Friday, May 31, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Joshua 9-10 and Origen's De Principiis: Book Three 1-2

Joshua 9 - The kings west of the Jordan band together to fight the Israelites.  They are kings of the Hittites, Hivites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites and Jebusites. 

The Gibeonites who are near the invading Israelites decide to fool them, dressing up in rags and taking along old wineskins, etc to try and make it look like they have come from very far off.  They approach the Israelites with the proposal to make an alliance with the Israelites.  The reason they pretend to be from far away is so the Israelites will not think they live in areas that they should take over.  The Israelites agree that they may live amongst them as their servants, but they agree not to fight them.  Even when they learn the truth, they are bound by their word.  But they do remain as vassals of the Israelites.

Joshua 10 – King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem contacts four other Amorite Kings (of Hebron, of Jarmuth, of Lachish and Eglon) and gets them to attack the Gibeonites for making peace with the invaders.  Joshua comes to their aid and he defeats them; they flee and get caught in a terrible hailstorm. 

It is here that we find the passage of poetry that speaks of the sun standing still: Joshua said to the Lord, “‘Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.’ And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies . . .There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded a human voice; for the Lord fought for Israel” (10:12-14).

They capture the kings; Joshua puts them to death and hangs them on five trees for one night.

The next day they take Makkedah and Libnah, Lachish, Gezer, Eglon and Debir.  It says here that Joshua “left no one remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded” (10:40). Later we will learn that the devastation was not really complete.  They end up struggling with all these people for many years, trying to keep their people from getting caught up in their customs and worship practices.

Origen (185-254 AD)
De Principiis (First Principles)
Chapter III – On the Holy Spirit
1 – The next topic Origen will explore with his mind and heart is the Holy Spirit. If we see God as “the parent of the universe” and Christ as His Son, Origen asserts that we are not the only ones. Some famous Greek philosophers and also the “Barbarians” by whom I believe he means the Jews have – some of them – posited that there is a Son of God. But he believes that the only “way to explain and bring within the reach of human knowledge this higher and diviner reason as the Son of God, that by means of those Scriptures alone which were inspired by the Holy Spirit, i.e., the Gospels and Epistles, and the law and the prophets according to the declaration of Christ Himself.”

“For although no one is able to speak with certainty of God the Father, it is nevertheless possible for some knowledge of Him to be gained by means of the visible creation and the natural feelings of the human mind; and it is possible, moreover, for such knowledge to be confirmed from the sacred Scriptures.” And not only can we find this in the New Testament, we can find it in the Old as well.

2 – “Now, what the Holy Spirit is, we are taught in many passages of Scripture, as by David in the 51st Psalm, when he says, ‘And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me;’ and by Daniel [4:8], where it is said, ‘ The Holy Spirit which is in thee.” The New Testament has many references to the Holy Spirit. “In the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit was given by the imposition of the apostles’ hands in baptism.”

“Who then is not amazed at the exceeding majesty of the Holy Spirit, when he hears that he who speaks a word against the Son of man may hope for forgiveness; but that he who is guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit has not forgiveness, either in the present world or in that which is to come!”

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Joshua 8 and Origen's De Principiis: Book Two 12-13

Joshua 8 - The Lord prepares the Israelites to take the city of Ai (the name of which actually means “ruin” according to Eerdman’s) and this time allows them to take booty.  He sends 30,000 men to lay in ambush to the west of Ai and then approaches the city with the rest of his force.  When they attack him, he pretends to flee and they pursue, leaving ambushers in position to attack from the west and burn the city.  When the main army sees the smoke, the turn and attack too.  The entire population of Ai, twelve thousand, are killed that day.

