“The Gospel In a Pluralist Society”:Evaluating Newbigin’s Theology of Mission

Lesslie Newbigin was Moderator of the General ...
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Introduction

In the Western world, particularly in North America a movement, or what their leaders might call it a conversation, spun a large amount of excitement as well as an even bigger amount of criticism. In what is known as the Emergent Movement, words like postmodernism, pluralism, contextualization, deconstruction, and community became household words for young adults in America. Part of the reason is because there was a dissatisfaction with the modern church who seem to be ‘confident,’ all be it in a mean way, who largely viewed the bible in propositional basis as well as basing their apologetics on reasonable counter arguments that proposes Christianity to be more than just a blind faith induced religion. Thus the emergence of the Emergent Conversation was a breath of fresh air to somewhat deconstruct these belief systems.

But let it be known that, things ascribed to pluralism and living in a pluralist society is not something new in Asia. It is a dimension of reality that has always been the platform of living for Asians over the centuries. In fact, two of the major religions stem from Asia which is Buddhism and Hinduism. The reality of living in a pluralist society has always been a challenging reality in which Christians all over the world are facing at the moment. Mainly, the challenge has to be in how one should be able to live and share their faith with confidence in a diverse society.

This paper with seek to explore those realities by looking to ideas proposed by Lesslie Newbigin in “The Gospel in a Pluralist Society,” with special interest in his theology of mission of which we will seek to evaluate.

 

Assessing Lesslie Newbigin’s Theology of Mission

Newbigin’s wide experience and thinking warrants considerable praise from anyone that seeks to learn and gain perspective on views pertaining to having confidence in faith as well as the nerve to live and share it out to others.

In the preface of the book Newbigin tells us that the book was initially a compilation of lectures that he gave in “Glasgow University”[1] (x) in 1988 which is evident when reading through where he constantly repeats previous points in the new section of chapters.

This assessment of Newbigin’s theology of mission will be constructed based on how he lays out his chapters to which my assessment will cover on grounds of his (1) critique of pluralism, (2) the place of the Bible and Christian election in universal history and (3) the place of missions amidst pluralism.

1. Critique of Pluralism

Pluralism contends Newbigin, is a perceived ideology that people have come to “approve and cherish.”[2] This ideology prides itself in a realization that has come of age where it does not hold to be ruled by dogma but in freedom, scrutinizing every form of belief under the microscope.

With militant verve, proponents of pluralism have chartered the course for slaying anything that has on its onset the implication of harbouring a belief system which has the understanding that within it is the truth. On this Christianity suffers harsh attacks because of its negative stance against pluralism.

In dismantling the assumptions laden out by pluralists which range from the accusations that Christianity is rooted in a narrow acceptance of dogma, a baseless acquiring of facts and an understanding that assumes an uncritical mind that blindly bows under oppressive authority, Newbigin does a thorough check on these well held myths. Newbigin, in arguing for a more potent presentation of the Christian faith rubbishes these ideas by digging up the roots that has led to the idealization of these assumptions.

Beginning with humanism, which Newbigin asserts, has influenced Christianity negatively. Here he sees that Christianity has largely fallen prey to how the world has influenced even in their defence of faith. Tending on the ground of defending the faith under the understanding that it can do so in a reasonable manner, which he argues as ‘a tactical retreat,”[3] 3 where, chartering Christianity along these lines has eventually served to wound the faith in its defence, progress (evangelism), and sustainability.

The approach that Newbigin takes is not to play the game which starts out with rationalistic thinking but to deconstruct the system of thought that says that the belief that one has in Christianity cannot be something that one can regard as truth. Pluralism, in trying to compound truth, by elevating doubt, making distinctions between facts and beliefs, rubbishing authority and giving primacy to reason, its proponents itself are found playing the game that it is critiquing. They, though ideally pride themselves as the rational few who use their heads rather than heart in taking up facts, fail themselves being relativist because they are seen arguing their case and making it known that it is the only truth.[4]

This approach to me brings a hopeful understanding towards arguments that try to rubbish my faith as something irrational and narrow. It allows the Christian, in his or her faith to remain calm and composed rather than argumentative and defensive, where the old method of apologetics is minimised, and a more robust confidence is projected.

2. The place of the Bible and Christian Election in Universal History

Since we have looked in some detail concerning Newbigin’s critique of pluralism, we now come to the place where, according to him, lies the Christian understanding of how he or she sees the relationship between the place of biblical truth and Christian election in the area of universal history. If Christianity assumes that it has a message that Newbigin asserts as the “interpretation of the universal story”[5] then there must be a way of coming to grips with this confidence.

He sees the bible not in terms of facts but understood “as the interpretation of the story- the human story set within the story of nature.”[6] The tendency that comes to the fore of bringing the gospel message and proclaiming that it speaks of truth pertaining to the whole of human history is to find arguments that ask for a reasonable response to the claim. Newbigin agrees that this cannot be answered exhaustively by mere reason.

In trying to conjure explanations Newbigin asserts the Christian message being embedded as truth revealed to a given community.[7] But this does not necessitate that the community where truth is revealed holds with them a comfortable position of comfort and unconditional love but rather one that entails responsibility. Truth revealed is not truth to be withheld only among the community but something that is supposed to be shared out because of its universal implication.[8] Since Christ is revealed as the clue to history in that in him history is heading not in disarray but towards a hopeful future, one Christ has himself treaded along in suffering but triumphant in his journey.

One of the strengths of Newbigin even when he make strong statements concerning the bible as universal history is his insistence that believers who hold to this position do not have to crumble in the arguments made by those who would critique the facts of their conclusions. A Christian stance does not have to bow to reasoning criteria’s because they create their own the platform that designates a fundamentalist attitude. Rather the believer, if he thus believes that his template is true, expresses this truth by willingly communicating it to others without any boarders. This according to Newbigin is what images truth.[9]

On the area of how Newbigin understands the doctrine of Christian election, he explains the logic of election coming from the logic that is expressed in the arguments detailed above. Since revelation is not something that simply “down from above”[10] but something that is received from an elected messenger. He further elaborates this point, “There is no salvation except one in which we are saved together through the one whom God sends to be bearers of his salvation.”[11] For Newbigin, election is not a tight hand in which the Christian boast that they are the chosen ones, but, it is in conjunction of God’s mercy where Newbigin elaborates, “What he has done is to consign all men to disobedience in order that he may have mercy on all.”[12] This mercy then implies a responsibility upon those that were elected, not to sit on truth but to go out and share this truth. Entrusted to a particular community, which is where election steps in, it does not permit an understanding that sees election as a means of superiority. Rather, as stressed earlier, election is mercy shown to those elected, where in the first place condemnation was to befall upon all humanity.

