Thursday, October 24, 2013

Daily Old Testament: 2 Maccabees 11 and My Own Article on "Friends' Testimonies" (Part 9)

2 Maccabees 11 – Lysias, the brother of Antiochus [a new fact about him here introduced] and head of the government, wants Jerusalem to be a city amenable to those who love Greek culture. He also wants the good old days back when they taxed the Temple, sold the high priesthood of the Jews for lots of money and basically ignored the will of God for the city.

“Lysias was so pleased with his tens of thousands of infantry, his thousands of cavalry, and his eighty elephants that he failed to take into account the power of God” (11:4). He invades Judea and attacks a fort about 19 miles south of Jerusalem.

Judas Maccabaeus urges men to join him in going to defend their fellow Jews, but not far from Jerusalem, “they noticed that they were being led by a horseman dressed in white and carrying gold weapons” (11:8). They see him as an angel or celestial man God has sent to help rout their enemy. They “charge into the enemy like lions, killing 11,000 infantry and 1,600 cavalry, and forcing the rest to run for their lives” (11:11).

This is in 164 BC. After this, Lysias sends an offer of reconciliation and Judas agrees to the proposals he makes. A letter from the king promises the Jews independence in cultural and religious matters. The Romans also send a letter agreeing with the terms of the agreement made between the Seleucid king and the Jews.

“Friends’ Testimonies”
Part 9
Equality of Persons
Early Friends’ testimony on the equality and worth of all men and women is another fruit of Friends’ faith from the beginning. But again the basis of this testimony has shifted over the years. Early Friends saw the equality of the sexes as something that flowed from the “restoration” Christ had brought to pass on earth. God had never intended men and women to be unequal (Gen. 1:26-27 and Gen. 2:18). The subordination of women to men had arisen in the fall (Gen. 3:16); but with the fall overcome in Christ, the subordination of women was meant to cease.

. . . man and woman were meet-helps [companions and helpers to one another] (before they fell) and the image of God and righteousness and holiness; and so they are to be again in the restoration by Christ Jesus” (Fox, Journal, 667).

The restoration came with Christ, with the institution of the New Covenant and the outpouring of his Spirit that had come at Pentecost. Again, Fox pointed to Peter’s first address to the people of Jerusalem, a speech I have already quoted in my discussion of early Friends’ theology. Christ’s coming was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy that God’s Spirit would be poured out on all flesh. “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy . . ..Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18).

As women converts came into the life and power of Christ as Friends, they too began to preach and prophesy. Fox defended them in an England that saw this as an affront to proper church order. As to the admonitions against women preaching in Paul’s letter to Timothy (1 Tim. 2:12), Fox developed complex arguments to reconcile his views. He never doubted that women had a right and a duty to respond to Christ’s call in them to preach, teach, or prophesy. Women played a vital role in the building of the early Quaker movement. Many preached and some even traveled to the far ends of the earth to proclaim the gospel Friends were preaching. One woman, May Dyer, died as a martyr for responding to that call—hanged by the Puritans of Massachusetts in 1660 along with three Quaker men called to the same ministry.

It was this same sense of what life “in the restoration by Christ Jesus” was to be that shaped the Friends’ wedding ceremony. Just as God had joined Adam and Eve together without the mediation of any other human being, so Friends too believed it should be among them. Friends who desired to marry were not joined by any minister or officiating elder or clerk of the Meeting. They simply met in a Meeting for Worship and stood in the group to exchange their promises to love and care for the other, “with divine assistance.”

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