Saturday, April 20, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Leviticus 5 and Justin Martyr's First Apology 35-37

Leviticus 5 – A number of sins that might be “inadvertent” are listed in this section:

“If you are called to testify about something you have seen or that you know about, it is sinful to refuse to testify and you will be punished for your sin” (5:1)

Or if you “unknowingly touch something that is ceremonially unclean” (5:2), or “unknowingly touch something that makes a person unclean” (5:3), or “make a foolish vow” (5:4).

There must be confession of the sin and an offering of a female animal from the flock to make atonement with. Two turtledoves or pigeons may also be offered if the person is poor (one for the sin offering and the other for a holocaust). One who cannot even afford the two birds may offer a small amount of fine flour but not with oil or frankincense.

Guilt offerings (“asham”) sin offerings plus addition of some kind of reparation, must be made for more serious shortcomings: inadvertent cheating with respect to sacred dues; dishonesty against the Lord by denying a neighbor a pledge or deposit, or cheating a neighbor of his goods unjustly.  There must be restitution plus a penalty. A ram shall be the offering to the Lord.

Early Christian Writers
Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) – First Apology
Other Fulfilled Prophecies
35 – Justin Martyr continues quoting what for us are very well-known verses from the Old Testament, the ones from Isaiah and Psalms and Zechariah [not Zephaniah]: “’Unto us a child is born, and unto us a young man is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders’” (Is.9:6); “’They pierced My hands and My fee, and for My vesture they cast lots.’” (Psalm 22:6); “’Behold, thy King cometh unto thee; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.’” (Zechariah 9:(9).

Different Modes of Prophecy
36 – These words spoken by a variety of people in the Old Testament narrative are not speaking out of personal inspiration but “by the Divine Word who moves them.” Sometimes the words are given as the words of the Lord; sometimes they are ordinary people speaking to the Lord. The Jews “who possessed the books of the prophets did not understand, and therefore did not recognize Christ even when He came, but even hate us who say that He has come, and who prove that, as was predicted, He was crucified by them.”

Utterances of the Father
37 – He looks also to the utterances  said to be from God Himself that show how poorly His own people understood him, things like the following: “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, and My people hath not understood. Woe, sinful nation, a people full of sins, a wicked seed, children that are transgressors, ye have forsaken the Lord.” (Isaiah 1:3, Septuagint); “’What is the house that ye will build for Me? Saith the Lord. The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool.” (Is.66:1) and “’Your new moons and your Sabbaths My soul hateth; and the great day of the fast and of ceasing from labor I cannot away with. . .’” (the fat of lambs and the blood of bulls I do not desire. For who hath required this at your hands?” (Is.1:14 and 58:6).

It is so interesting to me how Justin Martyr thinks these prophetic insights, belaboring the people of Israel with their short-comings and limits as a people of and for God. The narrative tells of many disagreements that existed between God (very anthropomorphized) and His people. There is a give and take continually between them about what will be required of them as God’s chosen, what kind of leadership they will have – judges or monarchs or priests – what kind a “dwelling” God will have in their midst – moveable tent or Temple or Spirit within.
The story has us working with God all the way along, not getting it all right at any point, coming to points when we lose our way entirely and other times when we are renewed. It is amazing that the earliest Christians thought the Body of Christ they were shaping, the Church that would come from their evangelization efforts, would never fall into such a state of unfaithfulness or confusion. We are NOT DIFFERENT from the Jews, and we too need our prophets to set us on course periodically.

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