3. The Place of Missions amidst Pluralism.

3.1.Reasons for mission?

In tackling this question Newbigin offers to set our perspective straight. Too many times, mission, he says which is primarily rooted “as obedience to a command.”[13] This way of thinking has put mission on the boarders of burden. Rather than this patterns of thought leading us, the logic of missions according to Newbigin lies not in the contention that it is merely a mandate that Christians undertake but, “an acted out doxology. That is its deepest secret. Its purpose is that God may be glorified.”[14] The outworking response of mission belonging to God ideally, “the true meaning of the human story has been disclosed” and because “it is the truth, it must be shared universally.”[15] This truth should be made known to anyone because it “cannot be private opinion.”[16] This in turn will giving them a chance to respond accordingly to the message.

 

3.2.The role of the community in mission

Reading Newbigin, one can see his constant emphasis on the church. It is in the community that the Christian message is embedded where they are the custodians of the message.[17] The question that we seek to answer concerning the church and mission here is pertaining to the question, “What is the role of the church in missions?

In chapter 11, Newbigin mainly covers the area in which Christians argue on what should take primal place in missions? Which one warrants special attention? For him, asking these sorts of questions is wrong. Rather than opting for which holds primacy for the community of believers he see that Christians should first display a holistic lifestyle that is ready to embrace each need when necessary. Although this view seeks a balanced perspective, when emphasis is not named the intention of proclaiming the gospel gets muddled in social action.

In heightening the role of the community to a sphere of added responsibility, according to Newbigin, the community should become the point in which others see and experience the gospel. In his words, the community becomes the hermeneutics of the gospel. In relaying the reliability of the gospel, the conviction of living out what is believed is what is used as an argument and further witness of the gospel. For a community embodying the belief can thus offer “the reality of new creation”[18] in a tangible light. But this can only be possible when individualism is laid down “as and when local congregations renounce an introverted concern for their own life, and recognize that they exist for the sake of those who are not members, as sign, instrument, and foretaste of God’s redeeming grace for the whole life of society.”[19] While the contention of the community being the hermeneutics of the gospel is a good proposal, putting a greater emphasis on the community and not the message might have the tendency to see the community as the message rather than the other way round.

But a congregation without leaders cannot bring itself to achieve this reality. For a congregation to embody the task of being the hermeneutics for the gospel has to be placed in the task of leaders who equip and shepherd the flock to ministry and action in the world. It means that leaders form a sustaining ministry which enable the congregation to stand and continue to be shapers in society.[20] Newbigin’s emphasis on leadership is good in that the community has a controlled facet what is authoritative teaching and this will further guide from falling into doctrinal heresy. Without strong leadership, the task of missions in a pluralist society comes to a daunting halt.

3.3.Mission in society

We move further to how Newbigin sees mission navigating through the streams of society. Contextualization is an important topic when one deals with missions. It which asks, “How do we translate the gospel to a different culture?” and also “What part of a particular culture do we see as good and what is bad?” Newbigin deals with the issue concerning contextualization in chapter 12 of his book. Pointing out the ambiguities in contending to issues concerning contextualization, what is considered true contextualization is not being controlled by the pervading culture with its questions and views but rather in focusing on what God had done in Israel and in the story of Jesus.[21] Newbigin’s view elevates the witness of scripture over against the voice of culture.

Next is how he approaches the notion where in Christ truth is embodied and found. Having this belief, although being branded as narrow, should not conjure the assumption that salvation is only limited to the Christian. Rather, according to Newbigin the church “does not claim to possess absolute truth: it claims to know where to point for guidance (both in through and in action) for the common search for truth,”[22] for it was not in the reality of power that Christ acted out his saving work but it was with “weakness and suffering.”[23]

Newbigin proposes some suggestions towards how the Christian responds to other religions, he sees himself as a myriad of perspectives. He is an exclusivist in a sense that truth is revealed in Jesus, but an inclusivist where salvation is not limited to the Christian Church although not advocating a view that all religions leads to God. He is a pluralist by way of affirming God’s gracious work in everyone but not in a sense that denies the uniqueness of Jesus. This sounds contradictory but being sensitive amidst a pluralist society warrants us to affirm views where we need to make explanations and distinctions. To me, Newbigin does not go overboard in his explanation.

While most would brush the subject of explaining the reality of the spiritual world which the bible affirms, Newbigin acknowledges that this realm of reality is real one upon which Christians should be informed about. It is this realm that further influences society to live and act a certain way. Christian mission, whether social work or evangelism, that does not see the importance of wrestling with this dimension renders itself useless. Newbigin’s affirmation of the reality of this realm is something that is needed in missiological reflection and theology. For without it some of the difficulties concerning mission would not be understood properly. Responding to this is emphatically biblical as well as relevant.

Conclusion

Newbigin’s ideas concerning missions in the midst of a pluralist society comes as a welcomed light for the church in navigating itself in the sea of reason. Although being published in 1989 still offers depths of insights concerning missions. His theology from my perspective is robustly evangelical in that he has a high view of scripture. A particular example would be where he advises Christians in the matter of contextualization, not to be swept by culture but what God has done, in the past and present and discerning present realities with that template. He also combines the responsibility of the community in living out the faith found in their belief sustained by a strong leadership which becomes the basis for the congregation to grow in their influence.

But what really serves as a contribution by Newbigin concerning his reflection in this book concerning a theology of mission is his insistence that the Christian, who is entrusted with a story which finds a reason in the truth of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, and has great implication in the universal history, is something that Christians should hold confidently in the face of opposing arguments. He, in my view, has given a proper defence of the Christian faith that conjures great implications for missions. Without proper confidence, any intention of missions becomes nothing more than vain undertakings.

 

 


[1] Newbigin, Lesslie. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989) Pg x

[2] Ibid. Pg 1

[3] Ibid. Pg 3

[4] Ibid. Pg 22

[5] Ibid. Pg 13

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid. Pg 78

[8] ibid

[9] Ibid. Pg 92

[10] Ibid. Pg 82

[11] Ibid. Pg 83

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid. Pg 116

[14] Ibid. Pg 127

[15] Ibid. Pg 125

[16] Ibid

[17] Ibid. Pg 78

[18] Ibid. Pg 233

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid. Pg 238

[21] Ibid. Pg 151

[22] Ibid. Pg 163

[23] Ibid.

 

Scripture and Inerrancy

Peter Enns
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I think a few years back, say, two years back I read about Peter Enns. He’s was an OT Scholar at one of those great Seminaries in the States. And as I read on he was sort of relieved from his position as a lecturer because of a book he wrote which deals with issues of how we think about scripture.

