Melito of Sardis: Mystery of the Passover

This is a series of repost for Easter from Melito of Sardis.

What more can I add here?

Components of the Mystery of the Passover (46-71)

1. The Passover (46-47a)

46. Now that you have heard the explanation of the type and of that which corresponds to it, hear also what goes into making up the mystery. What is the passover? Indeed its name is derived from that event–”to celebrate the passover” (to paschein) is derived from “to suffer” (tou pathein). Therefore, learn who the sufferer is and who he is who suffers along with the sufferer.

47. Why indeed was the Lord present upon the earth? In order that having clothed himself with the one who suffers, he might lift him up to the heights of heaven .

2. The Creation and Fall of Man (47b-48)

In the beginning, when God made heaven and earth, and everything in them through his word, he himself formed man from the earth and shared with that form his own breath, he himself placed him in paradise, which was eastward in Eden, and there they lived most luxuriously.

Then by way of command God gave them this law: For your food you may eat from any tree, but you are not to eat from the tree of the one who knows good and evil. For on the day you eat from it, you most certainly will die.

48. But man, who is by nature capable of receiving good and evil as soil of the earth is capable of receiving seeds from both sides, welcomed the hostile and greedy counselor, and by having touched that tree transgressed the command, and disobeyed God. As a consequence, he was cast out into this world as a condemned man is cast into prison.

3. Consequences of the Fall (49-56)

49. And when he had fathered many children, and had grown very old, and had returned to the earth through having tasted of the tree, an inheritance was left behind by him for his children. Indeed, he left his children an inheritance–not of chastity but of unchastity, not of immortality but of corruptibility, not of honor but of dishonor, not of freedom but of slavery, not of sovereignty but of tyranny, not of life but of death, not of salvation but of destruction.

50. Extraordinary and terrifying indeed was the destruction of men upon the earth. For the following things happened to them: They were carried off as slaves by sin, the tyrant, and were led away into the regions of desire where they were totally engulfed by insatiable sensual pleasures–by adultery, by unchastity, by debauchery, by inordinate desires, by avarice, by murders, by bloodshed, by the tyranny of wickedness, by the tyranny of lawlessness.

51. For even a father of his own accord lifted up a dagger against his son; and a son used his hands against his father; and the impious person smote the breasts that nourished him; and brother murdered brother; and host wronged his guest; and friend assassinated friend; and one man cut the throat of another with his tyrannous right hand.

52. Therefore all men on the earth became either murderers, or parricides, or killers of their children. And yet a thing still more dreadful and extraordinary was to be found: A mother attacked the flesh which she gave birth to, a mother attacked those whom her breasts had nourished; and she buried in her belly the fruit of her belly. Indeed, the ill-starred mother became a dreadful tomb, when she devoured the child which she bore in her womb.

53. But in addition to this there were to be found among men many things still more monstrous and terrifying and brutal: father cohabits with his child, and son and with his mother, and brother with sister, and male with male, and each man lusting after the wife of his neighbor.

54. Because of these things sin exulted, which, because it was death’s collaborator, entered first into the souls of men, and prepared as food for him the bodies of the dead. In every soul sin left its mark, and those in whom it placed its mark were destined to die.

55. Therefore, all flesh fell under the power of sin, and every body under the dominion of death, for every soul was driven out from its house of flesh. Indeed, that which had been taken from the earth was dissolved again into earth, and that which had been given from God was locked up in Hades. And that beautiful ordered arrangement was dissolved, when the beautiful body was separated (from the soul).

56. Yes, man was divided up into parts by death. Yes, an extraordinary misfortune and captivity enveloped him: he was dragged away captive under the shadow of death, and the image of the Father remained there desolate. For this reason, therefore, the mystery of the passover has been completed in the body of the Lord.

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Melito of Sardis: The Old Testament and the New Testament

I am reposting Melito for Easter.

