Friday, May 10, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Numbers 14-15 and Irenaeus Selections: Doctrine of Redemption in Reply to the Gnostics

Numbers 14 – The exaggerated reports of the scouts—that the Anakim are giants, etc—bring threats of revolt from the people.  Again they yearn for the old slavery: “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt. . .Why is the Lord bringing us into this land only to have us fall by the sword?” (14:2-3)

They even agitate to appoint another leader who will bring them back! What does Moses do? He (and Aaron) prostrate themselves before the community, reassure them that the land is good, and that if they will only do what the Lord has commanded, they will be settled on the land.  But the people only “threaten to stone them” (14:10). They are afraid to trust in God; the palpable dangers ahead are more real to them than the promises they hear through Moses. 

But then there is some manifestation of the Lord’s presence among them at the Meeting Tent and once again Moses must wrestle with God for His support!  God wants to abandon them, but Moses says to God, “Are the Egyptians to hear of this? . . . by your power you brought out this people from among them. . .If now you slay this whole people, the nations . . .will say, ‘The Lord was not able to bring this people into the land he swore to give them; that is why he slaughtered them in the desert’” (14:13-16) And he asks the Lord to pardon . . .the wickedness of this people in keeping with your great kindness, even as you have forgiven them from Egypt until now” (14:19). And He does—but he will not let anyone who deserted Him after having witnessed his saving presence see the land into which He is bringing the people; only Caleb will see it because he “has a different spirit and follows me unreservedly” (14:24). Joshua is also exempted.
For the present, however, the Lord tells them to turn away and set out on the Red Sea road. [This is great stuff here. I love it] Moses recounts all this to the people and they feel remorse; in their remorse, they disobey again—they go ahead with the assault rather than turning back temporarily—but they do not take the ark or Moses; this is equivalent to leaving God behind, so of course, they do not succeed.  The Amalakites and Canaanites defeat them and drive them back to Hormah (14:44-45).

Numbers 15 – Supplemental instructions are given on offerings to the Lord.  With every meat offering, there should also be a cereal offering and a libation. Also, the rules for aliens living amongst them is the same as for them (15:15).

Sin offerings for inadvertent violations are prescribed.  The main focus seems to be application of all regulations equally on Jews and aliens alike.  A Sabbath breaker is stoned. Schocken editors speculate that this could be here because it constitutes an individual act of rebellion.  And tassels are prescribed for the corners of Israeli garments to remind them of the commandments.

Irenaeus of Lyons (c.180 AD)
Selections from the Work Against Heresies
Book V – Redemption and the World to Come
Doctrine of Redemption in Reply to the Gnostics
2 – The Gnostic message that the Christ came into a world that His God had nothing to do with, in order to bring man to a god who neither made nor created him” is vain and wrong. And Jesus could not have redeemed us “by his blood if he had not been truly made man.”

“For since we are his members, and are nourished by [his] creation—and he himself gives us this creation, making the sun to rise, and sending the rain as he wills—he declares that the cup, [taken] from the creation, is his own blood, by which he strengthens our blood, and he has firmly assured us that the bread, [taken] from the creation, is his own body, by which our bodies grow. For when the mixed cup and the bread that has been prepared receive the Word of God, and become the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ, and by these our flesh grows and is confirmed, how can they say that flesh cannot receive the free gift of God, which is eternal life, since it is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and made a member of him?” This is pretty deep stuff. I don’t think most modern Christians appreciate how deeply intelligent people were two thousand years ago.

“And just as the wooden branch of the vine, placed in the earth, bears fruit in its own time—and as the grain of wheat, falling into the ground and there dissolved, rises with great increase by the Spirit of God, who sustains all things, and then by the wisdom of God serves for the use of men and when it receives the Word of God becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ—so also our bodies which are nourished by it, and then fall into the earth and are dissolved therein, shall rise at the proper time, the Word of God bestowing on them this rising again, to the glory of God the Father.”

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