Well being curious, I went and bought the book; “Inspiration and Incarnation“. Well I actually ordered it because I couldn’t find it in the local bookstores. When it arrived I was mesmerized by the things that I discovered reading through the book. Challenging stuff that is. But none that made me want to trash my bible and say it is not the word of God.

I was actually more strengthened in how I viewed the bible not to mention more confident in thinking through the controversial parts. Which is why I was disturbed at the kind of remarks that scholars have tended to see in reading his book. Maybe I’m just a lowly student. I don’t actually have a PhD in biblical studies to be able to come up with good conclusions.

Anyway I’d like to read other opinions about Enns’ book as well. I’ll get my chance because I have G.K. Beale’s “The Erosion of Inerrancy” which I got a hold of yesterday. I’m not sure when I would be able to interact with this book but it would probably best to say after I’ve labored with my impending assignments.

Reflection on 1 Peter 1:18-21

God’s love is not the culmination of pompous feelings that we have for God or that he has for us. Love is the reality that has been projected from his redemptive work so that we can live anew, prepared not by a response to a mistake but a predetermined plan before time for our sake, so that through that we can anchor our faith and hope in that one who has been faithful in vindicating the Lord we follow. That’s what makes loving God possible.

Problems With a Literal Adam

Some years back my youth pastor relayed a question that a new believer was asking. It went something like this, “If God created Adam, the first man, and Eve, the first woman, then how did the other races come into being from the coming together of the first pair of human beings?”

That got me scratching my head. With that there are problems with reading a literal Adam and Eve and questions that would raise some difficult questions to answer. So, is there a way to find some sense of resolution?

There might be a probable resolution to this.

First, Genesis was not written to be understood literally. A lot of what we can find in Gen.1-2 are understood in figurative speech and description.

Second, we have to read the narrative of Gen.1-2 as how readers of the past would have understood them, and not in a highly scientific way.

Third, in that manner plowing through, The narrative of Gen.1-2 simply tell us about God being the one who created humans and that in contrast to how ancient Near Eastern ideas go, human were created with great care and worth rather than just from the spit of the gods.

To read more on this go here.

The Creation Ordinances (Gen 1-3)

Introduction

Christian Ethics and its foundation starts not with forbearing concepts conjured up by the meddling of pure human reason but has its beginning in the foundation laid by scripture. The following essay will seek to study these details based on the book of beginnings; Genesis. The focus will be on the first three chapters which most understand as the creation ordinances. Focus will be laid on humankind made in the image of God, sexuality and gender, marriage, work and care of the environment.

a. Humankind made in the Image of God Gen 1-3

Humankind made in the image of God is an important part of Christian theology that unravels the mystery of the original design of humankind and to the question of “What does it mean to be a human being?”[1] To grasp this understanding, one has to start at the book of beginnings in the bible; Genesis, mainly deriving its formation from chapter 1:26-27[2].

At the pinnacle of God’s creation being made, God in v.26 is found in conversation to create a being made in his image and likeness so that they may rule over his creation. Clines in his article[3] which studies this in detail concludes in his analysis of 1:26-27 which he interprets and finds for us a meaning that states that man “does not have the image of God, nor is he made in the image of God, but is himself the image of God.”[4] Though the initial understanding that humankind is associated with rulerhood[5], the biblical narrative steers away from only ascribing that only the king is the representation of God’s image as many other. The biblical narrative runs counter with this in that the whole of humankind is the image of God who represents God[6]. Clines article elevates the uniqueness of humankind as a whole where he is the image of God.

Merill states four things noticed from 1:26-28 which I will summarize briefly on the theme of superiority of humanity. There is a distinct dialogue when God created man compared to his other creations. There is also nothing to compare with humanity. Whereas for other creatures, they are compared by their same kinds, but humanity is compared to God. Humanity is given the mandate to rule and have dominion over the earth. And lastly, gender differentiation is ascribed to the creation of humanity; male and female in which both resemble God’s image[7]. Humankind’s distinct superiority is not ascribed to him ontologically but is the by-product of them being in the image of God.

Some of the clear implication that is gained from the text in which we can observe is that, since humankind is made in the image of God, there is value to human life. This can be further indicated in Gen. 9:6. Another thing to notice as well is that man is a psycho-physical being who is both body and spirit/soul (Gen.2:7). One can note as well that humanity was made as relational beings upon which is clearly implicated in Gen 2:18-25. Related to this is the distinctness of the human species, where they are male and female. Their relational nature is further reflected in their mandate to populate the earth (1:28) and in their roles as male and female (2:18; 3:16-18). Implied in humanity’s role as rulers gained from them being in the image of God is their responsibility to tending and caring for God’s creation (1:26-28; 2:15).

b. Sexuality/ Gender

As indicated in (a), that humankind was created to be the image of God (1:27) and to which we have noted that this implies that there is equality concerning man and woman. There are not two types of beings but one but sexually different (v.27).[8] The creation of the woman was not an afterthought that God created after he saw that man was alone. It was rather something that God had pre-planned (1:27-28). Humankind as the Genesis account indicated earlier highlights this to the Hebrews.

Noting that human beings are created as male and female indicates differing roles entailed to humankind. The first implication that we can get from the differing roles of man and woman is that from them the ability to propagate the earth is possible (1:28). Moving on, “Genesis 2-3 explains the role differentiation suggested by this first reference to “male and female,” while maintaining with chap. 1’s portrait of an egalitarian couple and chaps. 2-3, which distinguishes the sexes in terms of leadership-followship.”[9] Although differing roles might assume an idea that one is greater than the other, this is not the case found in Genesis.

In this also human sexuality is seen in a positive light. Noting what Mathews says again “Being human means being a sexual person. Human sexuality and sexual bonding between husband and wife are deemed “very good” (1:31) by God and are to be honored as the divine ordinance between man and women.” [10] This can also further indicate that there is no place for homosexuality which is implied implicitly as foreign in this text.

c. Marriage

One thing needs to be noted concerning the creation mandate found in Genesis concerning marriage is that it is a divine ordinance for all mankind and not just the Christian.[11] Reasons for this are because God gave the mandate that human beings are to (i.) populate the earth by procreating offspring (1:28), (ii.) that marriage is a gift (2:18)[12] and that it is a lasting commitment between one man and one woman (2:23-25). We shall then build further on these below.

