A few weeks ago, I had a discussion about Melito’s canon. As we know, he was the first among the early Church (that we know of) to publicly advocate for a Hebrew canon for the Old Testament. It wasn’t until Jerome that the West moved in this general direction, two hundred years later.
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Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category
Before I was invested so heavily with Mark, I was a huge fan of the Wisdom of Solomon. Reading through Thom’s article, I noticed something that I wanted to pay more attention too:
We have no reason to believe that they read the Suffering Servant song as eschatological at all. The Suffering Servant doesn’t feature here or anywhere else in the Qumran corpus. Perhaps they saw themselves as a Suffering Servant, their own suffering cleansing them as in Wisdom of Solomon 2-3, where the righteous ones’ suffering and death is “like a sacrificial burnt offering” for their own individual sins. Or perhaps they read it historically as the suffering of Israel. Anything we posit will be merely speculative, since nowhere in the Qumran corpus do they discuss the Suffering Servant. I’ll repeat: nowhere.
A couple of things. First, I don’t want to call Wisdom (of Solomon) a midrash on Isaiah, but it is more than intertextuality and may fall into the realm of rewritten Scripture. [1. Cheon, Samuel. Exodus Story in the Wisdom of Solomon: A Study in Biblical Interpretation. Sheffield Academic Press, 1997.]
Now, what does Wisdom have to do with Isaiah? The first part of Wisdom is rewriting the Servant’s Song in Isaiah 52-53 to once again represent Israel during an oppressive stage in their history. Israel is the righteous man. It is not about eschatological hopes but about vindication. Luke recognized these terms when he worked to expand Matthew’s Gospel by including several references to the book of Wisdom as a contextualizing force throughout Luke-Acts. There is no notion of atonement in Wisdom, except for individual purging, much as we see in the Psalms of Solomon, another pre-Jesus textual tradition that does not expect a dying and atoning messiah.
In Matthew 8.17, the one time a post-Jesus author could have really elaborated on the connection between Isaiah 52-53 and Jesus, the author chose not to and instead once again proof-texted his contextualization of the ministry of Jesus as one that brought to completion the Jewish Scriptures. This is really no different than what many do today with various leaders from Europe whom they claim to be the mythical anti-christ. Acts makes a connection with the Eunach, but this is after much theological reflection. I have to laugh at the use the Old Testament or other writings to prove the historical Jesus – given that these things were used to contextual the memory of the Historical Jesus.
Now, about the idea of a dying and raising messiah… Nope. What about a heavenly messiah, the so-called mythical Jesus. Nope. One of the central issues with this is that Carrier and others seem to be missing one huge part when they argue for heavenly beings rather than early ones.
I find it rather odd that Carrier sees Isaiah 53 like contemporary evangelicals, but I digress.
I tend to agree with Casey regarding the ransom motif in Mark, and more, the idea that a ransom/sacrifice can be identified with a people, object or city is not uncommon and should be paid more attention too. Israel, however, is the righteous man of Wisdom and the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. It was only after a generation of reflection and an impetus of crisis that the original community began to explore the teachings of Jesus and the being of Jesus in a different light. There is a rather huge difference in the use of Scripture in Mark and Matthew, which should signal to us the leap forward in contextualizing Jesus that happened between the two authors.
Anyway… read Thom’s article.
For as longest time, it has been my Christian duty to be an iconoclast. It’s just how I have fun, and for a while, my iconoclasm knew no bounds when I was a Left Libertarian. But even possessing such a nuanced position, I became disaffected, turned off by Paultardation and Paulinian Messianism, as if there was One Chosen White Man from Texas to “restore liberty.” Really, who grants these superpowers in the first place?
So, a few months ago, I kissed libertarianism goodbye. I still believe in the free market, that Keynsian economics is stupid, Obamacare was plain idiocy, and non-interventionist foreign policy is right. In fact, I would say one of the things that first attracted me to Ron Paul was his foreign policy. The USA is rather arbitrary when it comes to choosing which nations’ affairs to intervene with, and like it or not, racial bias plays a role exactly where our troops land. Somalia? Kosovo? Anyone?
That being said, the Libertarian cases against things such as FEMA and public education started to turn me off, and I realized that I did not affirm those positions. The best way to ensure freedom from tyranny is to have an educated electorate, an education accessible to everyone. Many of the America’s Founders believed.
Recently, followers on Twitter and Facebook friends have expressed disappointment in my posting and re-tweeting Ron Paul’s Newletters, a Twitter feed that quotes Ron Paul’s newsletters from the 80s and 90s, that have been scanned. Check the link for details. Imagine for a second. I am up for a job at a church, and I may not be the ideal candidate, and I have said a lot of crazy things on Political Jesus, Twitter, and Facebook, and especially Twitter. What if I said, hey, yah, that really was not me. That was all Joel. He blogged for me, and I let him under my name. Should I be held responsible? I think your answer should be yes. Just as certain celebrity politicians who pay people to write books for them are responsible for what is written, so should Ron Paul be held responsible for what he allowed and permitted Lew Rockwell to write in his name.
This is exactly RESTORING WISDOM should be about. “A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.” (Ecclessiastes 7:1) “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1) The mistake that Ron Paul made as a Christian was that he chose power (appealing to the basest desires and emotions of his political base) over having a good name, a reputation, when Scripture informs us that it should be the reverse. The apostle Paul wrote to his son in the faith Timothy that a Christian leader should have a good reputation with outsiders (1 Timothy 3:7), operating in Wisdom. Fact is, Ron Paul claimed to not have written these newsletters as late as 2001, putting his story into question.
For More, see Game Over: Scans of over 50 Ron Paul Newsletters.
I am currently studying Wisdom Literature – Proverbs, Psalms, Job, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes and even Sirach and been loving it. We often do these books and therefore the information within a disservice when we try and read bits from them here and there. In reality to grasp hold of the wisdom that it offers, we need to read them as a whole.
Not only do we need to read them; we need to live it out. For the Wisdom books teach us that the information revealed within them is God’s ways worked out in and through life…and to keep and live a balanced life we need to read the books together.
With the Song of Songs we learn the language of love. Psalms teach us about relationship and how to pray. Job, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs teach us how to live… Proverbs that rightful living should produce certain blessings…Job though counteracts this by saying…”Crap happens” and Ecclesiastes provides the frame work, and balances this out for us to have and express our doubts and pessimism about life; while maintaining an integrity in the way we live.
This is one of my favorite books not in the Common Canon. I am glad that they take an earlier date that some, seeing that the Logos is less developed than Philo’s (c50)
Wish they would have spent more time showing the interconnectedness between the New Testament and this particular book, but…
Several things that I will restate for you: The Wisdom Corpus holds a wealth of contextual information for the New Testament Thought World, more especially of Paul the former Pharisee. Further, for Church Theologians, it provided fodder for the ancient Christological Debates, and could possibly do so today. Rightly or wrongly, they have been used to varying degrees to justify views of Christ and the Godhead
I want to discuss a portion of Wisdom which I believe contains a thought echoed by Paul and may have helped to shape a viewpoint on the Christ-event.
|New Revised Standard Version||Old Greek|
|20 The experience of death touched also the righteous, and a plague came upon the multitude in the desert, but the wrath did not long continue.
21 For a blameless man was quick to act as their champion; he brought forward the shield of his ministry, prayer and propitiation by incense; he withstood the anger and put an end to the disaster, showing that he was your servant.
22 He conquered the wrath not by strength of body, not by force of arms, but by his word he subdued the avenger, appealing to the oaths and covenants given to our ancestors.
23 For when the dead had already fallen on one another in heaps, he intervened and held back the wrath, and cut off its way to the living.
24 For on his long robe the whole world was depicted, and the glories of the ancestors were engraved on the four rows of stones, and your majesty was on the diadem upon his head.