I have posted on Melito some before, and find myself returning to him for a bit especially his homily on the Passover. He provides us with an accurate manner in using the Old Testament, and it is an example that is well served for the past few millenia. He does not create something that is not there, no drench the Prophets with our Hope, but stands in the good Tradition of using the New Testament to read the Old. For a New Testament example of this, we need to turn no further, dig no deeper than the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Note, if you will, the powerful images that Melito presents us with.

Continue reading “Melito of Sardis: The Old Testament and the New Testament”

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Easter with Melito – Typology in the Old Testament concerning Christ

This week, I am going back through my old posts on Melito of Sardis. So, here we go, a bit more from his Passover Homily.

Continue reading “Easter with Melito – Typology in the Old Testament concerning Christ”

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Review: Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology @Kregelbooks

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Andreas J. Köstenberger and Richard D. Patterson have a daunting task ahead of them, to engage me personally and bringing me to a conclusion that they have succeeded in creating a textbook for proper biblical interpretation which takes into account historical and literary contexts while understanding the role of Christian theology in examining these things.

In their note to teachers, students and readers, they write that the time for a new context has developed. They note that in the hermeneutical geometry, there is the circle, the spiral, and now the triangle. Of course, it is only the stylizing and codification of the new triad, represented by a triangle, which is new. They note that other scholars, such as Longman and Dillard, have used the three areas which they will seek to employ. Further, they are also not prepared to say that their method is exclusive, but instead, they leave insight for the other two shapes and even gives their importance. In my opinion, they are succeeding where others fail because they aren’t arguing for exclusivity, but are urging that their new way is simply a different way. Their difference is pronounced. “(R)ather than moving from general to special hermeneutics, we move from special to general. In doing so, we are building on the enormous amount of recent scholarship on the importance of the canon, theology, metanarrative, and Scripture as “theodrama” (p25).” This idea of canon first may be putting off to some, myself included, but this is theology, and not biblical studies, so I can, and you should, allow some room for canonical criticism. Further, they are unabashedly conservative in their approach to Scripture as they almost immediately declare that they will consider Scripture as “inerrant.”

The book is divided into three parts, with sixteen chapters amongst them. In the second part, Interpretation: The Hermeneutical Triad, the authors break this down further, and this is where the student’s work begins. The text teaches students to focus their studies on three parts of the passage: canon, genre, and language. The overarching structure, however, looks like this:

  • Preparation
  • History
  • Canon
  • Genre
  • Language
  • Theology
  • Application and Proclamation

This is their goal, to engage students to study the biblical texts in a theological construct.

To review every chapter would be somewhat repetitive, so I’ve selected a few of them to examine. The first one which I want to look at is the one dealing with John’s Revelation. This is a good one to start because of the various interpretations given to this book, and sometimes, the heated arguments over those interpretations. In my opinion, while the explanation of the futurist position seems a little biased (I note that unlike the other listed approaches there are not any negative or positive features highlighted), overall, the inclusion of modern scholarship, such as Bauckham, is a welcome sight. You’ll find Aune, Beale, Evans, Longenecker and Hayes as well, who is extremely important in understanding Revelation, especially in regards to the use of the Old Testament in John’s writings, something that they spend a considerable amount of time explaining. This portion of the book doesn’t just skim Revelation, but tackles it from a literary background (note the use of Hayes) and then pushes the student to an exegesis. In this instance, it is Revelation 11.1-13. Their conclusion does not betray biases, but an actual conclusion based on the presented actualization of the evidence.

The second examination occurs in the final chapter of the book, after the ground work has been laid, in going “From Study to Sermon.” We have to remember that theology is entangled with preaching, and preaching theology. To have theology without praxis, is to have a dead theology, so all of the wonderful theology books published which are not geared to praxis is a waste of time. Köstenberger and Patterson have written their book towards a praxis of preaching. I have often said to others, especially students, that the exegesises which many write in Seminary, should be the pattern of a sermon. So, how does this measure up? Very well, in my opinion. They start off by dismissing this entire business of having an outline first. Do you know what an outline does? It generally locks the exegete into a set conclusion. The authors note that the outline is to be discovered. Further, they note that not every passage in Scripture is of the same context. They note the common mistakes made, such as “being ignorant of its literary context,” allegorization (of the Old Testament), and of course, imposition or inference into the text. They demand that preachers actually know what they are talking about before they start talking.

