Friday, March 29, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Exodus 17 and The Didache - Introduction through 1

Exodus 17The people in the desert are thirsty and again they complain to Moses.  Again, they belabor Moses with their complaints about the things they lack as “free” men. “Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me” (17:4).

God instructs Moses to take his staff, “the one [he] used when [he] struck the water of the Nile” (17:5) and to strike a rock at Horeb, near Mt. Sinai so that water will come out of it.  Moses does this, but the place is named “Massah (which means ‘test’) and Meribah (which means ‘arguing’) because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the Lord by saying, ‘Is the Lord here with us or not?” (17:7)

At a place called Rephidim, they are attacked by the Amalekites. Moses tells Joshua to take some men out to fight them while he, Moses, stands at the top of a hill, holding the staff of God in his hand (17:9). “As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up” (17:11-12). Aaron and Hur help him by holding up his arm so that the Israelites would win the battle.

The conflict and hostility with the Amalekites will go through the Old Testament as a continual theme—perhaps they are a kind of “type” of the outside, hostile forces that plague the people of God in the wilderness. The people are not sure any more that God is in their midst. If you have ever doubted the presence and power of God, if you have ever felt torn about whether you should trust in the Lord and in those sent to draw you to Him, you will relate at some level to this story.

The Didache
Introduction: This work, the Teaching of the Apostles, was written some time in the late 1st or early 2nd century and was thought to be “canonical” by Irenaeus and other early Church “Fathers.”  Eusebius (c.325), however, identifies it as one of the more “spurious” books and includes with The Shepherd, the Apocalypse of Peter and the Epistle of Barnabas.

The text of it disappeared very early, but Philotheos Bryennios, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan [Archbishop] of Nicomedia, found a Greek manuscript of it in 1873. It was published in English for the first time in 1883.

It has two parts. The first, chapters 1 through 6, is a version of the treatise found at the end of the Epistle of Barnabas on the “Two Ways” but editors of the Penguin Edition say “it is more thoroughly Christianized and, in particular, most of chapter 1 is additional material drawn from the (oral) tradition of Jesus’s teaching. The second [chapters 7 through 16] is concerned with the worship and discipline of an early Christian community” (188).

Where was [it] written and for whom? Egypt and Syria have both been proposed. Egypt because Clement of Alexandria knew of it and thought it “scripture.” There are versions of it in Coptic and Ethiopic. And Syria is considered a possibility because it seems similar to the brand of Christianity that was popular in Antioch and Syria and it makes reference to rural, hilly country that is more like Syria.

Part I: The Two Ways
The Way of Life
1 – The Way of Life is this: Thou shalt love first the Lord they Creator, and secondly thy neighbor as thyself; and thou shalt do nothing to any man that thou wouldst not wish to be done to thyself” (191). Bless those that curse you, “pray for your enemies” and “fast for your persecutors. For where is the merit in loving only those who return your love? Even the heathens do as much. But if you love those who hate you, you will have nobody to be your enemy” (191).

“Beware of the carnal appetites of the body” (191). Give to those who ask and do not look for repayment. “But woe to the taker; for though he cannot be blamed for taking if he was in need, yet if he was not, an account will be required of him as to why he took it, and for what purpose, and he will be taken into custody and examined about his action, and he will not get out until he has paid the last penny” (191).

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