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1 TOWARDS A DYNAMIC UNDERSTANDING OF CHRISTIANITY

TOWARDS A DYNAMIC UNDERSTANDING OF CHRISTIANITY FROM A RADICAL JUDAISTIC THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE Exegetico-Hermeneutical Analyses of Certain Crucial Hebraic Textual Concepts in the Nevi’im and the Kethuvim RUEL F. PEPA, Ph.D. ISBN: 978-1-4659-4863-2


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COPYRIGHT TOWARDS A DYNAMIC UNDERSTANDING OF CHRISTIANITY FROM A RADICAL JUDAISTIC THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE ExegeticoHermeneutical Analyses of Certain Crucial Hebraic Textual Concepts in the Nevi’im and the Kethuvim Copyright 2011 by Ruel F. Pepa Smashwords Edition ISBN: 978-1-4659-4863-2


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PREFACE This collection of treatises explores and analyzes certain vital Judaistic theological concepts found int the Hebraic Scriptures— which is the basis of the Judaeo-Christian Bible’s Old Testament— specifically the Prophetic Books (Nevi’im) and the Books of Writings (Kethuvim). The fundamental objective of this study is to clarify certain ambiguities and rectify certain misinterpretations created by a superficial and less historical treatment by classical Christian theologians of these concepts in their theologizing. This treatise is therefore an in-depth study of the exegetical and the historical (contextual) roots of such theological concepts as they affect and connect with the development of Christian theology through time from the medieval period to the contemporary era. Certain hermeneutical methods and techniques are introduced and employed in this study to facilitate future attempts and efforts to further explore similar areas of concern. The range of this study spans the Old and the New Testament Scriptures and hence provides the necessary appreciation and evaluation of the need to strengthen the theological bridge that uninterruptedly connects Judaism and Christianity. It therefore affirms the notion that Christianity is groundless if not traced back to its Hebraic roots/origin and Judaistic Messianism is always incomplete without the historical advent of Christianity. RFP


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Dedicated to ANNE FORST-PEPA My Dearly Beloved Wife of Jewish Origin


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Table of Contents Preface Chapter One: Introduction “ONE WHO CORRECTLY HANDLES THE WORD OF TRUTH” Chapter Two WILL THE TRUE PROPHET PLEASE STAND UP Chapter Three A SYNTHETIC STUDY OF THE NATURE AND AUTHORITY OF PROPHECY BASED ON THE IMAGE OF PROPHET ELIJAH IN 1 KINGS CHAPTERS 17 TO 19 Chapter Four HOSEA’S TRAGEDY: AN EXISTENTIAL EVALUATION OF THE ANATOMY OF DIVINE LOVE IN HOSEA CHAPTERS 1 TO 3 Chapter Five “A TIME TO CAST AWAY STONES” . . . “THE TIME FOR MAKING LOVE”? Chapter Six AN EXEGETICAL STUDY OF JOHN 1.14-18 IN RELATION TO THE CONCEPTS OF “GRACE” AND “TRUTH” Chapter Seven The RADICAL TRANSFORMATION OF THE JEWISH SABBATH IN THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION


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Chapter Eight AN EXEGETICO-HERMENEUTICAL STUDY OF SEMITIC LITERARY STYLE IN NEW TESTAMENT LITERATURE Appendix ON CONTEMPORIZING THE CHRISTIAN MESSAGE AND THE ANALYSIS OF THEOLOGICAL LANGUAGE


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Chapter One INTRODUCTION “ONE WHO CORRECTLY HANDLES THE WORD OF TRUTH”

“Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene.”

2 Timothy 2.14-17a (NIV)

The Bible is God’s Word that provides proper direction and wisdom, comfort and hope, spiritual strength and faith, freedom and love to the life and deeds of a Christian believer. In short, the Bible is a very significant collection of books and letters, literary masterpieces of prose and poetry, arranged and integrated for the spiritual well-being of God’s people. The Bible is like a spring of pure, living water that satisfies the spiritual thirst of the faithful. However, because of the stirrings boldly perpetrated upon it by people who boast that they are allegedly “spiritual teachers,” the purity of this spring of truth is oftentimes bemuddled. Hence, the water that many people unwittingly drink is filled with microbes and therefore poses an alarming degree of risk.


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Many Bible teachers teach not the Bible but their own personal understanding of what the Bible says. This is not really that risky if their understanding is correct. But if the teacher is ignorant of the right way to ascertain the correct meaning of what the Bible says, and doesn’t have the proper tools to reasonably analyze and explain it, s/he is treading on a dangerous ground and s/he, at the same time, invites others into a disastrous exercise. Multitude of churches and fellowships are replete with teachers of this kind. Some of the culprits in this situation are: (1) the influence of counterfeit doctrines—teachings of men hidden under the deceptive cloak of alleged Biblical orthodoxy, and (2) the emotional methods of teaching—an ultra-potent way to create a semblance of truth in the things that a teacher says. The message of the Bible has text, co-text and context.1 The text is the actual words and concatenation of words used; the cotext is the statements, paragraphs, chapters and the peripheral texts directly related to—and thus, affecting—the text being considered or studied; and the context is the sociological and historical milieu of the text-situation. If these three factors are not seen in any serious teaching of the Bible, an earnest student is missing a lot, if not absolutely robbed of the truth or intentionally deceived. An example of this is a minister or a teacher who preaches or teaches a topic, and to satisfy it with an explanation and to promote his propositional contentions through the Bible, he would make connections out of the many Bible verses which he thinks are supportive of the subject matter he discusses. He would “go berserk,” indiscriminately jumping from verse to verse in different unrelated portions of the Scriptures and arbitrarily pick from 1

Cf. Elisabeth Davenport, “Text, Co-text, Context and the Documentary Continuum” in INFORMATION CONTEXT: NATURE, IMPACT, AND ROLE Lecture Notes in Computer Science, edited by Fabio Crestani Ian Ruthven. 2005, Volume 3507/2005, 56, DOI: 10.1007/11495222_2. Springer Berlin / Heidelberg.


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there texts which unfortunately have no relation to the co-text and context of what is being discussed.2 In many congregations, people like that are held in high esteem because it is thought that they seem to be masters and scholars of the Bible. On the contrary, we have to hold them at bay—we have to beware of them. In a church somewhere in England, it is told that above the pulpit is written the following Bible verse: “I have a message from God to you” which according to the reference is taken from Judges 3.20. If the people do not know the co-text and the context of this text, they would say it is a very encouraging invitation to all who enter the church building . But if we are to consult the Bible for the meaning of the text in relation to the surrounding verses and according to its historical locus, it is not proper to inscribe this text above the pulpit of a church as a word of invitation. As faithful believers, teachers or not, let us exert our efforts to use the Word of God in the right manner. We ought to discern and resist the many false teachers lurking around us nowadays.

2

“Prooftext, prooftexting. A prooftext is a verse or short passage from the Bible used by someone as part of his proof for a doctrinal belief he wishes to substantiate to others. However, since verses and passages may rely extensively on the context in which they appear for correct interpretation, pulling these out of their context and having them stand alone in a "proof" can, at times, be very misleading. In addition, a set of such prooftexts can completely ignore other passages which, if added to the mix, might well lead to an entirely different conclusion. Someone who relies strongly only on a list of prooftexts in order to make a doctrinal argument may have a very weak case for his argument. Noting that a religious teacher relies heavily just on prooftexting is viewed in theological circles as a very negative evaluation.” (http://www.biblestudy.org/beginner/definition-of-christianterms/prooftexting.html)


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Chapter Two “WILL THE TRUE PROPHET PLEASE STAND UP”

INTRODUCTION The classical prophets of the Old Testament should be viewed in their socio-historical, politico-economic, as well as metaphysicotheological parameters. “The prophet has always been God’s voice to men, designed to exhort and encourage the people. Sometimes, in this process, God would use the prophets to reveal things of the future. A careful review of Scripture will show this revealing (or prophecy) always carried a present purpose of edification, exhortation, encouragement, or comfort for the people.” (http://www.judeministries.org/details.php? tableID=656&studyID=16) Classical Hebrew prophecy should be located in contra-distinction with the popular predictive pronouncements that antedate the classical era, and the apocalyptic climate that characterizes the post-classical period. The message of Hebrew prophecy was specific to the people of their own time, conditioned by the events which they contended with, and communicated in the language that could only be fully understood in their ethnic and temporal context. The abundance


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in it of literary devices and allusions are reflective of its time and setting, and their obscurity in the mind of the modern interpreter does not really evoke mystical incomprehensibility; it is the reality of our present existence, so far removed from the ancient epoch, which will always create a barrier to a complete understanding of the prophetic message. The relevance of classical Hebrew prophecy for our time must be seen in the omnipresent and omnitemporal truths of God upon which the prophet’s message is founded and for which the prophet’s struggle is being launched. Such relevance is conditioned by the fact that God’s plans and purposes according to his will is perennially subverted by humanity’s evil design. As long as spiritual crises pervade humanity in the form of social injustice, political oppression, economic poverty, moral degeneration, and religious indifferences—against all of which the classical prophetic message was directed—the prophet’s message —however ancient it may be—will always be relevant for our time and, if it needs, even for generation yet to come.