Why is this important? In the first portion of the book, there is a brief essay on the cost of failed biblical interpretation followed by Chapter 13 which contains a discussion on exegetical fallacies. In the essay, the authors note the fallacies which arise from “neglect of the context, prooftexting, eisegesis…., improper use of background information, and other similar shortcomings.” They note that to limit some of this, one needs the community of believers, set against the individualistic enterprise we so often, unfortunately, see today. In the chapter, they note the several fallacies which we find common today, such as believing that a lexicon qualifies as the only interpretative tool. It seems that for our authors, most of the fallacies are based on ignorance of the wider field of biblical interpretation beginning with a faulty use of linguistics. To counter this, chapter 13 is written against pitfalls which individuals seem to make, such as root fallacy, misuse of meaning, appeal to unknown, and, among a few others, the favorite of too many (just as the use of a dictionary means someone knows what the word means), “improper appeal to alleged parallels.” Each fallacy is fully explained and rebuffed while the student given a way to avoid the trap.

How would this book work for a student? Well, as a student, this book provides a clear methodology, from front to back, and it is followed by the authors well. Each chapter has outlines, objectives, assignments, questions, key words and a bibliography. Unlike some books, others scholars and their works are footnoted throughout the entire book. In my opinion, this is a measurable identification of intellectual integrity for the authors, not in footnoting other scholars in the usual sense, but in allowing students to find supporting evidences which may in fact lead to challenges to the personal doctrines of the authors. This is not a book to be the all in all, but a book to be the first in a long line of books for the student in learning biblical interpretation. Further, it is not something that can easily be skimmed over, but something to be digested. Equally, for the teacher, it is a book which will provide a firm basis for in class discussions (especially the scholarship provided) and help to establish real biblical interpreters. That is what we go to seminary for, right? To engage, in some form, of biblical interpretation. This should become a book which sets the course for a generation of students to come.

At the beginning of this review, I noted the task of Köstenberger and Patterson. I am rather harsh on such books. I find that the lackluster skills which many young pastors and seminary students have is a sure sign that the Western Church is going to fall shortly. I often rail, loudly, against the diaspora of intelligence which is fleeing our congregations while we turn to sermons on Sunday morning which are little more than motivational speeches. Why? Because they are often saddled with poor exegetical skills with no real evidence that they have ever attempted real biblical interpretation. They take one angle and attempt to interpret the Text through that lens, which defeats any attempt at sensibility. If students, and former students, will listen to our authors, they will get an education in actual biblical interpretation and thereby, be able to actually engage the biblical text. There are issues, personally, I have with the view of the authors regarding Scripture, but this book gets beyond that quickly. It gets to the point that there is an actual way to interpret Scripture, and it is not the way which is common, or plain. It is one which takes into account what the authors have appropriately name the Hermeneutical Triad. I fully recommend this book. It is a must for students, teachers, and pastors and those concerned with what students are learning, teachers are teaching, and pastors are preaching.

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Is The Gospel of Luke Geared Toward Only the Rich?

The American Ruling Class
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First, in Luke 1:1-4, Mosala suggests that the intended audience is a dead giveaway at the outset. “Theophilus, his excellency” as the person whom the letter is intended means that Luke’s Gospel is for the elite, ruling class (174).”

For more, read Mosala’s Postcolonial Interpretation of Luke 1 & 2

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Was Cain Right In Killing Abel?: A New Reading of Genesis 4

Cain and Abel (comics)
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As far as I can remember, my mother was the first one to teach my brother and I about the Cain and Abel story. She inferred in her reading (which was the traditional understanding) that Abel gave the better sacrifice, the very best lamb he had. The question is, for me, where is this in the text? No where in Scripture does it say, in Genesis 4 that Cain gave the worst of his crop (as the children’s bible illustrations tried to teach me). This story always eluded me. For post-modern readers, like Brian McLaren and Marjorie Suchocki, they offer Abel and Cain as part of the meta-narrative of the Fall to violence, that Abel was one of the world’s first scapegoats (after his mother Eve of course), and Cain leads the world into death, rage, and eventually Nimrod’s empire.

