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.

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