Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Exodus 6-7 and The Epistle of Barnabas: Introduction through 1

Exodus 6 – God assures Moses that He will punish Pharaoh. He repeats to Moses the essence of his promises: that through his appearances to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He established a covenant which He is now acting upon – He will rescue His people from their slavery; He will take them as His own.  And the people “will know that I, the Lord am [their] God when I free [them] from the labor of the Egyptians and bring [them] into the land which I swore [to give their ancestors]” (6:7-8).

God tells Moses again to go speak His word to Pharaoh and Moses gets a little into God’s “face” (6:12), saying that even the sons of Israel (the foremen) would not listen to him, why should Pharaoh.

The people have trouble believing in Moses “because of their dejection and hard slavery” (6:9).  This may well be the reason Moses was delivered from slavery early in his life—see 1:14. God knew that he had to have a man not crushed by experience. 

God tells Moses again to go speak His word to Pharaoh and Moses gets a little into God’s “face” (6:12), saying that even the sons of Israel (the foremen?) would not listen to him, why should Pharaoh. This line is repeated at the end of the chapter, so it must have been important.

Genealogies of Moses and Aaron are given (6:14-27) perhaps to emphasize the legitimacy of their ties to the people, as descendants of Levi.

Exodus 7God tells Moses that He will make Moses “as a god for Pharaoh” with Aaron serving as his prophet or go-between.  He also tells him that he will harden Pharaoh’s heart so he will resist letting God’s people go.

Moses’ age is said to be 80 when he confronts Pharaoh and his brother Aaron is 83 [multiple of 40 plus 3—‘perfect’ numbers]. I have trouble believing this is meant at all to be historically accurate – if indeed anything in the narrative reflects history as we think of it.

Moses will be given magical powers – a difficult part of the narrative for that Quaker part of me that shares early Friends’ disdain of such things. It is helpful to me to remember that much in the narrative is probably metaphor and not promoting a belief in magic. Moses is competing here with sorcerers and magicians and he will outshine them all. Still, God will harden Pharaoh’s heart. God will have to beat Egypt down with a series of plagues:

The first “blow” or plague—the waters of the Nile will change to blood (7:17-21). It will “reek” and the fish in it will die.  The blow lasts seven days but Pharaoh’s “magicians” can apparently do this one too.  The second blow—frogs—is threatened.

The note in my Jerusalem Bible says that in the plagues narrative all the traditions are combined: the “Priestly Tradition,” the “Yahwistic,” and the “Elohistic.” There are variations in the number of plagues recounted in the different versions, but all three have the last plague. We will go into the whole series next time.

The Epistle of Barnabas
Introduction: The Greek version of this letter was discovered in 1859 in the monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai; before that there was a Latin translation of the first 17 chapters and some other Greek manuscripts with parts of the letter missing.

The editor of the Penguin version says that the author “seems to be using already existing collections of scriptural proof-texts, some, for instance, gathered together to attack the Jewish system of worship (the origins of which may lie in Judaism itself – those Jews of the Diaspora whose spiritualized Judaism had dispensed with sacrificial worship, in which they could not take part anyway: Philo seems to have known, and disapproved of, such), others to show how Christ was the fulfillment of the Old Testament” (156).

The main part of it is concerned with “elucidating the spiritual meaning of the OT Scriptures (their gnosis, as he puts it, or what gnosis reveals). His concern is not to show that with the coming of Christ the OT Scriptures how have a new and deeper meaning, but to show that apart from Christ they cannot be understood at all. Their only meaning is that revealed in Christ; the Jews have always misunderstood their Scriptures by interpreting them literally” (156).

Who was Barnabas? And when did he write? Clement of Alexandria thought he was Paul’s companion. This explains its being included in the Codex Sinaiticus. No one thinks this now. Origen doubted it.

"[A]llegory means for Barnabas searching for types of Christ and the Christian dispensation, and never, as Philo and Clement do, does he find eternal truths or philosophical commonplaces lurking in the concrete details of Scripture. And there are strikingly non-Alexandrian features: Barnabas is strongly eschatological and has no doctrine of the Logos" (157).

Must have been written between 70-200. He knows the Temple has been destroyed, and Clement of Alexandria (c.200) knows of the work.

1 – The author praises the "holiness with which God has endowed him" (159) and the outpouring of the Spirit that he's been blessed with. He says since he last saw him, "there is a great deal that I have come to understand; for on the way of righteousness I have had the companionship of the Lord" (159). It sounds as if he's addressing more than one person here. He hopes that if he passes on what he has "received" it will be "earn me a reward for being of service to souls of such merit" (159).

"The principles of the Lord are three in number. Faith begins and ends with Hope, hope of life; judgment begins and ends with Holiness; and the works of holiness are evidenced by Love, and the joy and gladness it brings" (159).

The "Master" has opened "both past and present history" to us "through the prophets" (159). So what he proposes to do is just to put some thoughts into his head, which should bring comfort "in the situation we are now facing" (159).

No comments:

Post a Comment