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.

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