Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Daily Old Testament: 2 Maccabees 4 and My Own Article on "Friends' Testimonies" (Part 1)

2 Maccabees 4 – After Seleucus’ death, Antiochus Epiphanes succeeds to the kingdom, and Onias’ brother Jason usurps the high-priesthood. He is a Hellenizer – loves the athletic aspects of Greek culture and builds a gymnasium right near the Temple. Like American music and culture today, Greek culture at this time was a BIG DRAW to people, especially young people of the time. Just imagine how difficult it would have been to keep the youth of this “identity marked” culture from being swept up into the Hellenistic aura.

Apollonius, an agent of Antiochus, is sent to Egypt to attend the enthronement of the new Ptolemy – King Philometor. He learns that there might be some plot against him emanating from there. So he goes to Jerusalem, where he is given a warm welcome by Jason, and then on to Phoenicia.

Jason sends Menelaus, Simon’s brother to the king, but Menelaus succeeds in usurping the high priesthood from Jason – it is a matter of who will pay off the king better, I think. When Menelaus defaults on the amount promised, he is sent for and leaves Lysimachus as his deputy. There is too much conspiring to keep close track of, but Menelaus finally has Onias killed.

The king, Antiochus, punishes the assassin with death. The populace rises up against Lysimachus. Menelaus is put on trial but through bribery and the help of Ptolemy, he is let off while those who had championed the good of the city are punished. I don’t understand all of this. Too much intrigue.

The next bit of my own writing I am going to post as New Testament related is part of the book I published called Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism. This will likely continue until the end of the year, when the Daily Bible Reading will officially be ended. Then I’ll have to think of something new and different.

“Friends’ Testimonies”
Part 1
The radically inward New Covenant theology of early Friends brought forth among them a whole different way of pursuing the Christian life, a unique testimony that was and continues to be deeply meaningful to me. The central principle of Quaker spirituality was the mandate to “possess” what Christians had always “professed” and to possess it with sincerity of heart.

As Fox wrote to his followers, “I do charge you all in the presence of the living God to dwell in what you speak and profess. None to profess what he does not dwell in and none to profess what he is not; a sayer, and not a doer” (Fox, Letters 33).

Friends’ success in doing this over the years has inspired respect for them among people everywhere, even people who know little about them. Their reputation for integrity and spiritual earnestness continues to this day. Modern Friends, even when they do not know or care much about what the earliest Friends thought theologically, respect the “testimonies”  they brought forth, among them simplicity, integrity, plain-speaking, equality of persons and the peace testimony. It is these testimonies that draw new attenders and members to the Society of Friends. It is what drew me in the years before my convincement. But the testimonies that have come down are not quite what they once were. They are not rooted in the same vision. In a way they have come down as “forms”, as venerated customs or patterns of Quaker practice that seem beyond question. In this chapter I want to focus on the testimonies, the way early Friends “possessed” what they “professed”, how they have come down to the modern era and how and to what extent they were meaningful to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment