Thursday, April 25, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Leviticus 12-13 and Justin Martyr's First Apology 50-52

Leviticus 12 – Rules governing the “uncleanness” or ritual “pollution” surrounding childbirth.  For seven days after birth of a boy, the mother shall be deemed “unclean.”  After the circumcision on the 8th day, 33 days must pass for her to be over the period of ritual pollution.  It is twice that time – sixty-six days – after the birth of a female child. 

At the end, she is to bring animals – a one-year-old lamb and a young pigeon or turtledove - for a holocaust offering (in thanksgiving) and a sin offering and the priest shall offer them up to make atonement and she shall be considered clean again.

Leviticus 13 – Skin problems of various kinds dealt with.  Leprosy shall make the person “unclean” ritually.  If it is not, the person may have to be quarantined for seven days and reexamined.  White hairs and penetration of sores beneath the skin are reasons for concern.  Even baldness is covered—it is fine unless he has pink spots too in which case there may be reason to suspect leprosy.  The leper shall dwell apart and cry out “unclean” so people will be warned.

There are 59 verses of intricate detail on how the sores are to be examined and evaluated over time.

Early Christian Writers
Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) – First Apology
His Humiliation Predicted
50 – The amazing lines of Isaiah’s prophecies about the humiliation Christ was to suffer are set forth at length: “He was despised, and of no reputation. It is He who bears our sins, and is afflicted for us; yet we did esteem Him smitten, stricken, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of peace was upon Him, by His stripes we are healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; every man has wandered in his own way. And He delivered Him for our sins; and He opened not His mouth for all His affliction.”

He repeats the story of the apostles, clueless at the crucifixion, but revived at the resurrection when Christ came to them and “taught them to read the prophecies” they were so familiar with. It is the power of the Old Testament prophecies that gave momentum to the evangelization process.

The Majesty of Christ
51 – The translation here of Isaiah 8-12 is so hard to relate to, I have turned to another translation the NRSV: Still exploring the mysterious origins of Christ and the amazing way he “rules His enemies” he quotes the prophet Isaiah: “”By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet is was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through his the will of the Lord shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his through his knowledge. . . . because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the trangressors.”

And it was also prophesied that He would ascend into heaven both in Psalm 24 and in Daniel 7:13.

Certain Fulfillment of Prophecy
52 – If so much of what happened to Christ was predicted by the prophets and came true, Justin Martyr argues that we must expect that things prophesied, which have not yet come to pass WILL come to pass at some point.

“For the prophets have proclaimed two advents of His: the one, that which is already past, when He came as a dishonored and suffering Man; but the second, when, according to prophecy, He shall come from heaven with glory, accompanied by His angelic host, when also He shall raise the bodies of all men who have lived, and shall clothe those of the worthy with immortality, and shall send those of the wicked, endued with eternal sensibility, into everlasting fire with the wicked devils.”

Ezekiel says that at that time, “’very knee shall bow to the Lord, and every tongue shall confess Him.’” And the repentance of the Jews for not “getting it” will be fulfilled he seems to say: “Tribe by tribe they shall mourn, and then they shall look on Him whom they have pierced; and they shall say, Why, O Lord, hast Thou made us to err from Thy way” The glory which our fathers blessed, has for us been turned into shame.’” (quoting Zechariah and Isaiah).

What I don’t think a lot of “literalist” believers ask themselves is will believers be as clueless the second time as they were the first? People talk and talk about what the “Second Coming” will be like based on the words of prophesy, just as many of those who lived in Jesus’ time talked about the prophesies that the Messiah would restore the Davidic monarchy and bring an end to what we have come to call “the fall”; but that is what the split between Jews and Christians was all about – having completely different understandings of what the “coming” of the “Messiah” would be like. Turned out the ones who “got” the Christian “take” on what happened were those who had not grown up feeling they understood it all. It was the “outsiders” who “got it” if indeed we “got it” – I believe we did.

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