“PROFESSIONAL PROPHETS” vs CLASSICAL PROPHETS There is a comprehensive and analytic distinction between “professional prophets” and classical prophets. The early roots of professional prophetism is geographically traced in both Semitic and non-Semitic Near Eastern realm that influenced the “prophetic” practices of pre-Israelite Palestinian “community.” The beginning of “professional prophetism” antedates the period of classical prophetism, and it is the influence of the former that is being consistently and persistently stamped out during the latter’s era. Strictly speaking, these “professional prophets” are not really prophets. A prophecy is an intelligible propositional message that comes from God, and a prophet is therefore an


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official spokesperson who represent God. “Professional prophets” should be more rightly called “diviners” or “seer” whose main focus of interest is predicting what will occur in the future through the instrumentality of dreams and devices of divination. Generally, their role lacks social relevance and they are consulted for personal reasons. The basic element of their message is predictive in nature, and the connection of which with the present and the past is characterized by fantastic obscurity. Moreover, the predictive message of these diviners and seers is obtained after undergoing a convulsive fit or frenzied mumbling, like when a person is possessed by strange spirits. “As societies became more sophisticated the prophet advanced from the shaman or wise man or woman, or the medicine man in some societies to groups of people, usually religious men belonging to a priesthood specializing in prophecy. In Assyria, for example, the prophetic class was the nabu, meaning "to call" or "announce," a name which was probably from the god Nabiu, the speaker or proclaimer of destiny, the tables of which he inscribed. Among the ancient Hebrews the prophet was called nabkia, a title probably barrowed from the Canaanites, which is not to say that the Hebrew nakiim were indebted to the surrounding people for their prophetic system that appears to be of a more loftier type than that of the Canaanites. Prophets appear to have swarmed Palestine during the Biblical times. It seems that some four hundred prophets of Baal at Jezebel's table; and being prophets of this deity almost certifies they were priests also. The most celebrated prophets of


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Israel were in the northern part of the country, which was he most influenced by the Canaanites. Later prophetic societies formed, the chief reason being the preservation of nationality; and this class appears to have absorbed the older classes of magicians and seers for the purpose of assuming their official duties. However, to some extinct a few later prophets regained the positions of those earlier seers. Micah, for example, rose to the stature of the prophets of Baal. Possibly with Amos it might be said a new school of prophecy commenced, the canonical prophet, who were also authors and historians, and who distanced themselves from mere professional prophets. The general idea in Hebrew Palestine was that Yahweh, or God, was in the closest possible touch with the prophets, and he would do nothing without revealing it to them. Therefore, the greatest importance was given to their utterances, which more than once determined the fate of the nation. Indeed no nation paid closer attention to the utterances of the prophetic class than that of the ancient Jews.� (http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/p/prophecy.html) It does not, however, mean that classical prophecy is devoid of predictive element. Yet, the predictive element of classical prophecy is reasonably and intelligibly connected to the past and the present. The predictive element is not the focus of classical prophecy, but presented as empirically consequent to whatever decision a people would make in the face of God’s intervention. Besides this, classical prophecy has already established the


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criterion of prophetic verifiability in matters of predictive utterances by an appeal to the Mosaic dictum in Deuteronomy 13.1-3 and 18.22, thereby establishing at the same time the person of Moses as the primal and ultimate paradigm of the true prophet. “There is some difference as to the message of the prophets from one “period” to the next. A grouping of periods could be viewed as those in the early period of the monarchy, those who were counselors to the monarchy, and those who are the classical prophets we most often thing about. “Moses and Deborah are examples of the first category. Their purpose was that of national leadership and their message was one of spiritual guidance. They acted as an overseer of justice. Notice that Moses’ final address predicts the course of the nation and, so, predicts the messages of each group of prophets.” (http://www.judeministries.org/details.php? tableID=656&studyID=16)

CLASSICAL PROPHECY vs APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE Another significant aspect in the study of Hebrew prophecy is the differentation of classical prophecy from apocalyptic literature. While the latter is basically dependent on the former, the former is never intended to culminate in the latter. There is however, the kind of apocalyptic literature that doesn’t harm the established character of classical prophecy. In fact, such literature makes vivid the predictive element of classical prophecy for it does not


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depart from the historical and circumstances of the prophecy.

existential

conditions

and

“A comparison of apocalyptic prophecy with classical prophecy and other biblical literature indicates that apocalyptic is characterized by more frequent reference to visions and dreams than is true of any other kind of literature found in the Bible. Also, the appearance of angels to interpret such visions and dreams is not uncommon.” (http://www.patmospapers.com/apocalyptic.htm) Nevertheless, there are those unscrupulous apocalyptic messengers who have misread and hence, misused and abused the rich and elaborate metaphors and figures of speech found in classical prophecy to put forth their self-advancing prognosis of future events. These are the false prophets, more numerous in our generation than in any other period of time, of whom we ought to be extra careful.

CLASSICAL PROPHECY AND ITS SOCIAL RELEVANCE The great prophets were conditions and public issues.

genuinely

concerned

with

social

“Jeremiah is the example of the classical prophet. His message was a social/spiritual commentary on the life of the nation. His message was to all the people, not just the leaders. The message of the classical prophets covered the inevitable result of the way of life of the people. This was the Babylonian captivity. But, the message also


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includes the promise of eventual restoration. The message, like that of all the prophets, was of rebuke and blessings. The message was a call for repentance and justice.” (http://www.judeministries.org/details.php? tableID=656&studyID=16) The true prophets even of our time are not the typical “pro-status quo” preachers behind the pulpit, nor those who profess to possess the “gift of prophecy” in so-called “full-gospel, charismatic” fellowships. The true prophets are those “secular” artists, poets and writers who have sincerely expressed in their own respective media the “spiritual crises” of our time. Their penetrating analyses and syntheses of the seriousness of our present social condition and circumstances reflect their spiritual sensitivity and serve as a challenge for us to become responsible participants in a movement for social transformation.


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Chapter Three “A SYNTHETIC STUDY OF THE NATURE AND AUTHORITY OF PROPHECY BASED ON THE IMAGE OF PROPHET ELIJAH IN 1 KINGS 17-19”

I. FIRST KINGS 17-19 BASED STRUCTURE: A REFLECTION

ON

A

PALISTROPHIC

A closer and deeper reflection on 1 Kings 17-19 in the light of its palistrophic structure prominently yields a persistent pattern material to the object of ascertaining the true nature and authority of prophecy in the Hebrew tradition. There are four major categories that may be drawn from the entire pericope: a. Communication (often in command form) b. Response c. Hope d. Crisis These categories serve as structural pegs that control the interconnected series of events that spontaneously flow within the narrative. Hence, the following outline can be effected:

A.

