, as we look at the Season after Pentecost Christ did quite a bit and taught a lot as well.

We’ve made everything about a future hope that was to happen after the Ascension and forgotten that the Christ taught us to pray for Heaven to come on earth. We’ve re-interpreted many of the parables to be about the Christ’s second coming as opposed to their original context—his incarnation! For many the parable of the Ten Minas is all about the second coming, but it is better to see it as a parable about the first coming of the Christ. Of the ruler in the parable Christ says, “his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us’” (v. 14). If we think about that in relation to Luke’s reporting that when as what they wanted done with Jesus and the yelled, “crucify him,” the Parable of the Ten Minas can be seen in a new light—a light that puts the parable squarely into Jesus’ incarnation, not His second coming: The King has come to an unfaithful Israel.

America’s, and really all of western, theology has an obsession with the second coming—fueled in part by the Left Behind series. As such, we tend to want to interpret everything in relation to a second coming. We celebrate the birth; we celebrate Easter—though sadly it has become a second-rate religious holiday; we look forward to the Second Coming. We practice the creeds—we skip 33 years of the life of the Christ.

As we move through the Season after Pentecost, let us see Christ in a different setting. Let us see Christ as he became King. Let it build to the year ending Reign of Christ. The first reading in Matthew for the Season after Pentecost is Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23). Matthew 9:35 states, “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” The Kingdom Christ proclaimed was not a future event waiting to happen; He proclaimed a Kingdom in the here and now (Mark 1:15)! He was declared King at his baptism—sadly missing from the creeds! He proved his Kingship through his miracles and his teaching as one who had authority (sadly missing from the creeds!).

While the Reign of Christ ends the church year, the Season after Pentecost shows how the King came to rule. It shows how the King set up His Kingdom and proved he was the rightful King. He taught us to pray, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. The King was here to show us how to make that a reality. Many might see the Season after Pentecost as a ‘lull’ in the church year, but if we look at it as showing how Christ came to rule it can be one of the richest seasons of the church year!

 

Collect of the day:

Most holy God, the source of all good desires, all right judgments, and all just works: Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, so that our minds may be fixed on the doing of your will, and that we, being delivered from the fear of all enemies, may live in peace and quietness; through the mercies of Christ Jesus our Savior. Amen.

 

Until Next Time, May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

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