At a ceremony at which a stone altar is dedicated on Mount Ebal, Joshua has the law read to the people out loud. Half of the people stand in front of Mount Gerizim and half in front of Mount Ebal—one the mount of blessing, the other the mount of curses for disobedience (See Deut. 27]

Reflection:  These stories of conquest and slaughter, how are we to reflect upon them?  What can they mean for our faith.  In the time of shadows, we must see the emblematic meaning of the story.  Though the history is real and the plan of God real in it, what we are to “see” in it is the mighty power to overcome enemies.  At one time, the enemies of the Lord were all those who stood in the way of establishing the chosen people in the land God promised them. At the time, this was not the way even the most enlightened viewed matters.  It was a struggle for survival, a struggle to find a homeland where people could be gathered around the principle of loyalty and obedience to the Creator God of the universe.  Nothing else was more important and to put worldly wisdom ahead of acceptance of the terms of the narrative would be to lose the sense of the meaning of what was happening over the long term. 

Origen (185-254 AD)
De Principiis (First Principles)
Book II - On Christ
12 – Now Origen goes into the “working of the power of God.” “It is a sort of vigor. . .by which God operates either in creation, or in providence, or in judgment, or in the disposal and arrangement of individual things, each in its season. For as the image formed in a mirror unerringly reflects all the acts and movements of him who gazes on it, so would Wisdom have herself to be understood when she is called the stainless mirror of the power and working of the Father.”

John says of Christ, “’The works which the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.’ And again He says, that the Son cannot do anything of Himself, save what He sees the Father do. As therefore the Son in no respect differs from the Father in the power of His works, and the work of the Son is not a different thing from that of the Father, but one and the same movement. . .”

13 – The last phrase Origen explores is “’the image of His goodness’ and here, I think we must understand the same thing which we expressed . . . in speaking of the image formed by the mirror.” Jesus says in Luke 18:19 that “There is none good save one only, God the Father,’” and Origen thinks he says this because “the Son is not of a different goodness, but of that only which exists in the Father, of whom He is rightly termed the image, because He proceeds from no other source but from that primal goodness . . .”; and both Son and Holy Spirit are rooted in that same goodness.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Joshua 7 and Origen's De Principiis: Book Two - 10-11

Joshua 7 - Unbeknownst to Joshua ,someone among the Israelites violates the ban and keeps goods for himself.  A similar offense will later cause problems for Saul.

Because of this, the Lord forsakes the people at Ai and they are defeated there.  Joshua is told he must find out the perpetrator and let him be destroyed by the fire of the Lord, because by his act, the people have violated the covenant.  The guilty man is a man named Achan of the tribe of Judah.  Achan confesses his guilt and says that he did what he did because of greed.  As punishment, Achan and all that he possesses including his family are sent to the Valley of Achor and there he is stoned by the people to appease the anger of the Lord.  It is not said that everyone in his family is stoned too, but the implication is that all he possesses is somehow incorporated into him and incur God’s wrath as well.

Reflection:  Sometimes we get into the habit of thinking that the Lord is pretty much of a pushover, that whatever we do, he can ultimately accept in us.  But these old testament stories bring us back to the reality that God has no tolerance for wrong-doing and especially lack of integrity in matters of faith.  For the Israelites, faith consisted in a commitment to follow Yahweh, and observe the commandments Moses gave the people from God.  In addition to the law, the Israelites were exhorted to be led in all things by the Lord and here we see the results that come from not observing the path the Lord sets out for us to follow.  Not only is there a natural consequence, the loss of the battle; but, there is a taint upon the entire community which ultimately must be lifted before God’s blessing can return.  Help us see, Lord, that our faithfulness or lack of faithfulness has ramifications far beyond what we conceive.  We do not only affect our own selves, but bring misery upon all who are linked to us, either by family tie or community relationship.  Let us walk with a sense of our being part of a covenanted community with a calling to please our creator.

Origen (185-254 AD)
De Principiis (First Principles)
Book II - On Christ
10 - In this section, Origen examines the second phrase: that “Wisdom is the purest efflux of the glory of the Almighty.” He starts by looking at the “omnipotence of God” which he sees as an assertion that “those things by which He receives that title must also exist.”

