Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Maccabees 10:51-89 and 2 Peter 1

1 Maccabees 10:51-89 - Despite the fact that Demetrius defeats the forces of Alexander Balas, Demetrius himself is killed by the end of the day. Alexander then sends agents to Ptolemy VI, king of Egypt, claiming victory over Demetrius and asking for his daughter in marriage.

Ptolemy writes him and arranges to meet him in the city of Ptolemais, where Akko is today on the Mediterranean. It is 150 BC when the marriage occurs.

Alexander writes to Jonathan, the brother of Judas Maccabeas, and asks him to join them in the meeting. In the struggle to obtain the loyalty of the Jews against Demetrius – a very unpopular Seleucid leader – Alexander had established Jonathan Maccabeas as High Priest in Jerusalem. Jonathan comes and gives gifts of silver and gold and makes a good impression on Kings Alexander and Ptolemy VI.

If you are confused by this story, join the club. Jonathan is a Maccabean and here he is making peace with a man who is now head of the Seleucid government. He gains advantages from the power struggle going on in the region, and his alliance with Alexander permits him to unite his very divided people and make Judea stronger. It’s just hard to follow the political machinations he had to employ.

They reward Jonathan by making him “military commissioner and governor-general” of Judea. By accepting this title, he establishes the Hasmonean dynasty, which will endure until 37 BC.

Demetrius’ son, Demetrius II, comes to power and challenges Jonathan to battle on the plains. Jonathan wins and is rewarded again rewarded with honor by King Alexander.

2 Peter 1 – This letter is addressed to a very wide audience – to all “those who through the righteousness of our God and Savor Jesus Christ have been given a faith as precious as ours” (1:1). Christ has offered us a way of knowing God and sharing in the divine nature.

But he notes, “to attain this, you will have to do your utmost yourselves, adding goodness to the faith that you have, understanding to your goodness, self-control to your understanding, patience to your self-control, true devotion to your patience, kindness towards your fellow men to your devotion, and, to this kindness, love” (1:5-7).

Peter believes it is his duty “to keep stirring [the faithful] up with reminders” (1:14). We are not “in this tent” [our bodies} for a long time; life is short. But he assures them he “shall take great care that after my own departure you will still have a means to recall these things to memory” (1:15).

He says it is not through “cleverly invented myths” (1:16) that knowledge of God is transmitted. The note I have here says that this is a reference to Gnostic teachings about the “parousia [Christ’s return] that seemed to Peter too elaborate.  Peter claims a knowledge of Christ that came “when the Sublime Glory itself spoke to him and said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favor’” – words they heard “when we were with him on the holy mountain” (1:17-18). This is apparently a reference to the transfiguration experience recounted in Matthew 17.

Peter refers believers back to scripture and to prophecy, but warns us that interpretation of our religious history and texts is not meant to be the work of any one individual.

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