Sunday, April 14, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Exodus 33 and Justin Martyr's First Apology 18-19

Exodus 33 – The Lord promises to send the people into the land He swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and He will send His angel before them.  But He says He will not accompany them Himself because they “are a stiff-necked people; [and He] might exterminate [them] on the way” (33:4). In repentance, the Israelites lay aside their ornaments (33:6).

The Meeting Tent or “Tent of the Lord’s Presence,” is pitched outside of camp “at some distance.” When Moses entered the Tent, the people saw a column of cloud outside the entrance “while the Lord spoke with Moses” (33:9).  This was a cue for everyone to worship at the entrances to their own tents.  Joshua would stay in the Tent of Meeting even when Moses returned from it.

Moses convinces God that He really must come along with them, that He must accept them as His people: “For how can it be known that we, your people and I, have found favor with you, except by your going with us?” (33:16) The Lord tells Moses “I myself  [note indicates the word literally is ‘my face,’ that is ‘my presence’] will go along, to give you rest.” This passage precedes Moses’ argument to God, but it seems to me to be a response.  Schocken’s translation is better, I think, making it a question: “If my presence were to go (with you), would I cause you to rest easy? (33:14).  Moses then tells YHWH if He will not come, then He should not bring them up from here; for only through that presence that they can become a distinct people at all.

Moses asks to see the Lord’s “glory” and God assures Moses He will permit him to see His “beauty,” but the Lord’s “face” he cannot see “for no man sees me and still lives” (33:20).  He places Moses “in the cleft of the rock” and screens his vision until He passes, but He permits Moses to see His “back” (33:23). The note suggests that God’s “back” is also reflected in the creation.

Early Christian Writers
Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) – First Apology
Immortality and Resurrection
18 – If we reflect on those kings and other rulers just talked about, we know they all die “the death common to all.” If death resulted in “insensibility” [the death of all that comprises who they are], then that would be a blessing to those who are wicked. But we believe “sensation remains to all who have ever lived, and eternal punishment is laid up . . . for the wicked.”

It is not only to the traditional Christian view of man’s eternal nature that Justin Martyr appeals. He is surrounded by necromancers, diviners and “dream-senders” who also believe in a spiritual realm not visible to the human senses. They all believe that “the spirits of the dead, whom all call daemoniacs or madmen” can reach into our lives. And he points out that all the great thinkers of their day – and earlier – ascribed to a belief in the afterlife – Empedocles, Pythagoras, Plato, Socrates, Homer.

19 – He gives an amazing argument in favor of the possibility of “resurrection” – bodily resurrection.  He starts by observing the miracle of life coming from the “human seed” that is the start of every life. No one would ever look at that drop of seed and imagine that a man or woman would arise from it.

“In the same way, then, you are now incredulous because you have never seen a dead man rise again. But as at first you would not have believed it possible that such persons could be produced from the small drop, and yet now you see them thus produced, so also judge ye that it is not impossible that the bodies of men, after they have been dissolved, and like seeds resolved into earth, should in God’s appointed time rise again and put on incorruption [incorruptibility].”

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