The Making and Sending of YHWH’s Prophet A.1 A Personal Encounter—God Instructs the People


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a. Communication: YHWH directly communicates with his chosen (17.2-4; 17.8,9) b. Response: The prophet responds (17.5; 17.10a) c. Hope: YHWH gives hope (17.6; 17.10b-16) d. Crisis: The prophet gets into a crisis (17.7; 17.17-19) A.2 The Prophet’s Call to God a. Communication: The prophet directly communicates with YHWH (17.20,21). This is more of a resolution voiced out by a woman. b. Response: YHWH responds (17.22). The crisis was resolved at this point. c. Hope: The prophet gives hope (17.23) d. Crisis: YHWH dissolves the crisis (17.24) B. The Prophet Amidst Hostilities B.1 The Prophet vs The System a. Communication: The meeting fo two YHWH worshippers (18.1-8). b. Response: Status quo (for preservation) vs Change (living a dangerous life (18.9-15). c. Hope and d. Crisis: (18.16-19) B.2 The Confrontation a.Communication: Ahab communicates with his people and Baal’s prophets (18.20). b. Response: The prophets of Baal listen and respond (18.26). c. Hope: The prophets of Baal are hoping (18.27, 28).


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d. Crisis: The prophets of Baal get into a crisis (18.29)/ (18.30-35): Elijah being the true prophet of YHWH is in control/resolution B.3 The Prophet’s Absolute Triumph a. Communication: The prophet directly communicates with YHWH (18.36-37) b. Response: YHWH responds (18.38) c. Hope: The prophet gives hope (18.39) d. Crisis: YHWH dissolves the crisis (18.40) B.4 The Prophet Confronts the Loser a. Communication: The prophet communicates with Ahab (18.41) b. Response: Ahab responds (18.42) c. Hope: The falling of rain signals hope for the people who have declared themselves for YHWH (18.43-45) d. Crisis: A new crisis begins in the prophet’s life (18.46) C. The “Re-making” of YHWH’s Prophet: A Personal Struggle to Re-Affirm Commitment C.1 The Enemy Instructs the Prophet: The Loser’s LastDitch Attack a. Communication: Jezebel communicates with Elijah (19.1,2) b. Response: Elijah responds by fleeing (19.3,4) c. Hope: YHWH continues to give hope to the prophet (19.5,8) d. Crisis: The crisis is hel in abeyance (19.9a)


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C.2 God’s Call to the Prophet: A Decisive Meeting (An interplay of all four categories (19.9b-14) C.3 The Prophet is Sent Anew: A Reconsideration of God’s Plan l a. Communication: YHWH communicates prophet b. Response: The prophet responds (19.19) c. Hope: YHWH gives hope (19.20) d. Crisis: YHWH dissolves the crisis (19.21)

with

the

Through this outline, topical parallelisms are established as in the structural similarity between 17.2-7 and 17.8-9 wherein God is active while the prophet is passive. With the same pattern, it can be noticed that even the sub-event of 17.20-24 likewise stands in parallel with the former, except that the prophet is the one active in the latter. However, structurally parallel with 17.20-24 is 18.36-40 (i.e., “The Prophet’s Absolute Triumph”). The narrative continues on with the same structural pattern found in every event wherein communication is not only between God and the prophet but also between the prophet and another human individual. Further topical parallelism can be found between “The Making . . .” and “The Re-making . . .” wherein the latter is a reversal of the former: “God Instructs the Prophet” versus “The Enemy Instructs the Prophet” and “The Prophet’s Call to God” versus “God’s Call to the Prophet”. The palistropic structure that elicits the flow of events from the prophet’s personal encounter with YHWH (17.2-24)—the thesis—


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to his exposure to and triumph over the hostilities of the system (18.1-46)—the anti-thesis—until reaching a decisive stage of personal struggle where his commitment to YHWH is re-affirmed —the synthesis—is actually a movement from the formation of a prophetic prototype to the re-creation of a perfect paradigm of an ultimate prophet.

II. THE NATURE AND AUTHORITY OF PROPHECY: A SYNTHESIS From the text of 1 Kings 17-19 seen through the categories and parameter of the set structural pattern, the following significant theses can be inferred as to the nature and authority of prophecy in the Hebraic tradition: A. God’s act of communicating with a chosen “spokesperson” to represent him occurs in the locus of a divine-human relationship that is both personal and intimate (17.2-18.35). This relationship factor stamps credibility and authority to the person of the prophet and establishes the truth and validity of the prophecy. B.

The responsiveness of the prophet (17.5, 10a; 18.9; 19.3,4) is a concrete expression of his twofold sensitivity: (1) to God’s authoritative call and (2) to the imminent situations and issues of the socio-cultural importance to the people to whom he prophesies. This factor confirms the personal spirituality and the social relevance of the prophet.


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C. The dialectical relatioship of hope and crisis in the experience of the prophet depends on the primacy of God’s empowering act wherein the prophet is first led into a situation of hope (17.6, 10b-16; 19-5-8) in anticipation of a foreboding crisis. This factor assures the prophet of God’s reliable guidance and confronting presence amidst adversities. The “life-force” generated by this hope in the prophet’s spirituality allows and likewise empowers him to impart the same kind of hope in the lives of other people (17.23; 18.39; 19.20). The prophet, therefore, is a hopegiving messenger to the faithful segment of a people amidst an impending crisis. D. Crisis situations define the absolute relevance of the prophet of God. These are times when God needs to re-assert his authority through his chosen prophet (18.21-25;30-35) who also declared doom to an unfaithful generation (18.20-40).


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Chapter Four HOSEA’S TRAGEDY: AN EXISTENTIAL EVALUATION OF THE ANATOMY OF DIVINE LOVE IN HOSEA 1-3

I.

A background information on the Prophet Hosea and the Book of Hosea, particularly the first three chapters

A. Hosea’s Milieu Hosea was a native of the Northern Kingdom, also known as the Kingdom of Israel. He was a contemporary Amos and his prophetic ministry began during the reign of Jeroboam II (783743 BCE). It continued through the reigns of the succeeding monarchs, but it seems like Hosea was already gone when the Northern Kingdom fell in the hands of the Assyrian conquerors in 721 BCE. That period was historically considered as the Dark Ages of Israel when the victorious advance of Assyria (734-732 BCE) waqs absolutely unstoppable and Israel was plagued by internal rebellions—four kings had been assassinated within a span of 15 yearws and there had been an escalating religious and moral bankruptcy. (cf. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11337a.htm ) B. The marriage of Hosea and its symbolism (chapters 1-3) A thematic analysis of Hosea 1-3 reveals a chiastic structure wherein the theme of Hosea’s marriage in 1.2-9 recurs in 3.1-5,


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and the theme of Israel’s hope to be restored in 1.10-2.1 recurs in 2.14-23. Focused amidst these two recurring themes is the theme of Israel’s unfaithfulness and punishment. [A] Hosea’s Marriage (1.2-9) [B] Hope of Israel’s Restoration (1.10-2.1) [C] Israel’s Unfaithfulness and Punishment (2.2-13) [B’] Hope of Israel’s Restoration (2.14-23) [A’] Hosea’s Marriage (3.1-5)

{The rest of Hosea deals with the crimes and punishment of Israel (chapters 4-14)}

Chapters 1-3 is hermeneutically complicated and has been a subject of much disputations. It is most probable that Hosea has married a temple prostitute whom he loves so much but who deserts him later. However, Hosea’s love continues to be steadfast and, after putting her to the test, he takes her back. Hosea’s tragic experience symbolically describes the way Yahweh deals with his stubborn and rebellious people. Chapter 2 provides the key to the whole book, as well as the moral perspective of its message. Israel, the bride of Yahweh, has become an unfaithful prostitute and has kindled and intensified the anger and jealousy of her divine husband. However, God’s love and compassion remains steadfast. Surely, he will punish her, but only with the sincere intention to bring her back and restore her to the bliss of their former relationship.


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C. The centrality of God’s love in Hosea’s message The central message underlying Hosea’s message is divine love that is not grasped by the very people on whom it is poured out liberally. The short glorious period of Israel’s “romantic honeymoon” after the release from Egyptian bondage is now forgotten, and Yahweh is no longer found at the center of the nation’s being. Israel has morally deteriorated and become unfaithful to her God. Hosea vehemently condemns the prevailing situation which to him has been perpetrated by the ruling classes. The kings, chosen against the will of God, have manipulated policies and regulations, thereby insulting the people of God and downgrading them to the level of the other nations. The priests who are supposed to be the vanguards of morality and temperance have desecrated their holy calling and are now leading the people to spiritual destruction. Social injustice and violence are prevalent anywhere and the evils of apostasy are widespread. Yahweh is worshipped alongside Baal and Astaroth in the pyramidal temples of Bethel. All of these have been systematically attacked by Hosea. Now, Yahweh becomes a jealous God demanding sincerity and faithfulness: “What I want is loyalty (or faithfulness), not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not burnt offerings” (6.6).