In this divine ordinance God calls human beings to procreate (1:28). Earlier in v.27 God’s creation of human beings in his image is coupled with the intention that they rule over his creation. To explain that v.28 comes to the fray and finds God blessing them and giving the mandate for them to “fill the earth and subdue it.” Part of the reason for them to fill the earth is the mandate given for them to rule the earth. For that to happen, a man and woman created equally in God’s image (1:27-28) has to come together in the act of marriage (2:23-25) where their uniting together in exclusive companionship towards one another is the act that will produce offspring to fill the earth.

The second thing we find is that marriage is a gift from God. In chapter 2 which some have called the second creation story,[13] points our direction in God providing the right help mate for the man he created. In the narrative we see that it was the first instance in which we read God saying of his creation “it is not good” 2:18. God’s solution for this is to create a helper suitable for the man, one that was equal in nature with him.[14] God created woman out of the man’s rib after causing him to fall asleep (2:21). He awakens and is filled with joy at what he sees (2:23). God’s provision for man’s loneliness which entails fulfilment[15] by providing an equal partner for man implies to us the gift of companionship[16] that marriage brings to the ordinance that God has given to human beings. It also necessitate that their relationship in the bounds of marriage was exclusive, where the prime obligation now were for each other[17] (2:24), and open and intimate, in that they were both naked and not ashamed (2:25). Quoting Wenham, “Here the ideal of marriage as it was understood in ancient Israel is being portrayed, a relationship characterized by harmony and intimacy between the partners.”[18]

But the ideals of this relationship take a drastic challenge in how it is to be maintained at the story of the fall in chapter 3 of Genesis. Their relationship which implied intimacy in their leaving and cleaving[19] is now shattered after their act of disobedience; they realized that they were naked and were ashamed (3:7). In v.16 therefore indicates the frailty that will come upon the relationship husband and wife. Derek Kinder states that their state of perfect bliss has now turned awry, where “‘To love and to cherish’ becomes ‘To desire and to dominate.’”[20]

d. Work

In the Genesis account of origins we find God depicted as a worker (seen especially in Gen 2:2). There are other passages in the OT as well that gives us examples concerning the idea that God works (Exo. 34:10; Ps 8:3 earth being God’s handiwork; Is 64:8 God as a potter). Thus by noting this at where Genesis depicts origins of things beginning, work is given a high place for the Hebrews. We find God in Gen 1:31 who worked creation into being which spanned for 6 days satisfied with his work. It is interesting to note that God rested from his work on the seventh day. He did not need resting though but thus this became a pattern for the Hebrews to follow. With this, according to the bible work is seen as good, since by reading this we find a high value of work as well as a pattern for the Hebrews to follow.  Ancient Near Eastern depiction about creation has tended to indicate work in a negative sense where the god’s created humankind to relieve them of undesirable labour.[21] According to the Genesis account this was not so. God is clearly seen satisfied with his work and humanity’s labour “does not function to meet any need in deity.”[22]

Not only is God depicted as a worker but he also gives the command to humankind to work as well in the Genesis account. Ideas of this can be addressed from passages such as 1:26 where humans are to rule, v.27 subdues the earth, and especially in 2:15 where God put the man in the Garden to “to work it and take care of it.” A reading from the Genesis account shows us that work was part of God’s original plan for humankind.[23]

In chapter 3 of Genesis however takes on a twist of events. Although the original intention of work as projected above remained intact, after the fall, humankind’s task of doing it was heightened in which “unprecedented experience of pain, difficulty, fruitlessness and recalcitrance”[24] was the outcome of God cursing the land because of the fall.

e. Care of the Environment

God saw his creation was good and this was declared seven times in Gen. 1 ( 1:10,12,18,21,24,25,31). Recounting the many times where God said that creation was good implies that creation is intrinsically good which again points to Christianity’s high view on creation. (Job 38:7) Dumbrell notes that “Each time the phrase is used, God is the speaker, and the phrase refers to divine approval of some specific creative act.”[25]

Creation did not come into existence in chaos by a God, sovereign, intelligent and created things in order and with a purpose. Michael Hill sees that in Genesis, God’s creation of the world has in it a coherent order. He sees two which he states as “generic order,” the first, where there is a common nature with things created ‘according to its kind.’[26] The second order that Hall presents is the “telic order” where things created by God are created with a purpose.[27] Quoting Dumbrell again on creation being good and in that it had a purpose which entails God’s design for it,

“Creation was not only beautiful, but more importantly it conformed to the divine purpose. Thus, creation is viewed as having been adapted to the divine will, corresponding to the purpose which God had proposed…In other words, every pronouncement that something is “good” includes a functional sense, that is, what it is good for.”[28]

Noting these things about creation in Genesis on the high view of scripture towards creation, this realization is heightened again by God’s mandate for humankind to care for it (2:15). Creation which is good is handed to mankind by God so they can be stewards of his created world. When we come to chapter 3 of Genesis though, the perfect state of creation was now marred by the sin of Adam and Eve. On account of Adam God had pronounced that because of his sin the ground was cursed (3:17). But this does not mean that creation is bad. It does mean that man will toil when he works. Care is still to be humankind’s responsibility towards creation as some passages in the Old Testament continue to indicate to us (Deut. 20:19-20).

Conclusion

We have thus explored the depths gained from understanding the creation ordinances in Genesis 1-3 by which we as Christians start as a foundational basis for navigating our frame work in ethic which is done in a Christian perspective. The essay has covered ground mainly on the Old Testament texts and has not deviated to the New Testament. Therefore implications that were studied and gained from the text were mainly reflections from what God wanted to convey to the Israelites.

[1] F.W.B. “Humanity” Atkinson, David J; David H. Fields. New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology. (Downers Grove: IVP, 1995) Pg 21

[2] Merill, E.H. “Image of God” Alexander, T. Desmond; David W. Baker. Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch. (Downers Grove: IVP, 2003) Pg 442

[3] Clines, J. A. “The Image of God in Man” Tyndale Old Testament Lecture, 1967.

[4] Ibid. Pg 80

[5] Ibid. Pg 85

[6] Merill, E.H. “Image of God” Pg 442

[7] Merill, E.H. “Image of God” Pg 433

[8] Atkinson, David J; David H. Fields. New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology. (Downers Grove: IVP, 1995) Pg 71

[9] Mathews, Kenneth A. TNAC: Genesis 1-11:26. (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996, 1997, 2001) Pg 173

[10] Ibid.

[11] Atkinson, David J; David H. Fields. New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology. Pg 72

[12] ibid

[13] Stassen, Glen H; David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. (Downers Grove: IVP, 2003) Pg. 275

[14] Ibid pg. 276

[15] Wenham, Gordon J. WBC: Genesis 1-15 (Volume 1). (Waco, Texas: Word, 1987) Pg 69

[16] Wenham explains that in verse 18 of chapter 2 on God’s refrain that it is not good for man to be alone, “It alerts the reader to the importance of companionship for man. He needs a “helper matching him” (18,20).” Wenham, Gordon J. WBC: Genesis 1-15 (Volume 1). Pg 68.

