Saturday, September 7, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 2 Chronicles 16-17 and Augustine's Treatise on Profit of Believing 20

2 Chronicles 16 - In Asa’s 36th year, King Baasha of Israel comes against him, building Ramah (just north of Jerusalem) to prevent anyone from going in or coming out of Judah.

Asa sends treasure to Ben-had of Damascus (Aram) so he will break his alliance with Baasha and help him. This works—the Aramaeans attack cities in Israel and Baasha stops building Ramah. Asa takes the lumber Baasha was using there to build Geba and Mizpah (north of Ramah).

Hanani, a seer, comes to Asa to complain, saying he should not have relied on Aram but on God. He reminds him of the victory he had over the Ethiopians. Hanani’s reproof of Asa is not in Kings—this text is more sharply prophetic. The “eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him” (16:9). This lack of faith will bring him more war. Asa gets angry and puts the seer in prison, in the stocks, and he inflicts cruelties on others as well. He becomes diseased in his feet. Again he seeks help from physicians, not God. He dies and is buried.

2 Chronicles 17 – Asa’s son Jehoshaphat succeeds him. He puts forces in all the fortified cities. The Lord is with him “because he walked in the earlier ways of his father; he did not seek the Baals, . . .” (17:3). “His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord; and furthermore he removed the high places and the sacred poles from Judah” (17:6). 1 Kings 43 disagrees here.

He sends out a group of officials “to teach” the people the Law. “The fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands around Judah, and they did not make war against Jehosphaphat” (17:10).

He got tribute from Philistines and Arabs; he built fortresses, storage cities and carried out great works (17:12-13). His commanders are listed: Adnah, Hehohanan, Amasiah; Eliada, Jehozabad.

Augustine’s Treatise on the Profit of Believing
20 - Having then laid down these principles, which, as I think, are so just that I ought to win this cause before you, let who will be my adversary, I will set forth to you, as I am able, what way I followed, when I was searching after true religion in that spirit, in which I have now set forth that it ought to be sought. For upon leaving you and crossing the sea, now delaying and hesitating, what I ought to hold, what to let go; which delay rose upon me every day the more, from the time that I was a hearer of that man, whose coming was promised to us, as you know, as if from heaven, to explain all things which moved us, and found him, with the exception of a certain eloquence, such as the rest; being now settled in Italy, I reasoned and deliberated greatly with myself, not whether I should continue in that sect, into which I was sorry that I had fallen, but in what way I was to find the truth, my sighs through love of which are known to no one better than to yourself. Often it seemed to me that it could not be found, and huge waves of my thoughts would roll toward deciding in favor of the Academics. Often again, with what power I had, looking into the human soul, with so much life, with so much intelligence, with so much clearness, I thought that the truth lay not hid, save that in it the way of search lay hid, and that this same way must be taken from some divine authority.

It remained to enquire what was that authority, wherein so great dissensions each promised that he would deliver it. Thus there met me a wood, out of which there was no way, which I was very loath to be involved in: and amid these things, without any rest, my mind was agitated through desire of finding the truth. However, I continued to unsew myself more and more from those whom now I had proposed to leave. But there remained nothing else, in so great dangers, than with words full of tears and sorrow to entreat the Divine Providence to help me. And this I was content to do: and now certain disputations of the Bishop of Milan had almost moved me to desire, not without some hope, to enquire into many things concerning the Old Testament itself, which, as you know, we used to view as accursed, having been ill commended to us. And I had decided to be a Catechumen in the Church, unto which I had been delivered by my parents, until such time as I should either find what I wished, or should persuade myself that it needed not to be sought.

Therefore had there been one who could teach me, he would find me at a very critical moment most fervently disposed and very apt to learn. If you see that you too have been long affected in this way, therefore, and with a like care for your soul, and if now you seem to yourself to have been tossed to and fro enough, and wish to put an end to labors of this kind, follow the pathway of Catholic teaching, which has flowed down from Christ Himself through the Apostles even unto us, and will hereafter flow down to posterity.

I find this an interesting section because in some ways it seems so modern. Augustine is trying to explain to his friend why when it comes to divine truth, you cannot simply go your own way. You have to rely on authority in some way and trust that others, whose lives are being lived in ways you see as worthy, may have a wisdom that you too can accept. It is especially interesting to see that Augustine’s parents were so “modern-like” in the way they placed him in the church and were ready to accept that he himself should either find what he needed there or ultimately decide that he didn’t need what was taught there.

Because I have had difficulty understanding exactly what Augustine is saying sometimes, I sought out help on the internet – a great blessing! And I found a very clever UTube posted by a philosophy professor (teacher). It is very helpful if you want to check it out:

It doesn’t go into the trust Augustine finally placed in the “Catholic” Church – a term not used then as we use it today but as the more universal teaching and authority structure Christians had in those days. His use of the term definitely lead to the church that is called that today though.

No comments:

Post a Comment