II.

A reflection on God’s persistent, steadfast love in the heart of Hosea

One character of God is that he has the grasp of the overall state of affairs. He knows the general structure and the total network of being and life. Surely he is concerned with particulars but he looks at them in the context of the universal. He is involved with


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specifics but he sees them as part of the general. He is interested with individual structures but he views them against the backdrop of the superstructure. He is mindful of man but only in the context of his “being-in-the-world.” This is precisely the reason why God is capable of loving and having compassion to the sinful and unfaithful humanity. He sees and is concerned with the sinfulness and unfaithfulness and rebelliousnes of man but only in the context of the evil structure of the world-system. In the light of this perspective, man is not a monster to be condemned and slain but a “victim-in-bondage” that needs to be liberated and healed; a downtrodden, oppressed, exploited and dehumanized “image-of-divinity” that has to be restored. Hosea’s spirit of love and compassion is empowered with the potent spark of God’s love and compassion, so that Hosea becomes capable of looking at his “wife” as someone who needs liberation and healing, not condemnation and death. Hosea is able to see the individual in the context of the social system. The evil system of Israel’s social life has created the likes of Gomer who is a victim of circumstances. The system is the one that has to be condemned, not the victim. The presentation of the first part of the first 3 chapters (i.e., 1.22.13) of the Book of Hosea is a gradual telescoping of the literary landscape that moves from the specific state of Hosea’s sorrow because of his wife’s fate in life, to the condemnation of the more general and structural aspect of Israel’s evil socio-politicoeconomic system that animates its human victims (like Gomer) within that society. We can likewise become capable of the same love and compassion towards other people if we, like Hosea, would look at things from the perspective of God and see the particular of the individual in the context of the systemic structure. We must not


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condemn other people who do not suit our moral standards because we have to accept the reality that in the events of life, all of us are in need of understanding and healing in whatever measure as we find ourselves in various circumstances that rob us of peace,dignity, freedom, and justice while struggling in the abominable environ of this evil world-system.


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Chapter Five “A TIME TO CAST AWAY STONES” . . . “THE TIME FOR MAKING LOVE” ?

Introduction To a Christian of “the old school” whose doctrinal orientation has been shaped by the archaisms of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, reading Ecclesiastes 3.5a from the Good News Bible or GNB (a.k.a. Today’s English Version or TEV) can be shocking. KJV renders it as “A time to cast awy stones, and a time to gather stones together.” Other literal translations like the RSV, NASB, NIV, etc. followed suit in a manner that wouldn’t stir the quiet pond of anyone’s solemn mind. But the TEV rendering seems to be so radically unrelated to the literal so that its effect is not only like that of a pebble making ripples in water. In simple language, the following could sound like a shocker: “ . . . the time for making love and the time for not making love” (GNB/TEV). Possible vehement reactions are “Outrageous!” “Offensive!” “Sacrilegious!” “Blasphemous!” as if such rendering is the only culprit; completely ignoring the language of the Songs of Solomon and other equally “mean” passages in the Bible. However, in the spirit of Christian love and understanding, let us patiently put a serious effort to make a deeper study on the TEV rendering of Ecclesiastes 3.5a. In the meantime, let us hold in abeyance all judgments and criticisms—regative or positive—we are almost ready to cast on it. Let us give it “a run for its money.”


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The Burden of the Problem Ecclesiastes 3.5a is within the pericope of a strict literary pattern that runs from verse 2 to verse 8 and its literal rendering creates an eyesore effect in the formal and substantial smoothness of the total passage. There is an apparent uniformity within the considered text (vv.2-8) so that each verse has two couplets (or distichs), each couplet having internal antithetic parallelism. Combining it with the other couplet of the same verse creates an external synonymous parallelism that pervades (or must pervade) the entire pericope. In the light of this consideration, we can find a certain degree of difficulty to locate the external synonymous parallelism of the two couplets in verse 5. The second couplet—“a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing” (RSV)—is literally clear and doesn’t call to be considered as figurative. Thus, rendered as such (or with minor functional alteration as in TEV: “the time for kissing and the time for not kissing”), it doesn’t present any serious textual problem at all. If this is the case, how does the first couplet of verse 5 relate to the second? It is with a high degree of justifiable probability that the first part of the verse is hereby taken to be a figurative couplet that needs to be disentangled ot harmoniously fit with the second couplet and into the total literary pattern of the pericope. What then is the meaning of the antithetic couplet “a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stone together”?

Various Interpretations 1. According to the Aramaic Targum, Ecclesiastes 3.5a refers scattering of stones on an old building and preparing to build a new one [Barton 1908, 1947); Eaton (1983);


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Whybray (1989)]. But Whybray objects to this on two ground: this theme has already occurred in v.3” and “the stones in question would not be thrown away but kept together for reuse.” Besides, if this is the meaning of the text, it still isn’t related to the second half of the verse and doesn’t satisfy the formal pattern of an external synonymous parallelism that characterizes each verse of the considered pericope.

2. If we cross-refer it with other seemingly related texts, it may refer to rendring fields unproductive by covering its surface with stones (2 Kings 3.19, 25) and picking up stones to render a field cultivable (Isaiah 5.2). [Keil and Delitzsch; Barton (1908, 1947); Eaton ( 1983); Whybray (1989)] Again, the major objection to this interpretation is its literary unrelatedness to the second half of the verse.

3.

The exegete E. H. Plumptre suggests that “it refers to the Jewish custom, which survives among Christians, of throwing stones on earth into the grave at burial.” [Keil and Delitzsch; Barton (1908, 1947); Eaton (1983)] Besides the recurring problem of being unrelated to the stones then first half of the couplet and leaves the “gathering” of stones unexplained.

4.

Other interpretations like those of Galling [“The reference is to a practice of keeping stones in a bag to use in counting the items of a commercial transaction.”] and Eaton [“Gathering . . . will refer to preparing the way for a military conquer (cf. Isaiah 62.10); casting stones will refer to


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military aggression by ruining an enemy’s fields.”] do not clear up the problem of having two unparallel couplets in a verse.

5.

Amidst all of the above interpretations, however, there is one “age-old Jewish interpretation of the book that correctly reports that ‘casting away stones’ refers to sexual intercourse. Gathering stones then means that a man abstain from intercourse with a woman.”(Loader) Bible exegetes like Levy, Loader, Gordis and Lohfink follow this interpretation of the text based on the Midrash Rabba. This is a very reasonable interpretation of the text that finds a faithful connection to the couplet that follows, thereby restoring the missing harmony within a consistent literary pattern of the text. “In each instance, the imagery is clear. . . . Corresponding to this meaning is the mention in the next line of the embrace, which is used as a toned down expression for the same thing (which in fact was the case in the ancient East. So the parallelism between the two lines of a verse, a parellelism maintained throughout the poem, is kept. It would have been odd if it had not been. But the casting away of stones has to have a favorable meaning, unless the finely woven net of the poem was ignored, which would be equally strange. And in fact, it was true that abstinence from sexual intercourse took place in times of mourning, hence, in unfavorable circumstances (cf. 2 Samuel 12.24 and 1 Chronicles 7.21-23). So the opposite situation was a favorable time in which normal relations could again take place. This explanation also fits well after verse 4, wherein the reference is to the time of mourning and its opposite.”