At first, this would seem to be an appropriate reception of Genesis 4, but it still does not bother to ask, why is Abel favored over Cain?

For more, see Mosala’s Postcolonial Reading of Genesis 4.

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Final Thoughts on From Every People and Nation

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Concluding thoughts on this book. Next week, in NT class, we start on the Gospels…

While I believe that John had a specific meaning when writing the Book of Revelation, or rather, a specific application, my allowance for subjective applications have grown considerably while reading through some of these essays, and most notably, two of the final ones. Westhelle allows that the genius of John’s storytelling allows for a cross-cultural, cross-generational, usage of the Apocalypse. In that John allowed his audience, and thus subsequent readers, the ability to name their own Beast (p198). Yeo seemingly agrees with Westhelle notes the “universal” scope, but the fruits which come from reading the book in “particular” locations (p200). While admittedly, I have difficultly reading the Book of Revelation through some, especially the subaltern, lens which I am unfamiliar with, I can see the logic of both Westhelle and Yeo and what reading Revelation in particular locations may do for the local community.

Most interesting was chapter seven when Dr. Pablo Richard clearly called out the United States of America for the role in which it was playing in the world today. Ideally, Christians would recognize the imperialism and other forms of Empire which this country regularly puts on, not only in our foreign policy, but so too in our domestic policy. While his words will no doubt be disconcerting, Richard is writing from the point of view which I imagine John might have recognized, that of the oppressed by an whelming power with no end to that power in site. Further, both writers most operate under the view of the Image of that power, finding sustenance and fostering resistance. While Westhelle didn’t associate the Beast with the United States, I believe that the examination of Revelation against the backdrop of the rise of the military regime in Brazil is equally valid and equally pointed to what we know as the Military-Industrial complex in the U.S.

Rossing, clearly an environmentalist, stretched my ability to legitimize her application, although she does provide some historical support for her understanding. While I can understand her concern, the usefulness in her interpretation is almost devoid of validity, unless of course, ones lives in the Appalachian Mountains, facing the constant battles over Mountain Top Mining, poisoned water, and the nearly apocalyptic fear of an impoundment breaking and washing away homes and communities with toxic sludge. Then, like the other subjective applications to respective communities, her interpretations become intimately real and hit close to home. But even in this, I feel that her application is just a little too subjective for any allowance I can make, especially given that to follow her interpretation would be to invite the Beast to take action.

While I note that several authors have attempted to keep with the historical understanding of Revelation and only then see if it holds values today, namely Gonzalez, other authors were simply concerned with understanding Revelation only through their respective hermeneutic lens. While I can understand that in certain situations, such as those described by Westhelle and Richard, the Book of Revelation becomes almost re-inspired, I still cannot go so far as to see an allowance for the kind of subjective hermeneutic which is advocated by Blount, Pippin or Martin. While, in the end, my allowance for interpretation and usage of Revelation has grown, my initial concerns, in that by allowing small groups of people to see Revelation as something which their situation interprets, we give freedom to those who seek to use it as a key to world events, American Foreign Policy, and in the end, how to read the daily newspaper.

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Scratchpad: The Limits of Legitimate Interpretation

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More classwork.

The question:

So, as you read chapters three through six in FEPN, what perspectives do you find helpful or perhaps challenging? Why do you think you value or are pushed by their particular reading? What does this tell you about the way you engage the biblical text? Does this make you want to change the way you interpret Scripture in any way?

