Abraham’s Faith

Sarah and Abraham hosting three angels
Image via Wikipedia

Looking at the life or rather, the progress of Abraham’s life, there are a few questions that ruminate through my mind. His is the life of faith in God’s promise, but at best, a growing process of having faith or trust in God.

So, are we to read that Abraham, in the two depictions where he asked Sarah to lie that she was his sister account for him missing the mark? Was it wrong for him to devise such a scheme for the reason that both his and Sarah life would be somewhat spared? Although the bible does not mention that this was wrong does God’s intervention address that he (Abraham) made a wrong decision? And another thing, God never approached Abraham and tell him that what he did was wrong and does his intervention imply that he was more interested in generating trust from Abraham rather than telling Abraham straight in the face that his decision was the wrong one.

These questions could also be applied also in Abraham agreeing with Sarah to take her maidservant as a wife so that through Hagar, Sarah would have a child to give to Abraham. God was not made at Abraham’s decision here as well. There are no passages which mentions that God was pulling hair mad and stamping his feet be cause of what Abraham has done. But what God did was, he clarified to Abraham again that Ishmael was the not the promised son that God had been telling him about. And what’s more God did not curse but blessed him. There are other instances that can be conjured that paralle with this as well.

On last test of faith that God gave to Abraham, in some ways Abraham now sort of understood what God wanted him to do. Somehow Abraham was now able to discern God’s instruction to him without him offering any form of his own interpretation of what he thought God had said to him. And as we all know, Abraham passed the test in obeying God.

In this story we thus see that God patiently teaches Abraham on understanding him, for the reason of building in how he should trust God. We don’t see here a God of legalism or a God that expects perfect obedience. We see more a God who is patiently fertile ground so that we can grow in our faith in him.

Here we can also learn that faith has steps of growth. Obedience to God is not an overnight thing. Rather obedience in trust to God is something that is developed. This has great implication for pastors or leaders in discipling people to put their faith in God. Failure is unavoidable but it is also not final. If we are devoted and patient to build people to put their trust in God, then their leval of obedience will grow maturely as well.

The Sacrifice of Abraham

Fresco with image of Abraham to sacrifice his ...
Image via Wikipedia

Marrs makes a striking comment concerning the sacrifice of Isaac, in which he states as Abraham being called to sacrifice himself (his future, where having no descendant meant your lineage stopped with you, in this case Abraham) in the ordeal of sacrificing Isaac.

 “For Abraham, this was a call to end his story, to end the promise he had embraced in faith. Isaac was more than just the child of Abraham’s old age; he was the only link to that far-off goal to which Abraham’s life was dedicated. And so, if we read the story aright, we can only agonize with Abraham as he comes to grips with the reality that the God in whom he has put his hopes is in fact calling in the very substance of his hope. For some inexplicable reason, God is recalling the heart of the promise.” p.48

Taken from: Marrs, Rick R. Sacrificing our future (Genesis 22), Restoration Quarterly 29.1 (1987) p.47-51

Bookish Affair and Some Links

The Resurrection by Piero della Francesca, 1460.
Image via Wikipedia

This week has been somewhat busy because of reading and stuff pertaining to books. I guess my life revolves around books that some might find boring due to taste.

Right now I’m driving myself to finish Vanhoozer’s  “Drama of Doctrine.” I have to say that it is a difficult read but with some push of determination I just might not lose my soul in trying to understand every ounce of argument that he has.  I read a few pages of Michael Licona’s “The Resurrection of Jesus” and his take on history and what it means. This will be another slow reading since I have time on my hands which is golden (I guess it’s a phrase I borrow from Barney-How I Met Your Mother).

A friend asked me about some suggestions on beginning a collection of good Old Testament books. This has not been an area that I can trust my own judgments but over at New Testament Perspective, there is a post on some OT titles. I guess it’s something to begin with. Do you have any suggestions for this?

And while I was browsing through the bookstore I found and then bought this book called “Exploring Theological English: Reading, Vocabulary and Grammar for ESL/EFL.” I just had a glance through and read some part and found it impressive, especially if one was beginning in theological education and found difficulty in grasping terms that theologians used in their writings. They also have a website which can be accessed here.

And I was alerted by this site reading through “New Testament Perspective” blog concerning this site on Ancient Hebrew Grammar which has a free PDF download of whole book on Biblical Hebrew: a Student Grammar.