He seems to be saying the creative ‘”flow” from his power was ALWAYS co-existent in Him, so that this Wisdom – Christ -- was also from the beginning.

I am not sure I understand what he is saying here. He seems to be saying that if someone is “omnipotent,” there must always be “that which is subject to Him.” It isn’t the “creation” because that has a beginning in time in the Scriptural understanding; but the “efflux” he’s referring to here seems as if it must be the Word or Christ. The philosophical nature of Origen’s methodology is very hard to follow and unrelentingly in its analytical nature; it is not hard to understand how some in the Church resisted this kind of approach to the narrative. He always starts from Scriptural pieces but swims through them with his intellect.

11 – And now he goes into the words “splendor of eternal light” – the third phrase Wisdom uses to explain the nature of God. The first was “breath of the power [omnipotence] of God.” The second was “the purest efflux of His glory” and this is “the splendor of eternal light.”

“It is properly termed everlasting or eternal which neither had a beginning of existence, nor can ever cease to be what it is. And this is the idea conveyed by John when he says that ‘God is light.’ Now His wisdom is the splendor of that light, not only in respect of it being light, but also of being everlasting light, so that His wisdom is eternal and everlasting splendor. If this be fully understood, it clearly shows that the existence of the Son is derived from the Father but not in time, nor from any other beginning, except, as we have said, from God Himself.”

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Joshua 6 and Origen's De Principiis: Book Two 9

Joshua 6 - The city of Jericho is under siege and the Lord instructs Joshua to have the Israelites circle the city for six days blowing seven ram’s horns.  On each of the six days, they shall march around once with the ark in procession, making no noise other than the blowing of the horns.  On the seventh day they are to march around seven times and then stop to raise a huge shout that will brings the walls crashing down.  The Jerusalem Bible note says there are two entangled traditions here, one of them bracketed in the JB text, but not in the NRSV text.  One has them circling in silence and then yelling.  The other has them circling behind the ark, blowing trumpets.

They are also warned that everything in the city is “under the ban” and they are to touch nothing.  Being “under the ban” means that everything living must be put to the sword and all the wealth of the city is to belong to the Lord.  The harlot Rehab, of course, and all those in her family inside her house, are to be escorted safely outside the city and the camp. She lives in Israel after this.  And Joshua places the destroyed city under a curse: “Cursed before the Lord be anyone who tries to rebuild this city” (6:26).

Eerdman’s Handbook suggests that the reason Jericho is completely destroyed is that it was a kind of “first-fruits” of the conquest and therefore God’s.  It also suggests that while there is, in fact, evidence of widespread destruction in the region dated to the 13th c. BC, there were other invaders and enemies of the local populations, among them Egypt (Pharaoh’s governors had residences in Gaza, Megiddo and other places were garrison towns (213). Other conquerors included the Philistines, who took over Ashdod, Ashelon, Ekron, Gath and Gaza.  These cities were all Late Bronze Age cities.

Origen (185-254 AD)
De Principiis (First Principles)
Book II - On Christ
9 - Now Origen looks at the meaning of the words written in the Book of Wisdom where it says, “Wisdom . . . ‘is a kind of breath of the power of God, and the purest efflux of the glory of the Omnipotent, and the splendor of eternal light, and the spotless mirror of the working or power of God, and the image of His goodness.’” A modern translation of Wisdom 7:25-26 is this:  She is a breath of God's power—a pure and radiant stream of glory from the Almighty. Nothing that is defiled can ever steal its way into Wisdom. She is a reflection of eternal light, a perfect mirror of God's activity and goodness.” Origen will go into each part of this in great detail – more detail than I will.

“These, then are the definitions which he gives of God, pointing out by each one of them certain attributes which belong to the Wisdom of God, calling wisdom the power, and the glory, and the everlasting light, and the working, and the goodness of God.”

God’s power is seen in His strength; He “appoints, restrains, and governs all things visible and invisible.”