25 To these the destroyer yielded, these he feared; for merely to test the wrath was enough.
|21 σπεύσας γὰρ ἀνὴρ ἄμεμπτος προεμάχησεν τὸ τῆς ἰδίας λειτουργίας ὅπλον προσευχὴν καὶ θυμιάματος ἐξιλασμὸν κομίσας ἀντέστη τῷ θυμῷ καὶ πέρας ἐπέθηκε τῇ συμφορᾷ δεικνὺς ὅτι σός ἐστιν θεράπων
22 ἐνίκησεν δὲ τὸν χόλον οὐκ ἰσχύι τοῦ σώματος οὐχ ὅπλων ἐνεργείᾳ ἀλλὰ λόγῳ τὸν κολάζοντα ὑπέταξεν ὅρκους πατέρων καὶ διαθήκας ὑπομνήσας
23 σωρηδὸν γὰρ ἤδη πεπτωκότων ἐπ᾽ ἀλλήλων νεκρῶν μεταξὺ στὰς ἀνέκοψε τὴν ὀργὴν καὶ διέσχισεν τὴν πρὸς τοὺς ζῶντας ὁδόν
24 ἐπὶ γὰρ ποδήρους ἐνδύματος ἦν ὅλος ὁ κόσμος καὶ πατέρων δόξαι ἐπὶ τετραστίχου λίθων γλυφῆς καὶ μεγαλωσύνη σου ἐπὶ διαδήματος κεφαλῆς αὐτοῦ
25 τούτοις εἶξεν ὁ ὀλεθρεύων ταῦτα δὲ ἐφοβήθη ἦν γὰρ μόνη ἡ πεῖρα τῆς ὀργῆς ἱκανή
This story is a theological expansion on Numbers 16.41-50. This passage is important because it shows Aaron as the one standing between Life and Death for the people is Israel, and thus the entire priesthood (Numbers 16.48). The High Priest is pictured placating the wrath of God, standing in front of the coming wrath, protecting the still Living using the fires of atonement.
In Wisdom, the unnamed blameless Savior steps forth into the middle of the plague with the shield/weapon of his divine service bringing with him prayer and propitiation by the burning of incense. He took upon himself the anger of God and ended the plague. The word used is ἐξιλασμὸν, meaning atonement or in Protestant-speak, propitiation.We find the same idea and related word in 1st John:
This is real love– not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1Jo 4:10 NLT)
ἐν τούτῳ ἐστὶν ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐχ ὅτι ἡμεῖς ἠγαπήκαμεν τὸν θεὸν ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι αὐτὸς ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς καὶ ἀπέστειλεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἱλασμὸν περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν.
There are several comparisons here between the speculative Aaron and the interpreted Christ. First, in his selfless love, both proved themselves as qualified servants of God. Further, they didn’t defeat the wrath with strength, but by appealing to the compassion of God (Romans 2.23-26). Further, there is that bit about ‘cut off.’
To me, anyway, this is a picture of atonement which could have easily been used of Christ by the primitive Church, informing them of the meaning of the sacrifice of a Crucified Messiah who stood between the dead and the living, life and death, and ended the wrath of God.
This conversation started on Rodney’s post, here. I thought that I might give a fuller explanation of my thoughts here.
As many of you know, I believe in Wisdom Christology, finding in it the most able and biblical understanding of the nature of Christ. It is historical and historically associated with primitive Christianity. Through this lens, I admit, I generally read the New Testament documents. One of the earliest is the Epistle of James. Contrary to popular and wrong opinion, it is written by a real brother of Jesus – not a cousin or step-brother. James is writing in the Wisdom Tradition, much like that which his Brother stood in earlier.
In the Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Justin writes:
I am researching something unrelated to this, however, as I was reading the Letter to Aristeas, I came across a familiar refrain:
“HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIGHTS IN HIM; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” Matthew 27:43 NASB
He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” Matthew 27:43