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The TEV Translation of Ecclesiastes 3.5a in Relation to the Credibility of the Midrash Rabba and the Significance of the Functional Equivalence Process of Translation As far as the literary credibility of the Midrash Rabba is concerned, like other midrashic collections, it “pays close attention ot the meanings of individual words and grammatical forms, elucidates one verse by another verse, and relates the teachings of rabbinic Judaism to the inexhaustible fund of meaning that is relevant to and adequate for every question and situation.” [Harpers’ Bible Dictionary, p.635] It is therefore safe to infer now that whenever the original receptors of the book of Ecclesiastes heard or read “a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together,” they automatically understood it in the manner of the TEV rendering: “the time for making love and the time for not making love.” The translators of the TEV used the functional equivalence [a.k.a. dynamic equivalence] process of translation which “has been defined on the basis that the receptors of a translation should understand how the original receptors must have understood the original text.” (De Waard, Nida) “Functional equivalence means thoroughly understanding not only the meaning of the source text but also the manner in which the intended receptors of a text are likely to understand it in the receptor language. . . . If a message is unimportant, there is certainly nothing to be gained by making the message obscure. . . . All translating whether in the foreign language classroom or in the rendering of the Scriptures, should aim at the closest natural equivalent of the message in the source language. In other words, a translation should communicate.” (ibid.)


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The TEV translators have truly driven home the point that Ecclesiastes 3.5a wants to communicate. And so, let us now rest the case with a parting word from the Tosephta Megilla (4.41) of Rabbi Yehudah:”He who translates a biblical verse according to its form (i.e., literally), such person is a liar (misrepresenting the sense) and he who adds to it, such person is a blasphemer.”

Bibliography Barton, George Aaron. The International Commentary on the Book of Ecclesiastes (1908, 1947) De Waard, Jan and Nida, Eugene A. From One Language to Another (1986) Eaton, Michael A. Ecclesiastes, Commentary (1983)

An

Introduction

and

Keil and Delitzsch. Commentaries on the Old Testament (Ecclesiastes) Loader, J. A. Ecclesiastes: A Practical Commentary (1986) Whybray, R. N. The New Century Commentary, Ecclesiastes (1989) Harpers’ Bible Dictionary


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Chapter Six AN EXEGETICAL STUDY OF JOHN 1.14-18 IN RELATION TO THE CONCEPTS OF “GRACE” AND “TRUTH”

Introduction John 1.14-18 is part and parcel of the entire pericope of John 1.118 which is the prologue of the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to John. In this particular study, I will call John 1.1-18 as the general text, and John 1.14-18 as the specific text.

I. LITERARY-CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE GENERAL TEXT

A. Division of the General Text The general text can be divided into poetry and prose. The poetry which includes vv. 1-5, 10-11, and 14 is actually a hymn or part of a hymn. While, the prose which includes vv. 6-9, 12-13 and 15-18 are commentaries to the poetry: verses 6-9 comments on vv. 1-5; vv. 12-13, on vv.10-11; vv. 15-18, on v. 14. B.

Some Distinct Features of the Poetry

In verses 1-5 and 10-11, there is a literary feature tht is distinctly noticeable (especially in the original Greek>) We call it “staircase parallelism.” In this type of parallelism, the last significant word of one phrase becomes the first significant word of the next phrase.


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Besides that, verses 1-5, 10-11 and 14, being a hymn (or part of a hymn), can be arranged into an operatic production for theatrical presentation wherein vv.1, 3c-4, and 14 are major choruses while, vv. 2, 3, 5, 10 and 11 are responsorial lines arranged according to the discovered parallelism of vv. 2 and 3 with v. 10, and v. 5 with v. 11. 1

In the beginning was the Word And the Word was with God And the Word was God.

In the beginning, he was God. 3 All things came to be through him; Without him nothing came to be. 2

10

He was in the world. The world came to be through him, But the world did not know him.

What came to be 4 through him was life. That life was thelight of the human race. 5

The light shines in the darkness And the darness has not comprehended it.

11

He came to what was his own. His own people didn’t accept him.

And the Word became flesh And made his dwelling among us. We saw his glory, The glory as of the Father’s only Son Full of grace and truth. 14

II.

LITERARY-CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE SPECIFIC TEXT

A. Verse 14 and Verses 16ff. Verses 16ff. smoothly follow verse 14 with stress on “full of grace and truth.” Perhaps, verse 15, which interrupts vv.14 and 16, is


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drawn from verse 30 to signify the pre-existence and divinity of “the Word” that “became flesh.” In the coherent arrangement of the hymn (vv.1-5, 10-11, 14), verse 14 is the final realization—the “kinetic” expression—of the “potential” energy “packed” in verse 1 and climactically “oozing” in vv. 3c and 4. B. The Hebraic Roots of the Concepts of “Grace” and “Truth" “Grace” and “truth” should not be understood in their common meanings in English. “Grace and truth” is actually a hendiadys (a literary device in which a single complex idea is expressed by two words or structures, usually connected by a conjunction) to express the idea of God’s covenantal obligation to his people. In the OT, it is expressed as hesed we emet, whose exact meaning in English is “steadfast lovingkindness and faithfulness (cf. Exodus 34.6, “great love and faithfulness” [TEV]). “Hesed” and “emet” are an expression of God’s coventantal responsibility to his people. It is God’s part of the covenant. Hesed is not hesed if it doesn’t have emet; emet is not emet if it is not expressed in hesed. Hence, there is a necessary semantic connection between “hesed” and “emet.” To simply understand and/or translate the Greek “kharitos kai alethias” as “grace and truth” [“grace” to simply mean “God’s blessings or generosity” or “God’s free gift” (as used in the context of Eph. 2.8) and “truth” to simply mean “propositional accuracy of one’s belief”], we miss a lot and we are unable to capture the hendiadic significance of the phrase in relation to the depth of God’s covenant with his people.


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III. TEXTUAL-CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE SPECIFIC TEXT A.

“ . . . and full of grace and truth, lived among us” (v.14, TEV). The Johannine “Logos” or the “Wisdom” mentioned in the Psalms and the rest of the Wisdom Literature or the OT expressed itself by becoming a person and that very person is the ultimate, complete (pleroma) expression of God’s lovingkindness to his people and faithfulness to his covenant with them.

B.

“We saw his glory” (v.14 TEV). Through the lovingkindness and faithfulness expressed in the person of the Logos—which is Jesus the Messiah—what was seen by God’s people was the doxa of the Logos, which is generally translated in the NT as “glory”. But taking the cue from Dr. Robert Bratcher through his article in The Bible Translator (a publication of the United Bible Societies) entitled “‘Glory’ in relation to Jesus,” doxa here should be translated as “divinity” or “divine reality”. Hence, if we continue reading the text, what follows is, “the divinity (or the divine reality) which he received as the Father’s only Son.” In this connection, we can infer that it is the fulness of lovingkindness and faithfulness in Christ that proves and defines his divinity.

C.

“From his faithfulness we have all received grace in place of grace” (v. 16, NASB). Through the completeness of Christ’s lovingkindness and faithfulness, “we have all received ‘kharin anti kharitos’.” The TEV


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usage of “blessing” is more appropriate to distinguish ir from the “historico-theological” properties of “lovingkindness”. But the way the TEV handles the phrase kharin anti kharitos by translating it as “one blessing after another” “short-circuits” the succeeding verse, v. 17. Verse 16 should rather have been rendered as: “Out of the fullness of his lovingkindness and faithfulness, he has blessed us all, giving us a new blessing that is completely over and above a previous one.” And so, verse 17 now becomes the rightful continuation and elaboration of v. 16. D.

“God gave the Law through Moses, but grace and truth through Jesus Christ” (v. 17, TEV). In relation to v. 16, the Mosaic Law given by God to his people in the OT should have been a blessing. In fact, in many instances, it had been. But the “blessing” (if you can call it a blessing) that the Law has is of a totally distinct nature. In relation to this, cf. Romans 7.7-13 and Galatians 2.23-25. This does not mean that we are supposed to do away with the Law. However, we have to proceed beyond the Law without contradicting it. We should hot be fixated in the Law like the Pharisees. Jesus says in Matthew 5.20, “I tell you, then, that you will be able to enter the Kingdom of heaven only if you are more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires” (TEV). I like the term “faithful” used in TEV. Such faithfulness is beyond the Law; it is “pre-Law” and “post-Law”. “Pre-Law” because it is the futual faithfulness of YHWH to the Patriarchs of the OT and vice versa. In Exodus 32.9-14, follow the dialogue between YHWH and Moses, with emphasis on vv. 13 and 14. “Post-Law” because it is the faithfulness that was best


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exemplified in the life of Jesus—a faithfulness that transcends the Law (viz., Jesus healing people even during the Sabbath; Jesus eating and drinking with the publicans or tax-collectors; Jesus savin an adulteress from death and giving hope; Jesus’ faithfulness to his disciples when he appeared to them at Lake Tiberias while they were fishing—imagine a group of hopeless, faithless disciples who abandoned their calling, now face-to-face with the faithful Messiah in John 21.1-14). True to his divine reality expressed by the fullness of lovingkindness and faithfulness, Jesus Christ remains faithful to his people. Like what Paul quoted from an ancient Christian hymn in his 2nd Letter to Timothy, If we are not faithful, / he remains faithful,/ because he cannot be false to himself” (2 Timothy 2.13, TEV).