“Another power . . . which exists with properties of its own – a kind of breath, as Scripture says, of the primal and unbegotten power of God, deriving from Him its being, and never at any time non-existent.”

Monday, May 27, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Joshua 5 and Origen's De Principiis: Book Two 7-8

Joshua 5 – When the people of the region hear that the Israelites have crossed the Jordan in such a miraculous way, “their hearts melted, and there was no longer any spirit in them” (5:1).

We learn in this chapter that all the men of military age who were circumcised before leaving Egypt have died in the desert passage.  Meanwhile the sons born in the desert have not been circumcised, so this is something that must be done now that the people are preparing to enter the Promised Land.  After this, the people celebrate yet another Passover, but the manna, which God has provided them for forty years suddenly ceases.  They dine on the produce of the land. Joshua encounters “a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand” (5:13). It is “the commander of the army of the Lord” (an angel?).  He tells Joshua (in an echo of Jacob’s encounter and Moses’ experience as well) to “remove the sandals from [his] feet, for the place where you stand is holy” (5:15).

Reflection:  There is a time in the desert and a time for coming out of the desert.  The time in the desert is the time of conversion and testing.  Then comes the time of faithful habitation of the land and the life God gives.  What is required here is not the giving up of all worldly things and reliance solely upon the Lord, but faithful adherence to what one learned in the desert.  Faithful living requires that we live hand-in-hand with our creator, but we may also enjoy the beauty and the fruits of the creation.  We may also exercise our own powers and be caretakers over the earth.  But like Adam in the garden, we must come at the conclusion of each day and walk with God, confer with him over the day find sustenance and encouragement form him for the coming day.

Origen (185-254 AD)
De Principiis (First Principles)
Book II - On Christ
7 - The concept of Christ as BOTH “image of the invisible God” and “image” of man. Paul says “He is ‘the brightness of the glory of God, and the express figure of his person.’ The only-begotten Son, therefore, is the glory of this light, proceeding inseparably from (God) Himself, as brightness does from light, and illuminating the whole of creation. For, agreeably to what we have already explained as to the manner in which He is the Way, and conducts to the Father; and in which He is the Word, interpreting the secrets of wisdom, and the mysteries of knowledge, making them known to the rational creation; and is also the Truth, and the Life, and the Resurrection—in the same way ought we to understand also the meaning of His being the brightness: for it is by its splendor that we understand and feel what light itself is.”

He presents the greatness of God in a way that is “gentle” and “soft” so that it is not overwhelming to the “weak eyes of [us] mortals”

8 - It is the Son who makes God “to be understood and acknowledged” and because of this he is called the “figure of His person or subsistence” by Paul.

Origen makes a comparison between this relation of Father and Son in the divine real with a material object. He says try to imagine a statue that is so huge it covers the face of the earth. If you wanted to give anyone an idea of what this statue really looked like you’d have to make it small so that it could be observed and comprehended by people. This is what we have in Christ – God “divesting Himself of His equality with the Father, and showing to us the way to the knowledge of Him” that is through a man who is “the express image of His person.”

“’He who sees Me, sees the Father also,’ and ‘I and the Father are one.’”

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Joshua 3-4 and Origen's De Principiis: Book Two 5-6

Joshua 3 - Joshua continues with instructions for crossing the river Jordan.  The Levitical priests carry the ark a minimum of two thousand cubits ahead.  “Joshua tells them, “Follow it, so that you may know the way you should go, for you have not passed this way before.” (3:3-4). When the priests go into the river, they are to stand still in it and it will stop flowing.

“While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan” (3:17).

The recapitulation of the redemptive motif first introduced in Exodus is again a model of the kind of recapitulative narrative we are dealing with here, even before we bring the New Testament thinks into the mix. But it is very clear that the earliest Christians saw it all fulfilled in Christ.  The Fathers saw both Moses and Joshua as “types” of Christ and baptism as a spiritual recapitulation of the salvation experienced by the Israelites in Exodus and here again. The Jerusalem Bible refers us to 1 Cor 10:1.

