Sunday, January 20, 2013

Genesis 8 and Early Church Writings [Clement of Rome] 41-45

Genesis 8 - For a 150 days, the waters are at their crest.  Then God “remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock with him in the boat. He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede” (8:1-2). After another 150 days, the “boat came to rest on the mountains of Ararat” (8:4).  Then 40 days later, Noah sends out a raven, and then a dove.  Three periods of 7 days are required until the dove can leave permanently. 

Noah is now 601 years old (8:13). When they leave the ark, the first thing Noah does is build an altar and sacrifice at least one of every clean animal aboard the ark. In response to the “sweet odor” of the sacrifices, God promises -- resolves within himself -- never to doom the earth again “because of man, since the desires of man’s heart are evil from the start” (8:21). “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (8:22).

First Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians (96 AD)
Section 41 – “[W]hen we offer our own Eucharist to God, each one of us should keep to his own degree. His conscience must be clear, he must not infringe the rules prescribed for his ministering, and he is to bear himself with reverence. The continual daily sacrifices, peace-offerings, sin-offerings and trespass-offerings are by no means offered in every place, brothers, but at the altar in front of the Temple; and then only after a careful scrutiny of the offering by the High Priest and the other ministers aforesaid. Anything done otherwise than in conformity with God’s will is punishable with death. Take note from this, my brother, that since we ourselves have been given so much fuller knowledge, the peril that we incur is correspondingly graver” (39-40).

Section 42 – The Gospel was given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christ was sent from God. The Apostles were sent by Christ “to proclaim the coming of God’s kingdom. And as they went through the territories and townships preaching, they appointed their first converts – after testing them by the Spirit – to be bishops and deacons for the believers of the future. (This was in no way an innovation, for bishops and deacons had already been spoken of in Scripture long before that; there is a text that say, I will confirm their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.) (40 – citing Isaiah 60:17)

This translation of 60:17 is pretty far off the mark at least if you look at any modern translation. “Instead of bronze, I'll bring gold, and instead of iron, I'll bring silver; instead of wood, bronze, and instead of stones, iron. I'll appoint peace as your supervisor and righteousness as your taskmaster” [International Standard Version]

Section 43 – It is not a surprise that Christian men, “entrusted by God with such a mission, should have made these appointments” (40). Moses appointed men under him and set ordinances in place that were to be observed. Clement goes into Moses’ ordering leaders of the 12 tribes to bring “staves, each with the name of his tribe inscribed upon it” (40), which he bound together, sealed and placed on “God’s table in the Tabernacle of Witness” (40).There is an implication that Clement believed that the Spirit similarly opened to early Church leaders who the leaders of the church should be, and the people of Corinth should not be doubting that now.

Section 44 – In a similar way, the apostles knew “through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be dissensions over the title of bishop. In their full foreknowledge of this, therefore, they proceeded to appoint the ministers I spoke of, and they went on to add an instruction that if these should fall asleep, other accredited persons should succeed them in the office” (41).  It is not possible for us to “think it right for these men now to be ejected from their ministry, when, after being commissioned by the Apostles (or by other reputable persons at a later date) with the full consent of the Church, they have since been serving Christ’s flock in a humble, peaceable and disinterested way, and earning everybody’s approval over so long a period of time” (41).

You Corinthians have however “in more than one instance . . . turned men out of an office in which they were serving honorably and without the least reproach” (41).

Section 45 – “By all means be pugnacious and hot-headed, my brothers, but about things that will lead to salvation” (41). Look at the Scriptures: “You are not going to find men of piety evicting the righteous there. The righteous were indeed persecuted, but only by men who were wicked” (41).

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