Conclusion “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (v.18, TEV). Now that we already understand “grace” and “truth” as “lovingkindness and faithfulness” and “glory” as “divinity” or “divine reality,” v. 18 has become more meaningful to us in the manner that it could pefectly be understood and grasped by the Jewish mind: 1) Jesus Christ who is the Logos that “became a human being” is God, i.e., a divine reality. 2) Jesus, the Logos or “message” that has made [God the Father] known” has done it by the complete expression of God’s lovingkindness to his people and faithfulness to the covenant that he made with them.


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Chapter Seven The Radical Transformation of the Jewish Sabbath in the Christian Dispensation

A. The Sabbath and the Torah When God delivered the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel through Moses in Mt. Sinai, one of them was about the Sabbath: “Observe the Sbbath and keep it holy. You have six days in which to do your work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me. . . .” (Exodus 20.8-10). The character of the Sabbath Law was in commemoration of what the Lord did after the six-day creation period: “ . . . on the seventh day I [the LORD] rested. That is why I, the LORD, blessed the Sabbath and made it holy” (Exodus 20.11). Since then, it has become a part of the Jewish lifeblood actualized not only on a weekly basis but also yearly (Leviticus 23). As time went on since it was first instituted, the spiritual significance of the Sabbath day had gradually deteriorated as the laws had undergone the process of legalistic petrification within a religious system that started to glorify God only by lips and not by lives. Because of this, God reacted vehemently: “It’s useless to bring your offerings. I am disgusted with the smell of the incense you burn. I cannot stand your New Moon Festivals, your Sabbaths, and your religioous gatherings; they are all corrupted by your sins” (Isaiah 1.13). They gave importance to the day per se, and also to the “activities and programs” of the day but not to the spiritual event being symbolized by it and being


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commemorated on that day. Such was a total departure from what God really meant the Sabbath day to be. What God basically signified on the seventh day was not the name of the day nor the ordinality of the day but rather the event of the day which is rest—in Hebrew, shabbath: “By the seventh day God finished what he had been doing and stopped working” (Genesis 2.2). The importance of the day, however, is only consequential because of what is signified on that day. But still the name of the day per se is not signified at this point, only the ordinality of the day, i.e., the seventh: “He blessed the seventh day and set it apart as a special day because by that day he had completed the creation and stopped working” (Genesis 2.3). How can God signify the name of the day when no name is being mentioned in the Scripture but only the ordinality? The seventh day, therefore, was viewed in relation to the six days (which neither had names) of work that immediately preceded it. Hence, by simple logic, an adaptation to present day reckoning of the Sabbath day as God had seen it in the past, can lead us to arbitrarily infer that the seventh day is any day after the six days that immediately precede it. However, to properly signify the seventh day, it should be seen in relation to what God did on that day: He rested. B. The Sabbath and the Messiah In Luke 6.5, Jesus himself said to the Pharisees that “[t]he Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath.” It is also mentioned in Mark 2.29 and prior to this is verse 27, he also said, “The Sabbath was made for the good of man; man was not made for the Sabbath.” These two statements were triggered off by the adverse reaction of the Pharisees to what Jesus and his disciples did one Sabbath day: “Jesus was walking through some cornfields on the Sabbath. As his disciples walked along with him, they began to pick the


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ears of corn” (Mark 2.23). Suddenly, he pulled them back in time to what David did in the past and afterwards revealed to them a mind-boggling fact: He is the Lord of Sabbath! Besides this, another instance in the next chapter following Mark 2 displays again Jesus’ attitutde towards the Sabbath day when he healed a man with withered hand on that very day and he once again had a tussle withe the Pharisees. Why would Jesus have that kind of attitude toward the Sabbath? Wasn’t he supposed to keep the Sabbath the way every Jew kept it during his days? Didn’t he say in Matthew 5.17, “Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets. I have not come to do away with them. But to make their teachings come true”? Yes, Jesus kept the Jewish Sabbath; what made the difference was that he was (and still is) the One in whom and through whom true Sabbath can be experienced and therefore can be kept. In Matthew 11.28-30, doesn’t he make and invitation to “come unto (him), all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and (he) will give you rest”? Yes, he will give us rest, sabbath. He is the Lord of it. He’s the Source of it. It’s only through Christ that we can truly experience and keep the sabbath as originally intended by God. Experiencing the sabbath is not in a day; it is in the person of the One who is its Lord. Hence, the sabbath from the point of view of the New Covenant of God through Jesus Christ is no longer signified by a single day in a week. Such concept doesn’t in any way destroy the concept of a Sabbath day. However, the point stressed now in the New Testament is no longer the day of Sabbath but rather the Sabbath of the day; thereby making everyday of our Christian walk a Sabbath day with the Lord.


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C. The True Sabbath in the New Covenant Entering into Jesus is actually entering into his rest. Entering into Jesus is entering into a relationship with him—entering into his Body, the Church, wherein he himself is the Head (Ephesians 1.22). Jesus Christ has only one Body (Ephesians 4.4) teaching its members to obey everything Jesus has commanded to his disciples (Matthew 28.20). Others do not really keep and experience the sabbath because they are not part of this Body even if they go to church every Saturday (or Sunday). To be part of this Body is to belong to a group of believers for whom the scope and impact of the Old Testament Decalogue is spiritually intesified by Jesus Christ. In Matthew 5, th spiritually intensified the scope and impact of the laws re murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, and vengeance. Here, he didnot actually changed the letters of the laws but rather, their spiritual meanings with the full intention of transforming the Christian person with a new spiritual sensitivity and sensibility. While, the spiritual intensification of the Sabbath is stressed by the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews in its fourth chapter. Those “who believe, then, do receive that rest which God promised.” (verse 3). This rest is compared with the seventh-day rest of the Old Covenant (verse 4). The spiritual intensification of the law of Sabbath lies on its transformation in the New Covenant: in the Old, days were prescribed for it; in the New, it is applied for everyday. D.The Christian Sabbath Day: A Memorial to Creation? Unfortunately, despite the truth of the above discussion, there are still thousands of those who place too much magnitude of emphasis on the seventh day of every week which they say was specifically sanctified by God to be kept and observed as a memorial to creation. Is the significance of creation worth more


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than the rest of God’s supreme acts that we need to observe and keep the Sabbath in memory of it? The crowning glory of God’s creative power was the creation of man and truly, in the beginning, the seventh day was God’s day of satisfaction. But what happened ot the whole of creation and to its crowning glory? The crowning glory fell and the harmony of the entire creation was detrimentally affected by this Fall t the point that even the Lord himself “was sorry that he had ever made them and put them on earth. He was so filled with regret . . .” (Genesis 6.6). That was what happened to creation afterwards. But God did something to restore the “old glory”: he sent his only Son to the world to save the wretched, sinful humanity from the curse of death. To be able to do so, God’s Son had to die on the cross not to remain eternally dead but to resurrect after three days and eternally live henceforth, thereby defeating sin and its consequence, death. The resurrection day, according to the Jewish reckoning of time fell on the first day of the week—not on the seventh day. Now, which is more glorious and great in the life of a Christian: the period of Creation (memorialized by observing the seventh day), or the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (memorialized by the fellowshipping og the believers on the first day of each week)? The Christian signification of the first day, however, is not the sense of Old Testament Sabbath, but rather as the Lord’s Day when Christians fellowship together in keeping with what the Hebrews writer admonishes us to do: “Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess . . . Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing . . .” (Hebrews 10.23-25). The Sabbath is a state of daily Christian walk; the Lord’s Day is the day when believers fellowship together on the first day of the week.