[17] Wenham, Gordon J. WBC: Genesis 1-15 (Volume 1). Pg 71

[18] Ibid. Pg 69

[19] Ibid. Pg 71

[20] Kidner, Derek. TOTC: Genesis. (Downers Grove: IVP, 1967) Pg 71

[21] Laansma, J. A. “Rest.” Alexander, T. Desmond and Brian S. Rosner, editors, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2000) Pg 727

[22] Ibid

[23] Class notes by Mock, Jack. Christian View of Work Genesis 2. Pg 3

[24] Laansma, J. A. “Rest.” Pg 728

[25] Dumbrell, William J. The Search For Order: Biblical Eschatology in Focus. (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001) Pg 20

[26] Hill, Michael. The how and Why of Love: An Introduction to Evangelical Ethics. (Kingsford: Matthias Media, 2002) Pg 66

[27] Hill, Michael. The how and Why of Love: An Introduction to Evangelical Ethics. Pg 66

[28] Dumbrell, William J. The Search For Order: Biblical Eschatology in Focus. Pg 20

God the Drama Queen?

A God we are comfortable with is a God who is controlled and shows the least bit of emotion. I mean in real life as well we get uncomfortable with people who get emotional, who cry suddenly or get raving mad at something in an instant. I try my best to keep a controlled look myself. It works for me. So in a way we do want God to fit the ‘controlled’ type of persona.

I read an article by Mark Galli of CT entitled “Divine Drama Queen” and found it rather refreshing. It’s a cleaver piece, geared to jolt our minds about God. He did that for me in the book “Jesus Mean and Wild,” which I must say I liked because it kicked my ass in a way of what I thought about Jesus. We like to think of Jesus as the nice, mild and lovable man. But reading the bible opens our eyes to someone quite different from what we thought to be. But, yes, Jesus is meek and loving, even forgiving but that’s not the whole picture.

Like wise God is not all what we think about him to be. So take some time reading the piece by Galli.

Some Pointers In Reading the Bible

At the time of my conversion, I always struggled with the notion that Israel was God’s chosen people and that the gentiles were like second class citizens. Passages which read “To the Jews first, then the Gentiles” or more notoriously Paul’s argument in Romans 11:1-24, which always baffled me during those days.

Well to comfort myself, I tried to imagine that who knows I had some Jewish blood in me somehow. That would be great right, having some dose of Jewishness in your blood stream to be in some ways a valid relation to the chosen people.

In those days I had no sort of training from leaders or pastors on how to read the bible ‘responsibly’ or ‘rightly.’ But ever since my training in theological studies and reading books by ‘proper’ scholars, it has helped immensely in how I read and understand the bible.

Let me give an example of one way that might be helpful in reading some troubled passages.

1. When encountering a difficult passage, say for example Romans 11:1-24 where it read that there is a class distinction of how Paul used Israel and Gentiles in his argument. It looks and reads in that manner if one simply read just those passages and stops. Let me propose that in these instances, reading passages in their context matters!

The context of this argument is on the topic of God’s mercy. Paul’s way of highlighting this mercy is by bringing the picture of Israel side by side with the gentiles. Try reading this passage in that context. We are in the family of God via God being merciful to us.  after reading them in the context of mercy, read chapter 12 of Romans…it states “Therefore, I urge you…in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…” The use of “Therefore” means that there is a connection between what you read before and what you read in chapter 12. Therefore for me, i understand Paul’s argument using Israel as an example to indicate God’s mercy.

2. To base just one passage or a few verses for a conclusion does not work for the bible. Again in explaining Romans 11:1-24, elsewhere Paul states that in Romans 3:9 that, although Jews were privileged, Paul notes in v.9 that Jew and Gentile are the same. In Galatians 3:26-29 Paul states that “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you were baptized into Christ have clothe yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

By looking at the big witness of the bible, even in these small passages, it indicates that we are all equal in God’s sight. Paul believes this. Thus the analogy of Paul’s use of Israel in Romans does not entail superiority or favoritism but for using it as a form of rhetoric or argument to instigate a response from his audience.

So, the two things that one might want to try when reading the bible is by reading things

1. According to context

2. Looking at the ‘whole’ witness of the bible (or the writer, in our case above, Paul)

I should note that these are not hard and fast rules but reading the bible in this manner and not basing our understanding and theology based on some scrawny one lined (or just one chapter) verse, does reap rewards in that it gives us a more solid understanding of what the author wants to tell us, or better, what God wants to convey to his people.

A helpful book that gives some good points and ideas on reading the bible is by Scot McKnight entitled “The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible“, Which I have reviewed here.

Reputation or Identity

Mt 1:18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. p

Mt 1:19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce q her quietly.

Mt 1:20 But after he had considered this, an angel r of the Lord appeared to him in a dream s and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Mt 1:21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, 3 t because he will save his people from their sins.” u

Mt 1:22 All this took place to fulfill v what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Mt 1:23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” 4 w —which means, “God with us.”

Mt 1:24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel x of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

Mt 1:25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. y

1. Joseph was a tsadiq

Scot Mcknight explains the Hebrew meaning that comes from understanding the word ‘righteousness’ in context of this gospel is that Joseph was someone who “studies, learns and observes the Torah scrumptiously. In Joseph’s world that means he recites and lives the shema daily, that he follows the food laws, that he supports the synagogue, and that he regularly celebrates the high holy days in Jerusalem.” He was someone with a reputation, which is why it is mentioned of him as being one who is a ‘righteous man’ in Matthew.

“He is obedient to the heavenly dreams, but he is also called a righteous (see Justice, Righteousness) man (1:19), that is, one who upholds the Law. Thus, in 1:18–19 he is depicted as caught between the holy Law of God and his love for Mary (McHugh). The intention of the Evangelist is to paint a picture of a devout Jewish man who is willing to give up what was often perceived to be a Jewish father’s greatest privilege—siring his first-born son—in order to obey God’s will (1:24).”(Green, Joel G.; McKnight, Scot; Marshall, I. Howard; editors, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press) 1998, c1992.)

2. His reputation was going to be challenged

Being a ‘righteous man’ Joseph was in a dilemma because the one whom he was going to marry was pregnant. We are not told about the conversation that Joseph had with Mary, but you can just imagine what was going through the mind of Joseph. He was surely in a deep dilemma. What was he to do; his reputation was on the line if he indeed decided to take Mary as his wife.

