Friday, May 3, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Leviticus 24-25 and Irenaeus Selections

Leviticus 24 –A perpetual flame of olive oil shall burn regularly in the lamp-stand of the sanctuary.  “It shall burn there before YHWH from evening to morning continually. This is a perpetual law for your descendants: Aaron is to see to the lamps on the pure lamp-stand before YHWH, continually” (24:3-4).

Showbread of fine flour shall be baked into twelve cakes and put in two piles on the gold table that stands before YHWH (24:6). On each row, there must be frankincense. They are to be set out fresh each Sabbath, and they shall be eaten by Aaron and his sons in a holy place (24:9).
A story is told about a man “whose mother was an Israelite woman and whose father was an Egyptian” 24:10). He got into a quarrel with an Israelite and “blasphemed the name and curse it” (24:11). Moses meditated on what to do and “YHWH spoke to Moses” (24:13) and instructed him to have the man taken outside the camp and killed – stoned to death (24:16). This precedent becomes a law: blasphemers are to be stoned by everyone in the community after everyone who heard him lays hands on his head.
Murderers are to die too; killers of animals must make restitution. “Limb for limb, eye for eye, tooth for tooth! The same injury that a man gives another shall be inflicted on him in return” (24:19-20)—everyone, alien and Israelite alike—is to be treated the same.

Leviticus 25The land too is to keep a Sabbath for the Lord.  Sow fields for six years, but in the seventh, the land should rest, leaving the after-growth to be eaten by anyone.
The Jubilee year comes after 7 times 7 years.  On the 10th day of 7th month, let the trumpet sound. “You shall make [this 50th year] sacred by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants” (25:10). There shall be no sowing, nor reaping the after-growth except directly from fields and vines.  Return to your own property, and let there be no unfair dealing in repurchasing lands transferred during the preceding 50 years.  No lands shall be alienated in perpetuity, except in walled towns. No kinsmen may be slaves.  Alien slaves may be bought and sold, but you must not ‘lord it over them” harshly.

Irenaeus (c. 180)
Selections from the Work Against Heresies
The Faith of the Church
10 – Irenaeus’ words are so to the point, it is hard not to just write every word out, so there will be a lot of quoting.

“Now the Church, although scattered over the whole civilized world to the end of the earth, received from the apostles and their disciples its faith in one God, the Father Almighty, who made the heaven, and the earth, and the seas, and all that is in them, and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation, and in the Holy Spirit, who through the prophets proclaimed the dispensations of God—the comings, the birth of a virgin, the suffering, the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily reception into the heavens of the beloved, Christ Jesus our Lord, and his coming from the heavens in the glory of the Father to restore all things, and to raise up all flesh, that is, the whole human race, so that every knee may bow, of things in heaven and on earth and under the earth, to Christ Jesus our Lord and God and Savior and King, according to the pleasure of the invisible Father, and every tongue may confess him, and that he may execute righteous judgment on all.”

The power of wickedness and the “angels who transgress and fell into apostasy, and the godless and wicked and lawless and blasphemers among men he will send into the eternal firs. But to the righteous and holy, and those who have kept his commandments and have remained in his love, some from the beginning [of life] and some since their repentance, he will by his grace give life incorrupt, and will clothe them with eternal glory.”

“Having received this preaching and this faith, as I have said, the Church, although scattered in the whole world, carefully preserves it, as if living in one house. She believes these things [everywhere] alike, as if she had but one heart and one soul, and preaches them harmoniously, teaches them, and hands them down, as if she had but one mouth.”

The languages of the world may be varied, but the message of the Church is the same wherever the faithful are.

It is true that some have more understanding than others of the basic idea, and can articulate it better, but the “faith is one and the same, [and] he who can say much about it does not add to it, nor does he who can say little diminish it.”

He addresses the mistaken view of the Gnostics who “imagine another God above [what they call] the Demiurge and Maker and Nourisher of this universe, as if he were not enough for us.” What the Gnostics called the Demiurge was the Old Testament Creator-God depicted in Genesis. They thought that the narrative of God that in so many ways personifies or “humanizes” him could never really be the eternal and fathomless deity they imagined God to be. But Irenaeus thinks they just don’t get the complex truth of the Old Testament narrative.

“[I]t consists in working out the things that have been said in parables, and building them into the foundation of the faith: in expounding the activity and dispensation of God for the sake of mankind; in showing clearly how God was long-suffering over the apostasy of the angels who transgressed, and over the disobedience of men; in declaring why one and the same God made some things subject to time, others eternal, some heavenly, and some earthly; in understanding why God, being invisible, appeared to the prophets, not in one form, but differently to different ones; in showing why there were a number of covenants with mankind, and in teaching what is the character of each of the covenants; in searching out why God shut up all in disobedience that he might have mercy on all; in giving thanks that the Word of God was made flesh, and suffered; in declaring why the coming of the Son of God [was] at the last times, that is, the Beginning was made manifest at the end; in unfolding what is found in the prophets about the end and the things to come; in not being silent that God has made the despaired-of Gentiles fellow heirs and of the same body and partners with the saints . . .”

He ends the section with discussion of terms that modern people are completely ignorant of – I was at least. Aeons and Pleroma. Gnostics believed that Aeons [30 of them] were emanations from the Pleroma, which is the fullness of the highest God. Irenaeus’ goal in most of his writings was to refute the claims of the Gnostics, so there will be a lot of very detailed discussion of their ideas, most of which I have only the lamest understanding of. I am hoping I will not have to go too deeply into these details. I am just looking forward to his explanation of the apostolic message that he embraced.

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