Friday, April 12, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Exodus 31 and Justin Martyr's First Apology 12-14

Exodus 31 – Artisans are chosen to make everything, artisans “filled . . . with a divine spirit—or breath--of skill and understanding and knowledge in [their] craft[s]” (31:3).  And then they are admonished to keep the Sabbath sacred “as a token” of the covenant between God and his people. Schocken’s translation “for in six days YHWH made the heavens and the earth, but on the seventh day he ceased and paused-for-breath” (31:17) is good, especially when we remember breath and spirit are the same.  The anthropomorphism of the image is appealing – to me at least.

Early Christian Writers
Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) – First Apology
12 – As for promoting peace, no one want to be a stronger helper and ally than Christians. We know that nobody escapes the notice of God and it is impossible “for the wicked, the covetous, the conspirator, [or] the virtuous” to escape the consequences of their deeds. And the consequences may be either “everlasting punishment or salvation” depending on what they did in life. 

If people KNEW this, then they would not CHOOSE wickedness or even “intend” it, for even the intention to do bad things does not escape God’s radar [my modern paraphrase].

He addresses his emperor with the assumption that he is a man who has a “reputation for piety and philosophy.”

Justin Martyr believes that all of what Jesus was and did was foretold by the prophets; and it is this amazing fulfillment of their words that provides Christianity with its convincing power.

13 – No “sober-minded man” could ever think that Christians are “atheists.” We worship “the Maker of this universe, and [declare] that He has no need of streams of blood and libations and incense.”

It would not be right for us to use “what He has brought into being for our sustenance” as burnt offerings; these things should be used by us and others who are in need “with gratitude to Him.”

“Our teacher of these things is Jesus Christ, who also was born for this purpose, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judaea, in the times of Tiberius  Caesar; and we reasonable worship Him, having learned that He is the Son of the true God Himself, and hold Him in the second place, and the Prophetic Spirit in the third. . .”

People do not understand how we could believe that a “crucified man” could be “second to the unchangeable and eternal God, the Creator of all; for they do not discern the mystery that is herein . . ..”

14 – Justin Martyr points to the role of what he calls “demons” in deceiving authorities about what Christians are about. These demons “strive to hold you their slaves and servants.” Through dreams and sometimes “magical impositions” they convince those who do not resist them.

We, however, “stand aloof from them and follow the only unbegotten God through His Son.” We used to be like those who resist this truth. We too used to delight in fornication, used magical arts and valued material wealth above all things. We too used to hate and destroy one another because of “their different manners” – “men of a different tribe”; but “now, since the coming of Christ” we live with them in peace; we pray for our enemies and try to persuade those who “hate us unjustly to live conformably to the good precepts of Christ, to the end that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful hope of a reward from God the ruler of all.”

Christ was no sophist. To prove this, Justin says that he will review some of what Christ taught.

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