Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Judges 8:4-35 and Origen's De Principiis: Book VII (2-3)

Judges 8:4-35 - On the way through Succoth (pursuing the remaining Midianite kings—Zebah and Zalmunna), Gideon asks the people to feed his men, but they refuse.  Then the people of Penuel deny them too.  Gideon vows to return and punish them for their unwillingness to help.

Gideon finally defeats the last two, he returns and exacts the revenge he has promised on the leaders of Succoth and Penuel. 

Then he tells the kings he wouldn’t kill them had they not killed his brothers.  He gives his son Jether the task of killing the two kings, but he hesitates; he’s just a boy.  The kings tell Gideon to be a man and do it himself. He does and takes “the royal ornaments from the necks of their camels” (8:21).        

The Israelites ask Gideon to rule over them, but not just him—his son and grandson as well.  The Israelites are asking him to be their kingthe first time they suggest monarchy to one of the judges. Gideon refuses “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you” (8:23). This is the first time this problem is articulated.  The Israelites want a king, but the core of their identity as a people is acceptance of God’s kingship over them.  This will continue to be a tension throughout their later history.

Gideon collects an earring (from the booty they have gained) from each of his men; he makes an ephod with them and puts it in Ophrah, his town. It becomes an object of worship. All “Israel prostituted themselves to it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family” (8:27). There are 40 years of rest.

Gideon has 70 sons.  He also had a child by a concubine—Abimelech.  When Gideon dies, the people relapse into idolatry.

Origen (185-254 AD)
De Principiis (First Principles)
Chapter VII – On Incorporeal and Corporeal Beings
4 – Origen gets into the issue of whether beings that possess “life and reason, were endowed with a soul along with their bodies at the time of creation, “when ‘God made two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night, and the stars also’ or whether their spirit was implanted in them, not at the creation of their bodies, but from without, after they had been already made.” He’s not talking about human beings here; he’s into the question of the “heavenly beings” and I believe he is including not only principalities and powers but the sun, moon and stars!

He suspects the implanting of spirit into them occurred “from without” but he want to look into what Scripture says about it. He refers to the passage that says John (the Baptist) “leapt in his mother’s womb, and exulted because the voice of the salutation of Mary had come to the ears of his mother Elisabeth.” I confess that Origen completely loses me here. Not only do I not understand exactly what he is saying, I have trouble grasping what the importance is of this subject of inquiry.

5 – He quotes a famous passage from Paul’s epistle to the Romans:

Now if [I] do what I do not want, it is no long I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.  For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle that was with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Miserable on that I am!” (7:20-24)

How are we delivered from the “bondage of corruption” which Origen sees rooted in “the body” – our “corporeal nature”??

The sun, moon and stars also are corporeal. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, says “all is vanity” and everything in the created world looks for renewal and redemption – newness of being – those are my words, trying to get at what I think he’s saying.

He asks “what is the freedom of the creature, or the termination of its bondage. When Christ shall have delivered up the kingdom to God. . . then also those living things, when they shall have first been made the kingdom of Christ, shall be delivered, along with the whole of that kingdom, to the rule of the Father, that when God shall be all in all, they also, since they are a part of all things, may have God in themselves, as He is in all things.”

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