Conversations that Always Reels Me

Facing pages of a gutenberg bible. Taken by me.
Image via Wikipedia

There are two that always manages to reel me in and those conversations that revolve around open theism and biblical authority (is the bible infallible, inerrant). I’ve written on these subjects as well. The one on open theism can be accessed here and the one on the bible here.

Scot McKnight wrote a post on open theism based on Goldingay’s new book addressing passages from the Old Testament or what Goldingay calls it the First Testament.

Kurt who keeps the conversation going on his blog on Biblical inspiration.

Law and Gospel 3

 

Torah inside of the former Glockengasse synago...
Image via Wikipedia

 

c. Explain the relationship between “law and grace” in Paul’s writings.

Most people might make stark contrast when law and grace come head to head where the former is seen as something negative and the latter positive. The law condemns and grace gives life and access to God. Law and grace can also be compared in a manner where the former requires work and the latter requires faith and belief. But as we have discussed earlier in point (a) and (b) concerning Paul’s use of the term ‘law’ and what significance it has for the Christian life, in a specific sense, law as understood as the ‘Mosaic law.’ When we put it in this manner, law in a specific sense, the Mosaic Law, according to Paul has been superseded by Christ and under him a new Law evolves, which is the law of Christ.

While we noted in (a) and (b) that through the Law, where righteousness fails to be exemplified, but the nature of humanity which is marred by sin is condemned, grace on the other hand speaks of a different kind of realization. In Paul’s usage of grace which is charis in the Greek “carries the basic sense of “favour”…and when God or Christ is its subject, acting in grace towards humankind, it is undeserved favour.”[1] 372

Paul’s letter to the Romans present to us some needed detail concerning the controversy displayed on the misconception of what Paul means by not being under law now but under grace (6:14). Ideally hearers of Paul would be shocked as to hear some of the ideas Paul presents in this letter. Stating that the law was unable to produce righteousness in humanity (3:20) and summing up that Jews and Gentiles suffer the same fate, being ‘under sin’ (3:9) and that it is through the law humanity is made conscious of their sin (3:20). Explaining further, Paul elaborates that a righteousness apart from law is made available by putting faith in Jesus through grace that was provided (3:21-24).

Though the notion of the graciousness of God seems to encourage sin (Rom. 6:1), Paul is seen as arguing this with a definite “No.” Where “while works of the Law (Gal. 2:16…) have no part in justification, which is solely of grace (Eph. 2:8-9), good works are to be the very centre piece of the life of gratitude, which is to characterize those who have been saved by God’s grace (Eph. 2:10).”[2] This grace encourages a response of gratitude which entails ethical behaviour.

Some might have the misconception that grace is a New Testament Christian invention but Witherington argues otherwise. He states that Jesus, though not being the first Jew who modelled this idea where God was merciful, forgiving and loving, the OT and Jewish literature also echoes this idea as well.[3] The problem might where some who designate grace as tied only to the NT might be that the concept of God being gracious is tied tightly to Christology.[4]

Taking note of the considerations made above one can conclude here that, grace need not be seen as opposed to law in a sense that grace is seen as a licence to sin. But grace should be place more in the nature of God in both Old Testament and the New. God in his grace liberated the Jews in the Exodus narrative and in doing so gave them laws to live by in accordance with his character. Moving on to the New Testament, the Mosaic law, which is superseded in the coming of Christ become the Christian’s hinge for placing their trust as well as becoming their ethical dimension. By placing faith in Jesus, as noted above as well, righteousness is given out to those who put trust in the one who now takes over the role of the law now for the Christian. This is not done by any means of ‘work’ but based on God’s continuing character seen in the Old Testament who chose Israel not on the basis of what she did, we see grace being administered in both the Old and the New.


[1] Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Martin, Ralph P.; and Reid, Daniel G.; eds. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998, c1993). pg 373

[2] Ibid.

[3] Witherington, Ben. The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical Thought World of the New Testament. (Downers Grove: IVP, 2009) Pg 218

[4] ibid

Law and Gospel 1

Facial composite of Saint Paul (* 7-10; † 64-6...
Image via Wikipedia

a) What is “the law” according to the Apostle Paul? Explain the different usage of this word in his letters.