Joshua 4 - In commemoration of this great miracle, twelve men (one from each tribe) are selected to take twelve stones from the place in the middle of the Jordan where the priests’ feet were and set them in the place where they camp the first night (at Gilgal east of Jericho.

The word Gilgal means ring of stones according to a Jerusalem Bible note.  “When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord” (4:6).

Another distinct tradition - the “priestly” according to the Jerusalem Bible note is given in verse 9 where the stones are set up in the middle of the river, so as to become invisible once the river resumes its flow.  This tradition, note says, dates from the period of the prophets when they were “attacking the heterodox worship at Gilgal” (279).

Gilgal was the chief sanctuary of the Benjaminites and it was still important in the days of Saul.  See what the prophets thought of it in Hosea 4:15, 9:15 and 12:12 and Amos 4:4 and 5:5.

Reflection:  Again, we see that the success of the people of Israel is not attributable in any way to them and to their talents, but only to the “mighty power of the Lord” who smooths the rough paths and levels of the hills to make a way for his people.  Lord help us let you make our way for us.  Help us merely to seek your presence and stay close to you and watch for the way to open in which we should walk.

Origen (185-254 AD)
De Principiis (First Principles)
Book II - On Christ
5 - He turns in this section to supporting what he has said with the words of a philosopher with the words of Scripture. He refers again to Paul’s words that “the only-begotten Son is the ‘image of the invisible God,’ and ‘the first-born of every creature.’”

And from the Old Testament, he refers to the Book of Wisdom: “’For she is the breath of the power of God, and the purest efflux [something that flows from] of the glory of the Almighty.

6 - Origen seeks to explore the idea of “invisible” image” – an inherently contradictory combination of words. Sometimes we think of images as something painted, sculpted [or, we might add, photographed] so that it takes a material form. And sometimes we say a son or daughter is “the image of his father” or “her mother.” 

We can see that Jesus, the Son of God, is “the invisible image of the invisible God” if we are referring to “the unity of nature and substance belonging to Father and Son.”  How Origen reconciles the words of Paul and the sense that Jesus is “visible” yet an image of an “invisible God” is hard to follow in this section. He is of two natures – one visible and one invisible.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Joshua Introduction - 2 and Origen's De Principiis: Book Two 3-4

Introduction to Joshua:
The books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings are called “the Early Prophets” in the Hebrew Scriptures. They cover the transition from the Mosaic period to the establishment of the people in the Promised Land, their infidelities and identity dissolution under the judges and ultimately the establishment of the monarchy. Some scholars place Deuteronomy in with these books as the first of the series, but not all agree. The introductory note in the Jerusalem Bible says that in “their final form . . .these books are the product of a school, of a number of devout men profoundly influenced by the outlook of Deuteronomy, men who meditated on the history of their nation and extracted a religious lesson from it.  At the same time they have handed on not only an account of the outstanding events in the history of Israel but also traditions or texts that date back to the heroic age of the Conquest” (268). The events described probably occurred, to the extent they are genuinely historical, around the last thirty years of the 13th c. BC.  The conquest is a simplified picture of a very complex history.

Joshua 1 - The book starts with the Israelites preparing to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land.  The borders are meant to be from the mountains of Lebanon on the north to the desert of Zin on the South, from the Euphrates on the East to the Great Sea on the West.  “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you,” the Lord promises him (1:5).

The Lord warns them through Joshua of the importance of being firm and steadfast in observance of the law: “This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it.  For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful” (1:8).
The Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manasseh will leave their dependents behind east of the Jordan, but the men will go and help their brother tribes win the land to the west and then return.  They all promise to obey Joshua.