My what could be a rough draft of a one page, double spaced, paper:

Admittedly, I’m neither African, African-American, or a woman, nor am I recently associated with slavery or the Holocaust, one way or the very specific other. I am a conservative Southron white male who liberally investigates and believes in equality, justice, and most of all, Scripture. I believe that while Scripture may be, timidly, applied subjectively, it shouldn’t be viewed as such, and thus, it is difficult for me to accept as legitimate the interpretative methods offered by Brian Blount (ch1), Clarice Martin (ch4) and Tina Pippin (ch6). While they may be valid applications (and I would strongly rebuke that notion with Dr. Pippin’s view), I cannot find in them merit enough to consider them as anything but a selfish understanding of Scripture. Blount is not seeking to understand the original context of Scripture, but to use it as liberation for a small group, albeit oppressed people (and in that, I find a valid excuse for subjectivity); however, Martin seeks to wholly undermine Scripture seeing it through her lens instead of seeing herself through the lens of Scripture. Gonzalez wrestles with Scripture only in that he sees Scripture wrestling with the powers of the world. Okoye, however, truly wrestles with a Scripture which while he maintains the authority of, is actually counter to how his culture sees the world and further, how they practice their traditions in the world. He is every bit a follower of Christ as the most righteous American pew-sitter, but his cultural world view simply doesn’t align with the author of the Apocalypse, and where it doesn’t he truly struggles with it. Pippin, on the other hand, relies too much on her own modern sensibilities in judging Scripture. In this, it is not wrestling but failing to grasp any of the messages of the Book of Revelation. Admittedly, I am a former fundamentalist, Southron white male with affluence, but with a drive to get past the subjective application of Scripture which leads to exclusion, illegitimacy, and the eventual undermining of Scripture.

As I hinted too previously, I consider the most well rounded view of the Book of Revelation and how it should be interpreted to have been given by Dr. James Okoye. While Maier is sufficient for exploring how the language of Revelation interplays within a dispersed culture and people, I have a difficult time in accepting it as an active interpretative method. After all, it is not long standing for his native German community because within a generation more, they will have been fully assimilated into Canadian culture if not sooner. Yes, while other dispersed peoples who live in diaspora may continue to use the language of the New Jerusalem (p68-69) to describe their promised land, I suspect that with fewer and fewer allowances for multiculturalism left in the increasingly ethnically paranoid West, this too will pass. Yet, Okoye, himself a product of the pan-African diaspora, presents a wildly different picture of personal religion than what Maier states about the North American West (p78). While we in the latter location seek to understand ourselves by Revelation, such as our foreign policy and even weather reports, the African community seeks to understand wherein their cultural context fits into John’s vision where it actually calls the good of the community bad. I can only note a few instances for the sake of brevity.

He notes that the apocalyptic imagery of Babylon (114) which he is able to show that Christian Africans hear and relate to foreign powers as they sought to colonize, then implement neocolonialism, and now, post-neocolonialism with appropriation of peoples, land and now natural resources and economic pressure. Okoye notes that in African culture, leadership is sacred with leaders expected to uphold that public, and in some cases, religious trusts. Yet, Africa, as he notes, has become a prop for European powers, produces despotic tyrants. This sacred trust is also one which is placed upon those European powers in some form. He goes on to note the culture of martyrdom which is portrayed in Revelation as something that is counter to what may be good for Africa today. Indeed, I would go further and suggest that Western Christian has a martyrdom complex which sees persecution everywhere.  Okoye calls attention to the fact that Christianity in Africa would better serve the people as a transformation agent rather than a group of people living as martyrs. He goes on to then stand against what John calls Christians to do – ‘Come out of her, my people (Rev 18.4)’ (p115). He calls for the opposite, nothing that Africa would be better served to disobey the Prophet and actually participate in the governments of the land. In the end, Okoye accepts Scripture and yet, as we are called to do, wrestle with Scripture when we find that our current situation is sometimes unmet or even counter to what Scripture calls us to do.

I return to my statements above: While I am in favor of applying Scripture subjectively and even wrestling with it, there is a point when wrestling becomes a synonym for relying fully upon oneself to correct God and His Holy Writ. I believe that Pippin truly falls into that category, but Okoye stands above such maneuvers with its very appropriate way of examining Scripture and finding his place either in it, or alongside of it.  This is where my method falls, with Okoye.

How many Christians would obey Romans 13 standing at the gates of Auschwitz?

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