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E. Concluding Remarks The measure of a church’s “holiness” is not in declaring a particular day “holy,” but rather, in the making of a Christian life acceptable to God everyday. Against the inception of legalism into the Colossian church, Paul warns: “So let no one make rules about what you eat or drink or about holy days or the New Moon Festival or the Sabbath. All such things are only a shadow of things in the future; the reality is Christ” (Colossians 2.16,17).

[All Scripture quotations are taken from THE GOOD NEWS BIBLE:TODAY’S ENGLISH VERSION.]


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Chapter Eight THE SERVANT WHO REFUSED TO CONFORM: AN EXEGETICO-HERMENEUTICAL STUDY OF SEMITIC LITERARY STYLE IN NEW TESTAMENT LITERATURE A. An Indispensable Prelude “The Parable of Ten Minas”[1] has a traditional interpretation as it is taken in isolation from its co-text, i.e., the preceding and succeeding texts. However, it could be interpreted in another way radically distinct from the traditional one. In fact, this new way of interpretation could even upset those who have uncritically accepted the traditional interpretation as “the inerrant standard interpretation.” Here we are contending an aspect of status quo, and as a line of old songs goes, “old habits are sometimes hard to die.” The traditional interpretation could be an old habit. But may I invite you for just a few minutes to suspend some dogmatic presuppositions in our mental framework, nevertheless, retaining open-mindedness and critical mindfulness as we deconstruct[2] the traditional and reconstruct its material elements in a new paradigm that takes into consideration the cotext and the context of the text under study. In other words, as a point of entry, we are looking into the meaning of the parable found in Luke 19. 11-27 in the light of its being a part and parcel of a large pericope that begins in Luke 17.20 and ends in Luke 19.48. The general message of the entire pericope is about the kingdom or the reign of God and this is seen in its three main subdivisions: (1) Luke 17.20-18.29; (2) Luke 18.31-19.27; (3) Luke 19.28-48. These three subdivisions are synthetically and synonymously parallel among each other. Luke 17.20-37 talks of the coming kingdom of God which, according to Jesus himself, “doesn't come


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visibly” because this kingdom is “within you” or “among you.” In relation to this coming kingdom, Jesus also foretells the second coming of the Son of Man, who prior to this event will depart from the earth after suffering “many things and be rejected by this generation” (17,35b). This latter event is further highlighted at the beginning of the second subdivision: Luke 18.31-19.27. Verse 32 says, “He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him and kill him.” This event will happen in Jerusalem. Verse 31 speaks of Jesus telling his disciples, “We are going to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.” The actual event when Jesus went toJerusalem is recorded at the beginning of the third subdivision: Luke 19.28-44. This event is more classically known as “the Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem.” After determining the general focus of the pericope, i.e., the kingdom of God, the general principles of the kingdom are then established: the principles of justice, faithfulness and mercy. These three factors are also given emphasis in Matthew 23.23: “Woe to you teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill, and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness.” In our pericope, justice is spoken of in the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18.1-8); faithfulness is stressed in Jesus’ view of the little children (Luke 18.15-17); and mercy is expressed in the miraculous restoration of a blind beggar’s eyesight (Luke 18:3543). Regarding justice, 18.7 asks the question, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” Regarding faithfulness, 18.17 focuses on the truth that the Kingdom of God ought to be received like a little child. “The sayings on children furnish a contrast to the attitude of the Pharisees in the preceding episode and that of the wealthy official in the following one who think they can lay claim to God’s favor by their own merit. The attitude of the disciples should be marked by the receptivity and trustful dependence characteristic of a


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child.”[3] In other words, the faithfulness which is characteristic of little children is the paradigm here. Regarding mercy, when the blind man pleaded for mercy in 18.38, Jesus said to him in verse 42, “Receive your sight, your faith has healed you.” These general kingdom principles of justice, faithfulness, and mercy are then given both a theoretical application in the form of a parable in 18.9-14 and a practical application in Jesus’ acceptance of a real tax collector in 19.1-10. In the parable is a tax collector asking for mercy because of his sinfulness (v. 13). God in turn, grants him such mercy as an act of God’s justice to repentant sinners and as an act of faithfulness to the children of Abraham – he who represents faithfulness. In fact, in the principles’ actual application to the situation of a real tax collector in the person of Zacchaeus, Jesus said in 19.9, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a son of Abraham.” That is, a son of the paradigm of child-like faithfulness – Abraham. Now we get to the point where the kingdom or reign of God is contrasted with the world system of the present eon. The rich ruler in 18.18-29 becomes the battleground between these two contending forces. In verse 18, the ruler asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” In verse 22, Jesus said to him, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Jesus further said in verse 24, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” What we have here is the kingdom of God against material greed, against economic exploitation, against oppression of the poor, against the covetousness of the rich. What we have here is the general concern of the entire Gospel according to Luke: the preferential option for the poor. This concern is further stressed in Luke 19.45-48 when Jesus drove out “those who were selling” at the temple area in Jerusalem. It was a case against material greed


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wherein the world system commercializes even religion and robs it of its spiritual character. Now if the parable of ten minas in Luke 19.11-27 ought to be seen parallel with the concern of the above texts being part and parcel of the general synthetic and synonymous parallelism of the total pericope we have been discussing in this study, it is materially significant to interpret this parable in the same context of the kingdom (or reign) of God versus the world system of the present eon. B. The Parable of The Ten Minas in the Context of the Contrast between God’s Kingdom and the World System of this Eon 1. Historical Background of the Parable This story of a man of noble birth in 4 B.C. has a historical parallel with a contemporary event. “After the death of Herod the Great, his son Archelaus traveled to Rome to receive the title king. A delegation of Jews appeared before Caesar Augustus to oppose the request of Archelaus. Although not given the title of king, Archelaus was made ruler over Judea and Samaria”[4] This is what history further records about Archelaus: Archelaus (4 BC – 6 AD), the older son of Malthace, inherited the half of the kingdom (Judea, Samaria, and Idumea). Herod wanted him to have the title of king, but Rome granted him only the rank of prince. He was the least liked of the sons mainly because of his high handed, autocratic ways. Archelaus arbitrarily deposed the high priest. Despite an extensive building program and considerable munificence of the country, he also aroused the Jews that they sent a delegation of leading men from


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Jerusalem and Samaria to Rome to complain about his misgovernment. This brought an end to his nine-year reign; he was exiled to Vienna (southern Gaul) in AD 6. Rome used the occasion to make Judea, Samaria and Idumea into a Roman province.[5] Hence, it is not at all inaccurate to assume that Archelaus as “the man of noble birth” represented in the parable was called a “hard man” who “take[s] out what [he] did not put in and reap[s] what [he] did not sow” (v.21). To put the picture in its proper perspective, in the battle between the kingdom of God and the world system of the present eon, the man of noble birth represents the latter kingdom, i.e., the world system of material greed, economic exploitation, oppression of the poor, and the covetousness of the rich. 2. The Parable’s New Interpretation Based on Accounts of History The “man of noble birth” who represents the world system of the present eon is the antithesis of what the Lord requires of the rich ruler in 18.18-29. The “man of noble birth” in the parable doesn’t have a heart for the poor. He is the typical exploitative capitalists of our time who have contributed to the further widening gap between the rich and the poor. In verse 23, the noble man asks, “Why didn’t you put my money in deposit so that when I came back I could have collected it with interest?” Such typical question from a typical capitalist whose aim is to amass wealth—an aim that runs counter to the spirit of what Jesus told to the rich ruler in 18.24: “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” Prior to this Jesus already told the rich ruler, “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.” There are two concerns here: have a heart to the poor and spiritual more than the material. But in the


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parable, the heartless noble man further expresses not only his exploitative will but even his oppressive spirit and murderous tendency. Verse 26 of chapter 19 attest this: “I will tell you that everyone who has more, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them-bring them over here and kill them in front of me.” On the other hand, the first two recipients of the money for investment given by the master are the typical materialistic supporters of the world system of this eon. That’s why when the master returns, he is very happy for the accomplishments of these men. The third recipient, on the other hand, is the model denizen of the coming kingdom of God whose desires and objectives do not run contrary to the spirit of the kingdom of God – the kingdom that is not temporal but rather spiritual because the kingdom of God is within him (cf. 17.21). He is the godly man who is prophesied to suffer persecution as it is said in 2 Timothy 3.12 & 13: “In fact, everyone persecuted, who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” He is one of those in the Smyrna church of Revelation 2.8-11 whom the Lord admonishes not to “be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” He is among those who greatly suffered persecution perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church of the medieval period. He is the true Christian of the contemporary modern period who has never conformed to the material greed, economic exploitation, oppression of the poor and covetousness of the rich that dominate the present world system. The third recipient is the model of true Christian faith for us today. A lonely man who is very unpopular to the promoters of this world system. He is the “bruised reed” and the “smoldering


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wick” of Isaiah 42 for whom the justice of the servant of the Lord will be established.