Joshua 2 – A Jerusalem Bible note says chapters 2 through 9 are a collection of traditions from the Benjaminite shrine at Gilgal and have no literary relationship with those found in the first 4 books of the Pentateuch. The first military act is to send spies into the land to reconnoiter. They are sheltered by a “harlot” named Rehab.  The fact that she is called a harlot may have designated only that she let rooms or kept an inn, but of course it might have meant that she was in fact a harlot and the men went to her presumably to escape detection.  She lies for them to the local authorities and exacts from them a promise that she and her household will be spared when the Israelites enter the land. She must tie a crimson cord in the window to mark her house (2:18).

Reflection:  While the Lord promises to fight our fights and protect us from our enemies, we too must be held to account for the zeal to which we cling to his precepts and guidance.  We too must be careful not to veer to the right or to the left, but stay close to our guide and mainstay.  And here too we see that the Lord’s work often depends on the simple rectitude of those whom society does not esteem.  The salvation story is built upon the weak, the outcast, the peripheral.  It is not the strength of people in the eyes of society that makes them strong in the Lord, but simple adherence to his way.

Origen (185-254 AD)
De Principiis (First Principles)
Book II - On Christ
3 – “Now, in the same way in which we have understood that Wisdom was the beginning of the ways of God, and is said to be created, forming beforehand and containing within herself the species and beginnings of all creatures, must we understand her to be the Word of God, because of her disclosing to all other beings, i.e., to universal creation, the nature of the mysteries and secrets which are contained within the divine wisdom; and on this account she is called the Word, because she is, as it were, the interpreter of the secrets of the mind.” He refers to the beautiful words of John’s Gospel.

4 – The Son “is also the truth and life of all things which exist . . . For how could those things which were created live, unless they derived their being from life? Or how could those things which are, truly exist, unless they came down from the truth? Or how could rational beings exist, unless the Word or reason had previously existed? . . . But since it was to come to past that some also should fall away from life, and bring death upon themselves by their declension—for death is nothing else than a departure from life—and as it was not to follow that those beings which had once been created by God for the enjoyment of life should utterly perish, it was necessary that, before death, there should be in existence such a power as would destroy the coming death, and that there should be a resurrection, the type of which was in our Lord and Savior, and that this resurrection should have its ground in the wisdom and word and life of God.”

“[S]ince some of those who were created were not to be always willing to remain unchangeable and unalterable in the calm and moderate enjoyment of the blessings which they possessed, but, in consequence of the good which was in them being theirs not by nature or essence, but by accident, were to be perverted and changed, and to fall away from their position, therefore was the Word and Wisdom of God made the Way. And it was so termed because it leads to the Father those who walk along it.”

So whatever be have predicated about the Wisdom of God will also be “applied and understood of the Son of God, in virtue of His being the Life, and the Word, and the Truth and the Resurrection . . .” and none of these titles refer to anything corporeal.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Numbers 35-36 and Origen's De Principiis: Book Two 1-2

Numbers 35 - Cities are set aside for the Levites who have no allotment of land.  Six cities are established as cities of asylum where homicides can take refuge.  In addition there are 42 other cities together with pastureland.  The land is to be ceded by the other tribes in accordance with the size of their respective allotments. The deal with the cities of asylum is that homicides shall not be subject to blood vengeance (by the family of the victim) “unless he is first tried before the community” (35:12).  Not only Israelites, but aliens and transients are also allowed to take refuge there.

The chapter then goes on to discuss the differentiation of crimes.  In general if a person kills another with a deadly weapon an avenger of blood (presumably a relative) may put the perpetrator to death on sight.  Likewise if a person accidentally kills another person he has planned to injure (but not kill) he may be killed on sight.  But if a man accidentally causes another’s death and there is no enmity then the community shall decide the case in accordance with certain principles: he shall be taken to the city of refuge and stay there until the death of the high pries.  If the homicide leaves the city on his own accord and is found by the avenger, he may be killed.  

