Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Daily Old Testament: Nehemiah 11 and My Own Article on "FGenesis and John" (Part 1)

Nehemiah 11- The leaders of the people are now living in Jerusalem. “A tenth of the people from the other towns of Judah and Benjamin were chosen by sacred lots to live there, too, while the rest stayed where they were” (11:1). Most of them stayed where they were.

The representatives of the different groups are named-—Judahites, Benjaminites, Priests, Levites, gatekeepers, an overseer of the Levites, and others. The responsibilities of each “were carried out according tot the terms of a royal command” (11:23). It tells the other villages where people settled as well. The people of Judah “were living all the way from Beersheba in the south to the valley of Hinnom” (11:30).

“Genesis and John”
Part 1
I have done a lot of thinking about the connection between Genesis and the Gospel of John in the past. Among Friends, the Gospel of John has always been referred to as the “Quaker Gospel” – its use of the concepts of Light and Word are part of the deepest Christology of the gospel writers. But the “openings” I am writing about here came about as a result of a steady interest in both of these books during 2012. I was leading a Bible study at our local Monthly Meeting and we were working on Genesis, but also I was also part of an adult study group at my local Catholic Church and there we were doing the Gospel of John all winter. It was there I experienced one of those Quaker moments when I suddenly SAW something in the writings I hadn’t seen before, or hadn’t seen so deeply or powerfully. We were going over the last words of Jesus on the cross as told in John, and I began to see something I really hadn't seen before. Some things came together for me - some Quaker, some Catholic - a volatile mix. But it was an "opening" for me, a powerful one, so I thought I'd write about it.

We all know the Genesis story starts with words that were very central to the author of John: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” and the first thing created is “the light” – in John’s prologue, he says “In the beginning was the Word,” the Christ, the Seed of God. How did that concept come into the story – the Seed? I comes from Genesis 3:15, a passage that has been seen by Christians from the earliest days as prophetic. It comes after Adam and Eve have disobeyed God’s command not to eat the fruit of the “knowledge of good and evil”; God has told them that there will be consequences of that disobedience, and those consequences shall be difficult to live with: the snake will grovel on its belly; there will be enmity between the serpent and the woman, between the woman and the man and the work of man will be pointless and his life nothing more than dust. But there is also a few words that were seen as a promise of hope. In 3:15 these words appear, that one day the "Seed" [Offspring] of "the woman" would "bruise the head" of the serpent [evil power that alienates man from his creator].

For Fox and early Friends, this idea of the Seed - Christ, the Light and Word of God - meant that the power of evil over us was dashed in a fundamental way. Christ was the "Second Adam" – a faithful Adam, one that would give a new hope that man’s destiny was not to be “fallen” forever.

“And when I myself was in the deep, under all shut up, I could not believe that I should ever overcome; my troubles, my sorrows, and my temptations were so great, that I thought many times I should have despaired, I was so tempted. But when Christ opened to me how he was tempted by the same Devil, and had overcome him and bruised his head, and that through him and his power, light, grace and spirit, I should overcome also, I had confidence in him” (Fox’s Journal 12).

AND again:

“Now was I come up in spirit through the flaming sword into the paradise of God. All things were new, and all the creation gave another smell unto me than before, beyond what words can utter. I knew nothing but pureness, and innocency, and righteousness, being renewed up into the image of God by Christ Jesus, so that I say I was come up to the state of Adam which he was in before he fell . . . I was immediately taken up in spirit, to see into another or more steadfast state than Adam’s in innocency, even into a state in Christ Jesus, that should never fall. And the Lord showed me that such as were faithful to him in the power and light of Christ, should come up into that state in which Adam was before he fell, in which the admirable works of the creation, and the virtues thereof, may be known, through the openings of that divine Word of wisdom and power by which they were made” (27).

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