Monday, March 25, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Exodus 13 and The Epistle of Barnabas 14-15

Exodus 13 – The requirements of observing this pilgrimage-festival are outlined.  The importance of the memory for their children is stressed.  So, ways of actually putting the memory on their bodies—the phylacteries worn on the body—are stressed.  Schocken’s note draws a parallel to the place in Song of Songs where it says, “Set me as a seal upon your heart . . .upon your arm” (Song 8:6).  The first-born (males) of every womb are dedicated to the Lord too (redeemed is the word they use).

The Jews are not led directly to the land of the Philistines—a route that is not that long.  God worries that the warfare they would face that way would discourage them and make them want to go back to Egypt.  So they “swing about by way of the wilderness at the Sea of Reeds” (13:18).  It is not the Red Sea, a translation that is ancient, but rather “suf” or End Sea.  Schocken suggests perhaps a kind of mythological sea at the end of the world, but he admits no one knows.  They have Joseph’s bones with them, it says. They camp at Etam at the edge of the wilderness.  God “goes before them, by day in a column of cloud, to lead them the way, by night in a column of fire, to give light to them, to (be able to) go by day and by night" (Schocken 13:21).

Cassiodorus, a 6th century monk and thinker, saw the waters of baptism in the waters crossed here. They are mixed with the blood at the crucifixion. After reading the Epistle of Barnabas, it wouldn’t surprise me if many Christian apologists saw all these stories as deeply figurative of Christ.

The Epistle of Barnabas
14 – So, was the promised covenant actually given by God to the Jews? Yes, it was “but their sins disqualified them for the possession of it” (176). The tablets Moses received from God to give his people were broken because the people did not remain faithful.

This covenant has now come to the Christian community: “the Lord Himself . . . conferred it on us, making us the People of the Inheritance by His sufferings on our behalf” (176).

The “Scripture tells us how the Father had charged Him to ransom us from the darkness, and create a holy People for Himself. I, the Lord your God, have called you in righteousness, the prophet says; I will hold your hand and strengthen you, and I have appointed you to make a covenant with the people, and to be a light to the nations; to open the eyes of the blind, to loose the captives from their chains, and to free those that sit in darkness from their prison-house” (176).

15 – On the Sabbath: “In the Decalogue, when God spoke to Moses face to face on mount Sinai, we read, Also keep the Lord’s Sabbath holy, with clean hands and a pure heart” (177).

He goes to the creation story and calculates that since it took God six days to create everything and “finished [the works of his hands] on the seventh day” (177), and one day is really equal to a thousand years, this means that in six thousand years “He is going to bring the world to an end” (177). His logic escapes me here.

“He will put an end to the Years of the Lawless One, pass sentence on the godless, transform the sun and moon and stars, and then, on the seventh Day, enter into His true rest” (177). The eighth day – which he comes up with out of nowhere – will the beginning of a new world.

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