Only after the death of the high priest (?) may the homicide leave without fear.  The evidence of one witness is insufficient for putting any person to death.  And no money payment shall be permitted to suffice as a punishment for a murder.  The perpetrator must be put to death.  “Since bloodshed desecrates the land, the land can have no atonement for the blood shed on it except through the blood of him who shed it” (35:33).
Numbers 36 - This chapter deals with the need to sort out how land bequeathed to women is to be handled when they marry. Moses settles it by requiring such heiresses to marry someone belonging to a clan of her ancestral tribe so that the heritage will stay with the tribe. This basically nullifies what was decided in 27 since women who inherit property must marry within the clan of their ancestors.

Origen (185-254 AD)
De Principiis (First Principles)
Book II - On Christ
1 – “In the first place, we must note that the nature of that deity which is in Christ in respect of His being the only-begotten Son of God is one thing, and that human nature which He assumed in these last times for the purposes of the dispensation (of grace) is another.”

He is called by various names: “He is termed Wisdom, according to the expression of Solomon: ‘The Lord created me—the beginning of His ways, and among His works, before He made any other thing; He founded me before the ages. In the beginning, before He formed the earth, before He brought forth the fountains of waters, before the mountains were made strong, before all the hills, He brought me forth.’” [Proverbs 8:22-25]

Paul calls Him the “first-born of every creature” in Colossians 1:15 and in 1 Corinthians 1:24, “the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

2 – We in no way mean to imagine in as anything “impersonal” by calling him God’s “Wisdom” – The “only-begotten Son of God is His wisdom hypostatically existing . . .” [substance or essence underlying all reality].

“Wherefore we have always held that God is the Father of His only-begotten Son, who was born indeed of Him, and derives from Him what He is, but without any beginning, not only such as may be measured by any divisions of time, but even that which the mind alone can contemplate within itself, or behold, so to speak, with the naked powers of the understanding. And therefore we must believe that Wisdom was generated before any beginning that can be either comprehended or expressed.”

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Numbers 33-34 and Origen's De Principiis: Book One: 8-9

Numbers 33 - Recounts in detail the route the Israelites take into the Promised Land and the division of that land: Egypt to Sinai (42 stations in all).

Sinai to Kadesh; then Mt. Hor to Ezion-geber; and finally, Ezion-geber to the Plains of Moab.   Moses tells the people when they enter the lands the Lord is giving them and destroy the stone figures and images of the people whose land they will be taking.  “[I]f you fail to drive out the people who live in the land, those who remain will be like splinters in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will harass you in the land where you live. And I will do to you what I had planned to do to them (33:55-56).

Numbers 34 - The boundaries of the land are to run on the south along the border of Edom and run up the east beginning at the Salt Sea.  The western boundary will be the Mediterranean, or Great Sea and on the north a line from the Great Sea to Mt. Hor and onward touching upon several other northern points not shown on the map.

Eleazar and Joshua are to divide the land among the tribes of Israel. The leaders of the tribes are named.

Origen (185-254 AD)
De Principiis (First Principles)
Book One
8 – For those who seek to be instructed by the Holy Scriptures, Origen points out what the Scripture says about how we are to understand the “nature of Christ. Citing Colossians 1:15, he quotes Paul saying “’He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature.’” The New Living Translation is even better for Origen’s purposes: “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.”

Origen insists it is not the “nature of God” that is visible in Christ. He would argue that God is simply not “visible” – not even to His only Begotten Son. There is a difference between being seen and being “known.” “It is one thing to see, and another to know: to see and to be seen is a property of bodies; to know and to be known, an attribute of intellectual being. Whatever, therefore, is a property of bodies, cannot be predicated wither of the Father or of the Son; but what belongs to the nature of deity is common to the Father and the Son. Finally, even He Himself, in the Gospel, did not say that no one has seen the Father, save the Son, nor any one the Son, save the Father; but His words are: ‘No one knoweth the Son, save the Father; nor any one the Father, save the Son.’”

9 – “Here, if anyone lay before us the passage where it is said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,’ from that very passage, in my opinion, will our position derive additional strength; for what else is seeing God in heart, but, according to our exposition as above, understanding and knowing Him with the mind? For the names of the organs of sense are frequently applied to the soul, so that it may be said to see with the eyes of the heart, i.e., to perform an intellectual act by means of the power of intelligence.”

