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.”

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