Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Amos 1 and John 1:29-51

Introduction to the Book of the Prophet Amos: Amos is the oldest of the “minor prophets” included in the Hebrew canon. The “minor prophets” were not necessarily less important than the “major prophets” but the texts were shorter. There were twelve book of “minor prophets” included in the Hebrew canon.

Amos was a shepherd from the town of Tekoa on the western bank of the Jordan in the northern kingdom where the religious center was Bethel. He preached under Jeroboam II (783-743 BC). The Jerusalem Bible says he was a “true son of the desert, rough, direct, proud, rich in the images natural to the desert dwellers” (1134). He condemned the corruption more associated with urban life, and preached against social injustice.

Amos tells us that the “day of the Lord [Yahweh]” will be a dark time when God will wreak vengeance on those who have been unfaithful; and God will summon a “nation” [Assyria] to fulfill this task. Amos tries to kindle a degree of hope by assuring us that there will be a “remnant” that will be the seed of hope for the future. Both terms – the Day of Yahweh and the “remnant” – are used for the first time in scripture in Amos’ writing.

There are problems apparently with the text of the prophet’s words left to us. There is likely a mix of authors and the order of the verses is also somewhat problematic. Laurence Boadt says in his book, Reading the Old Testament, that scholars have wondered why the words of Amos were preserved at all; apparently this was not something done for the earliest prophets like Elijah. He speculates it was because Amos’ words were directed to the people as a whole, not to any ruler or king. “Amos strikes out in a new direction. No longer will God punish only the king or leader for a nation’s evil, but he will hold the people as a whole responsible” (Boadt 319).  He also notes that the ending (Amos 9:11-15) were probably words added on by others to leave a degree of hope.

Amos 1 – These are the words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa, words about a vision he had at the time when Jereboam was king of Israel (8th century BC). The vision concerns not only Israel but the nations all around them. This “universal” reach of Israel’s God is something new in Hebrew Scriptures.

For the crimes of Damascus, I [the Lord] am going to break down the gates of the city and take down its king; the people shall “go captive to Kir, says Yahweh” (1:5).

For the crimes of Gaza, “because they have deported entire nations as slaves to Edom, I am going to hurl fire on the walls of Gaza to burn up her palaces” (1:6). God is going to take down her rulers and “turn [His] hand against Ekron” (1:7).

For the crimes Tyre has committed, “because he has persecuted his brother with the sword . . . persistently nursing his fury” (1:11), God is going to destroy her.

Phoenicia, Edom and Ammon are also condemned for their crimes.

John 1:29-51 - When John the Baptist sees Jesus, he says “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29) John is not seen baptizing Jesus in this gospel. John only testifies that he saw “the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.” God reveals to John that Jesus is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit, the Son of God (1:34).

The day after, John and two of his disciples see Jesus, and when John repeats his testimony, his disciples leave him and go after Jesus.  One of the two is Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  The other is not identified. Andrew believes Jesus is the Messiah and brings Simon to Jesus, and Jesus changes his name to Cephas (1:42).
The next day they go to Galilee. Philip is recruited from Bethsaida (Andrew and Peter’s home) and Philip finds Nathanael and tells him Jesus is the one Moses and the prophets wrote about.
The prophet like Moses and the Messiah are here seen as one and the same—interesting that these and being David’s descendant are all conflated even at this early date-—in the first hundred years it looks like all the types and figures were seen brought together in Jesus. Ray Brown points out in his book The Community of the Beloved Disciple, that in John’s gospel, we see a movement from what he calls a “low Christology” where Jesus is seen as messiah, prophet like Moses, son of Joseph, or Son of Man – all Old Testament “figures” that he was thought to have embodied - to a “high Christology” where he is seen as Word made flesh.

Nathanael responds to Philip’s claim that Jesus is the “son of Joseph from Nazareth” (1:45) by saying, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (1:46) Nathanael is curious to know where it was Jesus got “to know” him.  When Jesus tells him, he proclaims him Son of God and King of Israel.  Jesus is amazed that it takes so little to win Nathanael over. 

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