3. He appeals to Torah

In the Jewish context, “full betrothal was so binding that its breaking required a certificate of divorce, and the death of one party made the other a widow or widower (m. Ketub. 1:2; m. Sota 1:5; m. Git. passim…)” (R. H. Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art, 21).

If we were to go back again to plough our way in Joseph’s head, knowing that he is a righteous man and the implication that entails that, we would know that he would be one who would see what the Torah had to say about this situation.

Mary could either be seduced or raped…appeal to Torah

  • If she was seduced- Both Mary and seducer would be stoned to death
  • If she was raped-Rapist stoned to death
  • If no one confesses- she is to drink from the water of bitterness –if she lives she is innocent but if she dies she is guilty
  • Mary’s parent could produce “tokens of virginity”

But we might have guessed that Mary would have told Joseph the nature of her pregnancy, conceived of the Holy Spirit. Joseph was clearly noted as thinking about this “he had in mind to divorce q her quietly.”

4. He struggles with God

Mt 1:20 But after he had considered this…

The phrases “he had in mind”…”he had considered” mirrored the dilemma that Joseph had in making a decision. Was this God, really working? How can this be?

But after he had wrestled with the thought he had a dream that would alter his consideration to divorce Mary. See verse 20-21. An angel came to him in a dream and told about the nature of Mary’s pregnancy and the call on the child on which was in Mary’s womb.

5. He buries his reputation and embraces God’s command

Mt 1:24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

At this point Joseph had to make a decision and one that would ultimately alter his reputation as a ‘righteous man’ in the eyes of people where he lived, among his friends and his society as a whole. Rather than just upholding his reputation, obedience to God was far more important. In that he found that his identity far outweighs reputation.

For our reflection

Just like Joseph, we might have to sacrifice reputation in order to follow Jesus. Reputations may mean our social standing, our family heritage, our professional standing ect. Reputations can also be seen in terms of religious terms as well. Because following Jesus sometimes would wretch havoc. In instances where leadership requires that we make some decisions that might go against the current stream of things.

Having a reputation is a privilege but also sometimes it is something that might take us in captive to radical obedience to God. Reputation can sometimes be a point of hindrance.

What is important here is the gaining of identity in God (who I am) when we embark on the journey of obeying him.

I think it is important for us to continually ask this question daily in our walk with God. Am I guided by reputation or am I guided by my identity in God following him in obedience in every step of his call.

(Most of the Ideas in this post relies heavily on Scot McKnight’s “Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others“)

Judah and Tamar Genesis 38:1-30 (In Historical and Cultural Context)

Judah And Tamar Genesis 38:1-30 (In Historical and Cultural Context)

Introduction

This passage has been constantly laden with questions because the passage seems to be obscure in nature. Obscure because it seems to disrupt the flow of Joseph’s narrative account in 37:1-36 and 39:1ff. A further indication of its obscurity is the scandalous acts imbedded in the text and narrative that simply pique a sense of embarrassment for the modern reader. An example of this irony is further justified, taking note of a paper written by Prof. Yairah Amit where he states that;

“When the story of Joseph is studied, chapter 38 is skipped for three reasons. Firstly, because of the whiff of the erotic; secondly, because it is not an integral part of the plot of Joseph story; and thirdly, because this way teachers do not have to confront the problematic levirate law. In other words, skipping this chapter serves conservative or orthodox interests.”[1]

Although the quotation above depicts Jewish ways of encountering the text, Christians on the other hand have mangled Chapter 38 reading it from a New Testament lens. For example, treating the passage on grounds of sexual sins. This further minimizes the intended meaning of the text.

One particular problem to understanding the text has to deal with the reader’s knowledge of the historical and cultural context. Good knowledge of this might curb some of the misunderstanding as well as misguided readings of the text. This paper therefore wants to concentrate on giving some description on the historical and cultural context of Judah and Tamar’s story.

Based on Genesis chapter 38 there are three historical and cultural areas that will be discussed. They are (1) Marriage customs, which will be dealt on three areas that will be explained later, (2) the significance of the pledge which Tamar required from Judah and (3) prostitution. Shedding light on these particular historical and cultural data would eventually give a more proper understanding of how one will read and understand the message of the text.

1. Marriage Customs

Marriage practices and customs in ancient times vary on a stark contrast with modern ways and practices. Because of this texts such as that of Genesis 38 if read with modern lenses would deter meaning from what the text wants to convey. So because of that it is good for us to know something concerning marriage customs during that time. There are three aspects on marriage that will be discussed here namely (a) the Levirate Law, (b) women and their treatment and (c) widowhood.

a. Levirate law

For one not familiar to the historical context of marriage in the OT times the thought of Onan (being directed by his father, Judah) having sexual relations with his deceased brother’s wife sounds repulsively disgusting. The practice is not something that our present culture understands. In ancient times such a practice is known as levirate marriage. Deuteronomy 25:5-10 is a further development of the practice spelled out for the Israelites. Levirate law is explained as,

“The law states that if brothers live together, and if one of them is married and dies without children, one of the surviving brothers is to marry or take her as his wife and father a child with her. The child born of this levirate relationship (levir is Latin for “brother-in-law”) carries on the name of his deceased father and eventually inherits the family estate.”[2]

Adding to the explanation above, Bruce K. Walkey’s explanation graphically notes that the seed springing from the levirate practice was to “give the deceased social immortality” and such practice was “continued into the time of Jesus (Matt. 22:23-30; Mark 12:18-25; Luke 20:27-35).”[3] The purpose of Levirate marriage as explained above has to do with continuing the line of the deceased brother where as implied here is that the name of the deceased “may not be blotted out of Israel.”[4]

b. Women and their treatment

The next area that we need to look at is on widowhood in historical context. But before we can move to that let us look at how women were treated during that time and specifically in the context of marriage.

The domain of the home was generally “entrusted” [5] to wives where they were to “to uphold the honor of the household through their chaste behavior and correctness.”[6] But in areas of property and social issues such as testifying in court their influence was neglected[7].It is further explained that that the rights of the woman is “further clarified”[8] only until the marriage is consummated. Without consummation,

“…her rights to compensation in the event of divorce, her right to property as a widow and, for that matter, the right to marry the man with whom she had originally been contracted were not officially set until intercourse had taken place. By consummating the marriage, both parties fulfilled the oral arrangements and legal technicalities that had been set by their representatives. They had therefore changed their legal status and their social standing within the community. In addition, the wife now lived under her husband’s name and benefitted from his protection and social standing.”[9]

Thus, on the onset above, marriage was seen as vital as well as a virtue, not unlike how our present society sees it. Another striking note of how marriage is perceived in ancient times is to understand what was deemed important to people of that day. One of the primary purposes of marriage in biblical times was for propagation or in other words to “produce an heir.”[10]Because of the importance placed on inheritance, without an heir, there is seen a “disruption in the generational inheritance pattern that left no one to care for the couple in their old age.”[11] With this in mind it gives the reader of Genesis 38 valuable insights on the situation that Tamar was going through without a husband.

c. Widowhood

Now we arrive at the discussion on widowhood. Taking the case of Tamar in Chapter 38, an undeniable fact lays for our contention; Tamar is left a widow because of Er death and in looking at the historical context during that time widows were facing difficult living conditions because of this.

