Monday, April 15, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Exodus 34-36 and Justin Martyr's First Apology 20-22

Exodus 34 - The Lord tells Moses to bring Him two new stones on which to re-write the “words” He gave him.  Moses climbs the mountain again alone, and the Lord passes before him, crying out, “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, continuing his kindness for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness and crime and sin; yet not declaring the guilty guiltless, but punishing children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation for their fathers’ wickedness!” (34:6-7) The two attributes—the Lord’s kindness and His justice—are the two things we can know about Him, the two things we must know about Him.

Moses, in response, renews his request to have the Lord accompany them on their journey. The Lord promises to work marvels (34:10) among the people; but in return they must “keep the commandments I am giving you today” (34:11). 

This list of commandments, the post-apostacy setcalled The Ten but clearly a different set from what Moses received in Exodus 20--is framed not by a reminder of the salvation from Egypt, but by a prospective view of the victories and challenges their entry into the Promised Land will bring.  Perhaps this story entered into the text after the Israelites had been a people in the Promised Land for a while, and had been unfaithful AGAIN—worshipping the golden calves of the Canaanite religion--and needed this particular temptation to be added to the Exodus story.

Preface - The Lord will drive out the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites; but the Israelites must tear down the altars and smash their sacred pillars and poles. 
  1. They are to make no covenant (nor enter into marriages) with these people or the Israelites will end up ensnared in their forms of worship.
  2. No molten images are to be made.
  3. They shall keep the Passover.
  4. They shall dedicate to God all first-born.
  5. They shall keep the Sabbath.
  6. They shall keep the feast of Weeks and the feast of the Fruit Harvest
  7. Three times a year all the men shall come to worship the Lord
  8. They shall not offer the blood of sacrifice with leavened bread.
  9. They shall bring to the House of the Lord the first grains that are harvested
    10They hall not boil a young sheep or goat in its mother’s milk (34:14-26).

Moses stays another 40 days and nights; when he comes down “he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant (karan) while he conversed with the Lord. Later, in the Latin translation, the word ‘karan’ was rendered as ‘horned’—hence Michelangelo’s horned statue of Moses at the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli.

This first “transfiguration” – Moses’ -- is certainly the backdrop against which Jesus’ is to be interpreted in Mark 9:2-3; Mt 17:2 and Luke 9:29. This radiance terrifies Aaron and others.  He puts a veil over his face, and thereafter takes it off only when he enters the Tent of Meeting to “converse” with the Lord (34:34).

Paul refers to this in 2 Corinthians 17 when he interprets the veil as something that prevents the Jews from seeing in Christ a fulfillment of the Mosaic ‘ministration’ as Fox would call it.

Exodus 35 Sabbath regulations: penalty for violation is death.  No work is to be done. “You shall not even light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day” (35:3).

Then the chapter turns to collection of materials again, and the call for artisans and contributions for everyone “all as their heart prompted” (35:22).  The particular God-given “skills,” “understandings,” and “abilities” of individuals are recognized.

Exodus 36 – The work proceeds communally according to how people’s hearts are moved to make them come and take part in the work (36:2). More is contributed than is needed, so people are told to stop making contributions.

The most skilled men work on the “Tent of the Lord’s presence” (36:8). It is to be made of “ten pieces of fine linen woven [14 yards by 2 yards] with blue, purple, and red wool and embroidered with figures of winged creatures” (36:9).  Directions and descriptions follow for all the parts that make up the Tent or “Dwelling” follow.

Early Christian Writers
Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) – First Apology
20 – Many of the things we Christians affirm have been affirmed by other “pagan” religions and philosophers – the Sibyl [the prophetess], the Stoics, Plato, Menander and others. They all seem to teach that things of this world are corruptible and that all things will end in fire. But while there are similarities between the beliefs of these more respected [at that time] sources, we believe our teaching is “on other points . . . fuller and more divine.”

“For while we say that all things have been produced and arranged into a world by God, we shall seem to utter the doctrine of Plato; and while we say that there will be a burning up of all, we shall seem to utter the doctrine of the Stoics; and while we affirm that the souls of the wicked, being endowed with sensation even after death, are punished, and that those of the good being delivered from punishment spend a blessed existence, we shall seem to say the same things as the poets and philosophers; and while we maintain that men ought not to worship the works of their hands, we say the very things which have been said by the comic poet Menander, and other similar writers, for they have declared that the workman is greater than the work.”

He seems to be arguing that so many of the things Christians believe are not really NEW, it is hard to understand why they should be so singled out for persecution.

21 – Even the core belief is not new to the Romans. “And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter.” He is referring here to the various events surrounding the “sons of Jupiter” – Mercury, Aesculapius, Bacchus, Hercules, Perseus, and Bellerophon.

And even some of the emperors in the past have been declared “worthy of deification” and the reason all of these “people” are written about and celebrated is because they feel it is good to encourage “youthful scholars” to “imitate the gods.” But the truth is that many of the stories of these people contain things that are good at all, things that have been perpetrated by “wicked devils.”

22 – The writer continues his argument that nothing in the Jesus story is all that unusual. The Romans have sons of gods too, even suffering sons. But Jesus was superior to them – and this was shown in “His actions.”

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