“By this divine sense, therefore, not of the eyes, but of a pure heart, which is the mind, God may be seen by those who are worthy. For you will certainly find in all the Scriptures, both old and new, the term ‘heart’ repeatedly used instead of ‘mind,’ i.e. intellectual power. In this manner, therefor, although far below the dignity of the subject, have we spoken of the nature of God, as those who understand it under the limitation of the human understanding. In the next place, let us see that is meant by the name of Christ.”

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Numbers 31-32 and Origen's De Principiis: Book One - 6-7

Numbers 31 - Twelve thousand men, 1000 from each of the tribes, are sent out by Moses to attack the Midianites and execute vengeance upon them in the name of the Lord.  Phinehas is the priest of the campaign. 

Every male is killed, plus five kings, and Balaam--women and children are taken captive along with other booty.  They are taken to Moses at his camp on the plains of Moab.  Moses becomes angry with the officers for their having spared the lives of the women, “the very ones who on Balaam’s advice prompted the unfaithfulness of the Israelites toward the Lord in the Peor affair, which began the slaughter of the Lord’s community” (31:16). As a result, all the male children and all women not virgins are also slain. It doesn’t get much grimmer than this in the Old Testament narrative.

Then the Israelites are instructed on purifying themselves, their clothes and all their tools, weapons etc.  Whatever can stand the fire is to be purified in the fire.  Whatever cannot be purified by burning is purified in lustral water.  These are the constant modes of purification throughout the scriptures. The booty is divided and a tax levied on the warriors’ share.  One out of every 500 people, beasts, oxen, etc. are offered to Eleazar as a contribution to God.

Numbers 32 - In this chapter, the Gadites and Reubenites request Moses to permit them to stay on the east side of the Jordan where the grazing land is good. [They were shepherds] At first Moses rebukes them for discouraging the people from going over into the land God has given them.  But then it is proposed that they just leave their families here but the men will continue on to help the people as a whole claim the land and they promise not to return until all the Israelites are in possession of the promised land.  So Moses agrees.

Origen (185-254 AD)
De Principiis (First Principles)
Book One
6 – Origen makes another comparison. “Our eyes frequently cannot look upon the nature of the light itself—that is, upon the substance of the sun; but when we behold his splendor or his rays pouring in, perhaps, through windows or some small openings to admit the light, we can reflect how great is the supply and source of the light of the body. So, in like manner, the works of Divine Providence and the plan of this whole world are a sort of ray, as it were, of the nature of God, in comparison with His real substance and being. As, therefore, our understanding is unable of itself to behold God Himself as He is, it knows the Father of the world from the beauty of His works and the comeliness of His creatures. God, therefore, in not to be thought of as being either a body or as existing in a body, but as an uncompounded intellectual nature . . . mind, for its movements or operations, needs no physical space, nor sensible magnitude, nor bodily shape, nor color, nor any other of those adjuncts which are the properties of body or matter.”

He refers to the “simplicity of the divine nature” – uncomplicated by any mix of matter or components of any kind.

7 – Origen delves thoroughly into his analysis of the nature of “the mind.”  We are still at a loss to explain the powers and special qualities of the human mind. It will be very interesting to see what comes of the recent initiative to study the human brain in a manner as thorough as our study of human DNA. Origen would have a problem embedding “mind” in the brain; but my sense of its rootedness in the brain is not something that will undermine the tenets of Christianity as I see them. Christ’s incarnation itself is a testimony to the union of physical and divine.

“I wish [those who see mind and soul as somehow “bodily”] would tell me . . . how it receives reasons and assertions on subjects of such importance—of such difficulty and such subtlety? Whence does it derive the power of memory? And whence comes the contemplation of invisible things? How does the body possess the faculty of understanding incorporeal existences? . . . How is it able to perceive and understand divine truths, which are manifestly incorporeal?”