One of the “major cause of female insecurity,” contends Daniel I Block was “widowhood”[12] 71. Several factors contribute to this as Block observes. Woman “tended to outlive their husbands”[13] and this situation is heightened by the reality of war. Second, due to the nature of family life in OT times where “marriages were patrilocal”[14], the husband’s death threatened her standing amidst the household, and on this onset, the levirate law which was actually “designed to give the widow with a second husband” was more concerned for the “need to preserve the male line and the patrimonial estate.”[15]

Widows were supposedly cared by the family of the deceased husband. In the case of Tamar, when her husband died she was therefore under their authority “since marriage for women in that day meant being passed from the control of their fathers and brothers of their husbands and father-in-laws”[16] But if ties with his family were not on good terms the widow would face severe consequences. Block explains this

“If these kinship ties were lacking, or if the men of her husband’s clan refused to support her, without the economic and physical protection of her husband she was vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and sometimes even murder.”[17]

Such were the conditions face by a widow, so in the case of Tamar she was put in a difficult position when her husband died and thus the further treatment of her by Er’s family.

2. What is the Significance of pledges? (Gen 38:17)

The pledge was common practice in Israel but as Hamilton notes, a “pledge to a prostitute is unique to Gen 38:17-18”[18] With that case in mind we shall see the significance of pledges as well as seek to understand the what was consisted of the materials found in this passage.

First, let us seek some explanation concerning the seal. Seals were “made of metal and stone” and was often “worn on a cord around the neck”[19]. Waltkey explains its usage, that when “it is rolled across soft clay, such as the legitimating clay seal on a document”[20] serves as an impression designating who the owner is. Skilled craftsmanship might be deployed to create such detailed work as references in Exod. 28:11, 21, 36; 39:6, 14, 30 suggests.[21]

Secondly let us seek some explanation concerning the staff. According to scholars, staffs belonging to persons during that time were deeply personal as they bear the “mark of ownership”[22] or as a means of “identification”[23] of the owner. Names were found “incised” on the scepter head “throughout the ancient Near East.”[24]

Knowing how deeply personal these belongings had, the implications thus becomes clear upon the purposes of why Tamar held on these things. It was not in accordance to their value but it was value in whom they belonged to because “the pledge…because it bound Judah quite personally”[25] to Tamar.

3. Prostitution

To tackle the task of understanding prostitution during that time there are two specific areas which we will thus explore following some of the verses in Judah and Tamar’s narrative. The two areas will be dress codes ascribed to prostitutes and punishment. The term verb for the words prostitution of harlotry in the Hebrew “refers to all forms of illicit sex between a man and a woman”[26] whether professional in nature, marital unfaithfulness or sex offered freely outside marriage[27]. In the Pentateuch harlotry is a “term of contempt”[28]. Following Canaanite culture there was close connection between fertility of the land and cult prostitution. The practice is explained as;

“Devotees of the mother goddess Ishtar or Anat would reside at or near shrines and would dress in a veil, as the symbolic bride of the god Baal or El. Men would visit the shrine and use the services of the cult prostitutes prior to planting their fields or during other important seasons such as shearing or the period of lambing.”[29]

The men’s act of sexual relation with the prostitute in paying homage to the gods in reenactment is to “insure fertility and prosperity for their fields and herds.”[30]

On prostitutes dressing with particular interest especially where it mentions that Tamar “covered herself with a veil” in verse 14, some commentators have argued that Tamar was not dressing intending to show herself as a prostitute. The idea of ascribing prostitution with the mere notion of one veiling herself which Hamilton in his commentary goes into detail in explaining this, but as for the purpose of this paper we will not go in detail. Hamilton states that “there is little evidence that prostitutes in Canaan wore veils”[31]. This designation follows suit because according to the text Tamar is assumed by Judah to be a normal prostitute and not a shrine prostitute as verse 21. Hamilton and Waltkey come to the same conclusions on the purpose of veiling in the case of Tamar was not to dress the part but for the fact to hide her identity[32]. But with that in mind I the best way to explain these views in coherence is what Waltkey states here that whether “dressed as a shrine prostitute or not, she is playing the part of the whore.”[33]

Focusing now on punishment accorded to prostitution it is explained that the practice was “generally punished by stoning to death”[34] and this is taken from Deuteronomy 22:23-24. Taking into consideration Tamar’s case in which the sentence pronounced by Judah on her “death by fire is exceptional”[35]. That particular sentence is found in the instance where “a daughter of a priest engages in harlotry and in cases of incest (Lev 20:14).”[36] This sentence might be due to “reflect Tamar’s alleged display of unbridled sexual passion”[37] but also on the onset it might well reflect Judah’s spur of the moment indignation on what he heard and not to the actual “juridical enforcement for sin relating to sexual behavior.” [38]

Conclusion

After exploring the historical and cultural leanings of Genesis 38 and deciphering meaning from them one gets a good platform to begin proper understanding from the text to inform correct understanding that one can abstract from the pages. As seen from the discoveries above, historical and cultural investigation dispels the interpreter from raising baseless issues from the text and in that sense frees him or her to see what the text has to say and convey.



