Thursday, April 11, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Exodus 30 and Justin Martyr's First Apology 9-11

Exodus 30 – The incense altar (not previously mentioned—possibly an addition) is 18” long and 18” wide and 36” high (using the Today’s English Version so as to get away from cubits). It has “projections,” rings and poles to make it moveable.  And it is placed “outside the curtain which hangs in front of the Covenant Box” (30:6).

There shall be incense burned morning and evening for all time to come.  No holocausts or cereal offerings or libations shall be made on it, but once a year Aaron shall perform the “atonement rite” on its horns (30:10).  This “altar is most sacred to the Lord.”

When they have a census (seen here as in other places as threatening.  Schocken says, that it seemed people thought if you could be counted, you could be controlledan early argument against government interference in people’s lives), each Israelite (age 20+ which was the age for military service) shall give the Lord “a forfeit for his life, so that no plague may come upon them for being registered” (30:12), It is a half-shekel offering. This tax shall go to keeping up the meeting tent “that there it may be the Israelites’ reminder before the Lord, of the forfeit paid for their lives” (30:16).

A wash-bowl is to be placed between the meeting tent and the altar for the priests to wash their hands and feet whenever they enter or approach the altar to offer an oblation.

Anointing oil shall be made of the finest spices—myrrh, cinnamon, cane, cassia—and oil. Everything shall be anointed with it and the priests as well.  There are directions for the incense as well.

Early Christian Writers
Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) – First Apology
9 – Justin says that Christians do not “honor with many sacrifices and garlands of flowers such deities as men have formed and set in shrines and called gods since we see that these are soulless and dead . . ..”

10 – “[W]e have received by tradition that God does not need the material offerings which men can give, seeing, indeed, that He Himself is the provider of all things. And we have been taught, and are convinced, and do believe, that He accepts those only who imitate the excellences which reside in Him, temperance, and justice, and philanthropy, and as many virtues as are peculiar to a God who is called by no proper name.”

“For as in the beginning He created us when we were not, so do we consider that, in like manner, those who choose what is pleasing to Him are, on account of their choice, deemed worthy of incorruption and of fellowship with Him.”

Justin Martyr is unique among the early Christians that I have read. He is clearly a man of philosophical leanings, a kind of very early “enlightenment” type. He speaks often of “choices” we make and “deeds” we shall be judged by. He also esteems the “rational faculties”; it is these faculties that lead us to the door beyond which the realm of the spirit lies. These faculties can lead us there but they cannot lead us passed the door/gate. There we need faith and trust and hope and spiritual eyes.

11 – “[W]hen you hear that we look for a kingdom, you suppose, without making any inquiry, that we speak of a human kingdom.” This is just ONE of the things people HEARD about Christians that caused them to freak out. Constant talk of “brothers and sisters” all over the place and “eating the body of Christ” led some to think this was a cult full of incestuous cannibals and people who threatened to undermine traditional Roman family values.

The kingdom Christians speak of, however, is not of this world. The kingdom we believe in is “with God, . . . if we looked for a human kingdom, we should also deny our Christ, . . . But since our thoughts are not fixed on the present, we are not concerned when men cut us off; since also death is a debt which must at all event be paid.”

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