Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Exodus 29 and Justin Martyr's First Apology 6-8

Exodus 29 – The ceremony for the dedication or ordination of priests follows: “Take a young bull and two rams with no defects. Then, using choice wheat flour and no yeast, make loaves of bread, thin cakes mixed with olive oil, and wafers spread with oil. Place them all in a single basket, and present them at the entrance of the Tabernacle, along with the young bull and the two rams” (29:1-2).

Aaron and his sons are to be washed with water at the entrance of the Tabernacle and dressed in priestly garments. They are to be anointed and given head-coverings. The young bull will be slaughtered by the priests and “some of its blood [shall be placed] on the horns of the altar with [their] finger, and . . . the rest [poured] at the base of the altar” (29:11-12). Some of the innards shall be burned on the altar and some burned “outside the camp as a sin offering” (29:14).

The two rams are to be offered up as well; after sprinkling its blood on the sides of the altar (29:16) and cut up, it shall be offered as a “burnt offering to the Lord” (29:18). The other ram shall be slaughtered and some of its blood rubbed on the “right earlobes of Aaron and his sons” (29:20) and on their right thumbs and big toes. Some blood shall be sprinkled on Aaron his sons and their garments to set them apart as holy (29:21).

There is more detail about the ceremony. Their ordination ceremony goes on for seven days (29:35) and each day another young bull is offered up as a “sin offering to purify them, making them right with the Lord” (29:36). After the ceremony every day, the altar shall be cleansed and purified. There are also to be burnt offerings of lambs along with wine and flour. These offerings too “are to be made each day from generation to generation” (29:42). And all of this is meant to bring the Lord into the lives of the people every day: “Then I will live among the people of Israel and be their God, and they will know that I am the Lord their God. I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them. I am the Lord their God” (29:45-46).

Early Christian Writers
Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) – First Apology
6 – So if we are considered atheists for not believing in these demon-gods, then we confess that is true. But “with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity” - we deny that we are atheists as to this God.

We worship and adore “Him and the Son who came forth from Him and taught us these things, . . . and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth.”

7 – It is to the “deeds” of those who claim to be Christians that one should look. Just as ALL who claim to be “philosophers” are not equally wise, so too all those who call themselves Christians are not equally holy. “Wherefore we demand that the deeds of all those who are accused to you be judged, in order that each one who is convicted may be punished as an evil-doer, and not as a Christian; and if it is clear that anyone is blameless, that he may be acquitted, since by the mere fact of his being a Christian he does no wrong. For we will not require that you punish our accusers; they being sufficiently punished by their present wickedness and ignorance of what is right.”

8 – Justin says it is possible Christians could deny this, “but we would not live by telling a lie. For, impelled by the desire of the eternal and pure life, we seek the abode that is with God, the Father and Creator of all, and hasten to confess our faith, persuaded and convinced as we are that they who have proved to God by their works that they followed Him and loved to abide with Him where there is no sin to cause disturbance, can obtain these things.”

Then he makes a comparison between Plato and Christ, which is interesting. He says that Plato had basically to same message but instead of Christ, he said Rhadamanthus and Minos “would punish the wicked who came before them.”

“[W]e say that the same thing will be done, but at the hand of Christ.”

I find it very interesting actually, that Justin Martyr can see in the mythology of the Greeks a “type” of the Christian truth he has committed himself to. And he could also see in the philosophical vision of Plato a love of the same truth. To learn more about Rhadamanthus and Minos, check out

He says the essential difference between the Platonic view of the punishment imposed – in his Republic – and the Christian view is that Plato thought the punishment should only last for a thousand years.

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