C. Postlude As a parting shot, let us salute all the modern-day “third recipients” who have not conformed to this world system with the scriptures that is found in Hebrews 10.32-39: Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but those who believe in are saved."

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[1] As entitled by the New International Version (NIV). All quoted passages are from the same version. A mina was a currency unit in ancient Greece whose equivalence was 100 drachmas. [2] “Deconstruction” is a post-structuralist method of philosophizing popularized by the French avant-garde thinker Jacques Derrida. [3] Study notes on p. 1174 of the New American Bible (Nashville: Catholic Bible Press, a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987). Underscoring supplied. [4] Ibid, study notes on p.1176 of New American Bible. [5] Addison G, Wright, S.S., et al., “A History of Israel,” in Raymond E. Brown, S.S., et al., eds, The New Jerome Commentary ( New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1990), p. 1248.


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APPENDIX ON CONTEMPORIZING THE CHRISTIAN MESSAGE AND THE ANALYSIS OF THEOLOGICAL LANGUAGE Ruel F. Pepa, Ph.D. Zetetics Research Unlimited

I.

Contemporizing the Christian Message

A Critique of the Bultmannian Proposal In his controversial essay “New Testament and Mythology” [New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings (1984. Augsburg: Fortress)], Rudolf Bultmann makes an observation on the mythical view of the world in the New Testament which was actually the general view of reality in the ancient Semitic world (with specific focus on cosmology). This is precisely the reason why Bultmann contends that ideas found in the Bible related to cosmology and other “allegedly” mythical aspects of reality are already obsolete for us today. Hence, he is making a proposal to reinterpret the Biblical message in the light of our contemporary scientifico-empirical orientation. He believes that these “mythological conceptions” can and must be changed without the hazard of losing the defining characters of Christianity. I personally believe that the Christian message should truly address the sensitivity and sensibility of man in the contemporary milieu that defines his orientation and being. This amounts to a reinterpretation of the Biblical message—an existentialization, if you will. However, such a reinterpretation does not need to be grounded on the belief that the weltanschauung of the Bible is mythical in character, which is only hypothetical in Bultmann’s presentation. Existentializing reinterpretation is not really a demythologizing (in the Bultmannian parlance) but an attempt


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to recapture the eternal ancient message of God in contemporary medium with an objective to reach the modern man in his contemporary spiritual needs. It is not, therefore, the cosmology of the ancient message that determines the reinterpretation but rather the present situation of the contemporary man. Whether the Biblical worldview is mythical or not is not an issue (perhaps, Bultmann has some significant and valuable points that cannot simply be ignored or dismissed but would technically be more functional in the field of Biblical criticism); what matters is that we cannot deny the reality of the supernatural and it is on this plane that God meets man (and vice versa) in a very personal way, and the Bible is replete with encounters of this nature. Drawing universal spiritual messages from them for the purposes of the contemporary man renders the Bultmannian hypothesis insignificant.

The Two Approaches to Contemporizing Theology Transformers’ Approach. It starts with the assumption that Christianity’s belief are necessarily attached to the context of the ancient worldview and therefore cannot be sensible if separated from that context. It is not in anyway possible to signify the beliefs by simply restating them in the language understood by modern man because man has radically changed with the passing of time. By this assumption, man is made the measure of truth; thus, making truth relative to a large extent. 1.

Translators’ Approach. It shares with the transformers’ approach the desire to be meaningful to the contemporary world. However, the translators strongly emphasize the need for making certain that no other message is being made meaningful but the authoritative message of the Scriptures. They believe that the essence of the message cannot be altered; they can only be put in a new “vessel” to be understood in the language of the receptor. The translators radically oppose the transformers’ effort to make man the measure of truth. God is the measure of truth 2.


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and if transformation is truly needed, it is man that must be transformed, not the message. A Critique of the Two Approaches to Contemporizing Theology In looking at the two approaches, let us consider certain conditions: First, Biblical messages are not monolithic and for my present purpose, I want to make use of two categories to distinguish the types of these messages. There are : 1) culture-bound messages and 2) universal messages. The first type can be transformed while the second can only be translated. Now the crucial role of a contemporizing agent is his/her ability to properly distinguish between the two. Culture-bound messages are inseparably attached to the ancient worldview and cannot be made sensible by simply restating them. These messages must therefore be transformed but the transformer, on the one hand, must be careful not to traverse the boundary because he might unwittingly ignore some universal principles unnoticeably embedded in the culture-bound messages. The translator, on the other hand, may not be aware of culture-bound messages (e.g., John 13 and I Cor. 11.3-17) and treat them as if they are grounded on universal principles. However, the translator is on a safer ground as a contemporizing agent because his basic concern is simply to transmit a message in a way that it will become meaningful and understandable to the contemporary receptor.


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II.

The Analysis of Theological Language

Verificational and Functional Analyses in Relation to Theological Language Verificational analysis is grounded on the assumption that all meaningful statements are those statements that can be verified through sense experience (cf. A. J. Ayer’s Language, Truth and Logic. 1971. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books). Since theological statements cannot in any way be verified through sense experience alone, they are therefore meaningless. Functional analysis also assumes that the truth or falsity of a statement should be determined but sense experience is not the only criterion of verifiability whereby meaningfulness is determined. The meaningfulness of a statement is rather determined by how the language is used to make that statement understanable to the receptor. In view of this, theological language is meaningful because its concepts and categories are well-understood by the people who are involved participants in its language game wherein specific norms functionally govern the modes of communicability (cf. Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. 1999. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers). Functional analysis, therefore, is to be preferred over the extremely limited and close-ended verificational analysis. Language is an activity and it is used to communicate in various ways like giving orders, requesting for something, reporting events, expressing a feeling or emotion, etc. Hence, we cannot really prescribe a single criterion to verify the meaningfulness of a statement. Meaning is inherent in our understanding of language whether what is said is verifiable by sense experience or not. Meaning, actually, has nothing to do with truth or falsity so that a synthetic statement is meaningful as long as it is understood by the


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receptor regardless of whether it can be verified by sense experience or not.

Theological Language as Personal Language and as Metaphysical Synthesis

Theological language as personal language. Theological language communicates something about a personal God (in Judaeo-Christian tradition) who has revealed himself to us in a personal way. There is no other way whereby we can know God besides this. Knowing, therefore, is not only done through sense-experience because when we know a person it is not through this method. We know a person only as he reveals himself. God reveals himself as a person in his historic acts and in his communication with prophets. 1.

Theological language as a metaphysical synthesis. Every individual person has a worldview to be able to function in a consistent and coherent manner within his life-setting (Sitz im Leben). Such a worldview is synthetic because it encompasses the entirety of life’s experience within a meaningful pattern of reality. Without this synthesis there is no way a person can reasonably act and decide. 2.

This synthesis is metaphysical because its formation is on the conceptual level and becomes functional if meaningfully uttered in convictional terms (to borrow Prof. Willem Zuurdeeg’s terminology [An Analytical Philosophy of Religion. (1959. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press)]. Theological language is an expression of such synthetic convictional utterances and the meaning of them can only be verified by various metaphysical means. Theological language is, therefore, rightly viewed as a metaphysical synthesis.


TOWARDS A DYNAMIC UNDERSTANDING OF CHRISTIANITY FROM A RADICAL JUDAISTIC THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE