Monday, May 6, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Numbers 6-8 and Irenaeus Selections: The Apostolic Tradition

Numbers 6Nazirite vows - nazir means “set apart as sacred, dedicated.” Those who take the vow may not drink wine or strong drink (anything from grapes). He may not cut his hair or enter where a dead person is—even family.  If someone dies suddenly in his presence he must cut his hair seven days after, bring two turtle doves or pigeons to the priest to offer as sin offering and holocaust and renew his vow.
When the period of dedication is over, he shall go to the Meeting Tent, bring a yearling lamb for a holocaust, and unblemished yearling ewe for a sin offering, a ram as a peace offering along with cereal offering and libations with unleavened cakes and wafers.  He shall then shave his head, collect his hair and put it in the fire that is under the peace offering.  He shall then take a part of each offering and give it to the priest.  Then he may drink wine again.
Moses passes on a priestly blessing from the Lord for Aaron and his sons to use: “The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.  The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace” (6:24-26).

Numbers 7 – The princes (“exalted leaders” in Schocken) of the twelve tribes present their gifts—six baggage (litter) wagons (one for every two princes) and twelve oxen to pull them (for transporting the Tent and everything). Then follows the individual offerings of individual princes for the dedication of the altar (7:88)—one each day--emphasizes the importance of the ceremony, but is repetitious. It describes the offerings and the sacrifices given by all the tribes over a period of twelve days.
Of special interest is Moses’ entrance into the Dwelling in verse 89 and his hearing of God’s voice speaking from the ark between the two cherubim that decorate the ark. As the prophet of the Lord, Moses has access to the voice of the Lord and it is to this voice that Moses continually resorts for guidance.

Numbers 8 – The setting up of the lampstand and purification of the Levites. Only the priests were “consecrated”—made sacred and set aside for the Lord. Purification meant being “sprinkle[d] with the water of remission [hattat or decontamination]” (8:7); then they must shave their whole body and wash their clothes; make a sin offering. When the community is assembled before the Meeting Tent, they shall “lay their hands” on the Levites before the Lord. 

The Levites themselves are a “wave offering” (elevation-offering) made on behalf of the people (8:11). Then the Levites lay their hands on the heads of the bulls – one a sin offering, the other a holocaust “in atonement for the Levites.”  Then they shall enter into service, as substitutes for all the first-born rightfully considered God’s - those saved in the passover.  They served from age 25 to age 50.

Irenaeus of Lyons (c.180 AD)
Selections from the Work Against Heresies
Book III – The Faith in Scripture and Tradition
The Apostolic Tradition
5 – Irenaeus begins his discourse with an examination of the Writings of “those apostles who recorded the gospel.”

These apostles did not “name any other being as God.” There is only One who is Lord of all. And they did not, as the Gnostics claim, “adjust their teaching to the capacity of their hearers, . . . telling blind fables to the blind according to their blindness, to the sick according to their sickness, and to those who were going astray according to their error, and to those who thought that the Demiurge was the only God declaring that this was the case, but to those who can understand the ineffable Father expounding the unspeakable mystery by parables and riddles.”

“The is not the behavior of those who heal and give life, but rather of those who aggravate disease and increase ignorance.” “The apostles were sent to find those who were lost, and to bring sight to those who did not see, and healing to the sick, and so they did not speak to them in accordance with their previous opinions but manifestation of the truth.”

The Lord “displayed the Son of God to those of the circumcision, the Christ who was predicted by the prophets—that is, he showed himself, who restored freedom to men and gave them the heritage of incorruption. Then the apostles taught the Gentiles that they should leave the vain sticks and stones which they thought of as gods, and worship the true God, who had established and made the whole human race, and by his ordinance nourished, increased, and preserved them, and gave them their being; and that they should look for his Son Jesus Christ—who redeemed us from the apostasy by his blood, that we also might be made a holy people—who is to come down from heaven in the power of the Father, and who is to execute judgment upon all, and give the good things that come from God to those who have kept his commandments.”

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