[1]Amit, Yairah, The Case of Judah and Tamar in the Contemporary Israeli Context: Relevant Interpolation. http://74.125.153.132/search?q=cache:8MMcil9lW5YJ:home.medewerker.uva.nl/a.brenner/bestanden/Amit.doc+judah+and+tamar+historical+background&cd=74&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=my. (Accessed September 2009)

[2] Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on The Old Testament: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995) pg 439

[3] Waltkey, Bruce K; Fredricks, Cathi J. Genesis: A Commentary. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) pg 510

[4] Westermann, Claus. Genesis 37-50: A Commentary. (Minneaolis: Augburg, 1982, 1986) pg 52

[5] Alexander, T. Desmond; Baker, David W. Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch (Downers Grove: IVP, 2003) pg 294

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid pg 295

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid

[12] Campbell, Ken M (Ed.). Marriage and Family in the Biblical World.(Downers Grove: IVP, 2003)  pg 71

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid

[16] Garland, David E; Garland, Diana R. Flawed Families of the Bible. (Grand Rapids: Brazo Press, 2007) pg 111

[17] Campbell, Ken M (Ed.). Marriage and Family in the Biblical World. Pg 71

[18] Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on The Old Testament: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. pg 444

[19] Ibid

[20] Waltkey, Bruce K; Fredricks, Cathi J. Genesis: A Commentary. pg 513

[21] Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on The Old Testament: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. pg 444

[22] Waltkey, Bruce K; Fredricks, Cathi J. Genesis: A Commentary. pg 513

[23] Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on The Old Testament: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. pg444

[24] Waltkey, Bruce K; Fredricks, Cathi J. Genesis: A Commentary. Pg 513

[25] Rad, Gerhad Von. Genesis: A Commentary. (Bloomsbury Street: SCM, 1961, 1963, 1966, 1970) pg 355

[26] Alexander, T. Desmond; Baker, David W. Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch (Downers Grove, IVP. 2003) pg 749

[27] Ibid

[28] Ibid

[29] Walton, John H.; Matthews, Victor H.; Chavalas, Mark W., The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press) c2000.

[30] Ibid

[31] Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on The Old Testament: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. pg 441

[32] See Waltkey, Bruce K; Fredricks, Cathi J. Genesis: A Commentary. pg 512; Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on The Old Testament: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. pg 442-443

[33] Waltkey, Bruce K; Fredricks, Cathi J. Genesis: A Commentary. pg 512

[34] Ibid

[35] Ibid

[36] Walton, John H.; Matthews, Victor H.; Chavalas, Mark W., The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press) c2000.

[37] Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on The Old Testament: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. pg 449

[38] Ibid pg 449

Bibliography:

Alexander, T. Desmond; Baker, David W. Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch (Downers Grove, IVP. 2003)

Campbell, Ken M. Marriage and Family in the Biblical World.(Downers Grove, IVP. 2003)

Garland, David E; Garland, Diana R. Flawed Families of the Bible. (Grand Rapids, Brazo Press 2007)

Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on The Old Testament: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans. 1995)

Rad, Gerhad Von. Genesis: A Commentary. (Bloomsbury Street: SCM 1961, 1963, 1966, 1970)

Waltkey, Bruce K; Fredricks, Cathi J. Genesis: A Commentary. (Grand Rapids, Zondervan. 2001)

Westermann, Claus. Genesis 37-50: A Commentary. (Minneaolis, Augburg. 1982, 1986)

Electronic Resources:

Walton, John H.; Matthews, Victor H.; Chavalas, Mark W. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP. c2000.) CD-ROM

Amit, Yairah, The Case of Judah and Tamar in the Contemporary Israeli Context: Relevant Interpolation. http://74.125.153.132/search?q=cache:8MMcil9lW5YJ:home.medewerker.uva.nl/a.brenner/bestanden/Amit.doc+judah+and+tamar+historical+background&cd=74&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=my. (Accessed September 2009)

1 Peter (Part 3):How Themes in Part 1 Co-relate to Part 2

Short paragraph on each category in Part 1 based on Part 2.

Peter presents a strong case of them in understanding who they are in Jesus. Terms such as being chosen v.1, set apart v.2, show mercy, having new birth (v.23 as well) and a living hope v.3, haring an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading v.4 where God protects it v.5 and being ransomed v.18 all points to a wonderful picture that anchors their faith in what they have in Jesus. Peter reshapes their identity by pointing them to what God has done for them in Jesus. This in turn will be the basis on which Peter will draw out how their living should be. Peter here deals with stating a strong soteriological understanding that will have a purpose to navigate how it is for them to live.

According to the way Peter puts it in his letter here salvation is a future event. Peter states that inheritance (1:5), the salvation of the soul (1:9) and receiving boundless joy (4:3) are blessings received in the future. He used such terms as “revealed in the last time” (1:5), “receiving the end result of your faith” (1:9) and “when his glory is revealed” (4:13) all hold to an indication that salvation is received in its fullness at the coming of Christ. It could be that Peter addressed this in order to anchor the faith of his readers so that they remain steadfast in their trials. A future filled with hope awaits, their way of life is not lived in vain but awaits the fullness of their salvation at the end. Peter exhorts them to keep on living their life of faith reminding them that it is not finished until Christ returns and this is when their salvation will be realized fully.

Predominantly, some of terms found in 1 Peter 2:4-10 such as being a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession comes from Exodus 19:5-6. These terms were central to Israel in understanding that they were the elect of God. Peter wrote to his readers to remind them of who they were, the elect of God using language equivalent to language of Israel. Knowing that they were the elect with them the understanding that in the midst of their trials they had a foundation and trust to hold onto. It became their foundation for ethic as well.

The suffering and persecution they faced was not something out of the ordinary for a Christian but Peter tells them that there will be consequences of following Jesus even on the onset of doing good. Their sufferings have eschatological dimensions in which sees hope, vindication and commendation at the coming of Christ in 1:6-7. Their suffering for doing good is commendable to God and that it shows their relational connection (4:14). This could also be a way of missions as well, where the non-believers might be won over by their life example in the midst of their suffering. Jesus sets for them an example to follow in suffering and this becomes a pattern in which they follow. Implicitly, it also becomes a source of encouragement in that Jesus also suffered like them. After all in the end God is the judge of how one lives (3:9-12, 4:5) and so their life should follow the pattern based on who God is (1:16) and the example he laid out for them in Jesus to follow.

Christian behaviour of loving one another, considerate, being like-minded or submissive all fall out of a response of what God had done for them (mainly seen in 1:1-12). Since they were already persecuted from their society or maybe even their families, the community of believers now has become their family and Peter’s exhortation’s for them in how they live together becomes all the more important. An implication of how they behave and relate to one another can also be seen in the form of witness. Their unity in their belief and life will be a witness to those outside the church.

Christians living among their pagan neighbours were to exemplify God’s character and nature (1:16).This is basically in how they relate and in what Christians shun from their old practices. It is through this example that they will eventually communicate the message of their faith by how they live. This will open up conversations on what they believe but in relating this Christians are called to share their faith with respect. The terms that Peter applied to the believers to whom he wrote reminded them of who they were and in whom they belonged to. This would become their anchor of hope and encouragement in the pagan society where they were socially marginalized. It gave them a sense of belonging. It also reminded them that although they were living in the midst of society, they were also foreigners and exiles. They belonged to God, in a way that their way of life and how they live are governed by him and not the social norms of the world they were living in. Their identity gave them an ethics of how to live.