The Greek term for what Paul used for law is nomos. Westerholm notes that in designating nomos, the Greek term for law, it blends well in what the Hebrew word torah understand as the OT. He further explain that

“…when Paul speaks of a passage in Isaiah as coming from the “law” (1 Cor. 14:21, of Isa. 28:11-12), and provides a series of quotations from the Psalms and Isaiah (Rom. 3:10-18) as evidence of what “the law says” (v.19), his extension of the term “law” to include the sacred Scriptures as a whole can be paralled in both Greek and Hebrew sources.”[1]

 

Thus on this detail we can note that “law” in its general sense of how Paul used the word incorporates the understanding that it is to the whole of the Jewish scriptures he is noting. This according to Westerholm is not disputed and many agree with this understanding.

Another way in which Paul mentions law is to designate it to something that is specific namely the Mosaic Laws. Westerholm, arguing from Romans 2 notes some peculiarity in how Paul used the word. The law, was something that Gentiles did not possess (v.14), that Jews used it to know God’s direction in how to live (vv.17-18), something that could be “done” (v.13) and “kept” (v.27).[2] Noting this evidence, Paul in a more specific sense tell us that law “refers to the sum of specific divine requirements given to Israel through Moses.”[3] Therefore, noting details above, when Paul mentions “the law” in a general sense of his use it points to the whole of the OT scriptures but in a more specific sense it talks about the Mosaic Law given to the Israelite community.

We can also note the different usages of the word “law” in Paul’s letters. Four can be mentioned looking to Romans where the law is seen as a controlling power (2:17-20; 9:31; 10:3-5), the Pentateuch (3:21b), the whole OT (3:19) and a principle (3:27). One might get confused if one reads Paul and interprets his use by designating the meaning of law in one meaning. As we have seen above the context and Paul’s use of the law in his arguments will determine what he means by telling his reader which designation of the law he is talking about. But one thing needs to be pointed out.

While Paul’s criticism of the Mosaic Law is not in the nature of the law but what it was unable to do in accordance with salvation, Paul tell us of another law in which Christians are to ascribe to, namely the law of Christ.[4] Wayne G. Strickland states this as the third way in which Paul used law and this has its association to Christ.[5] References to this law can be seen in passages such as Romans 8:2-3 and is in contrast to the Mosaic Law.[6]

On this note, we can conclude that Paul i used ‘law’ in three different ways of understanding. On a general basis law is seen as the bulk of the Old Testament Scriptures as a whole. In further detail, Paul point to law in a specific sense where he designates it as the Mosaic Law that was given to the Israelite community at Sinai. In a third usage of law, Paul presents it as a Christian understanding where, while the control of the Mosaic law has ceased in the coming of Christ, a new law supersedes it, and that is the law of Christ.


[1] Westerhold, Stephen. Perspectives Old and New: The “Lutheran” Paul and his Critics. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004). Pg 298

[2] Westerholm also takes note of passages in Galation 6:13 where Paul’s opponents are those who do not keep the law and more strikingly in Rom 7:7-12 where law is used interchangeably. The idea gleaned here is that Paul cauld not have wanted to point to the whole OT scriptures but to something more specific. See more in 298 -299

[3] Ibid. Pg 299

[4] Witherington, Ben.The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical Thought World of the New Testament. (Downers Grove: IVP, 2009). Pg 236

[5] Moo, Douglas. The Law of Christ as a Fulfilment of the Law of Moses, in Gundry, Stanley (Ed). Five Views on Law and Gospel.(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999). 247

[6] Ibid 247

 

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)

The Lord’s Supper

According to scholars from the protestant tradition of faith, it is ascribe to that, for the church the Lord has constituted us to just two forms of sacrament; baptism and the Lord ’s Supper/ Eucharist/ Holy Communion. Although we will not ravel ourselves with the arguments on why only two sacraments, our focus today is on the Lord’s Supper.Lets get some sense in understanding the Lord’s Supper.

Understanding the Lord’s Supper

Leonard J. Vander Zee in his book entitled “Christ, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper” gives us a comprehensive lens to help us understand the meaning of the Lord’s supper. (So the quotes I have taken from his book.)

OT Feast of the Passover

A Jewish meal- The invocations of “took the bread…blessed…and broke it,” significantly had Jewish elements to it, after all Jesus was a Jew. A typical Jewish meal experience looked like this:

Host took bread and said a brief prayer (berakah meaning blessing/thanksgiving). Bread broken by host and bread distributed, first for the host and then others. At the end of the meal, more extension of thanksgiving. Host took cup of wine, known as “cup of blessing” (1 Cor 10:16) and said similar prayer as the one when the meal started.

For Jews a meal had deep religious meanings and that among Jews “who you ate with was as important as what you ate and how you ate.” This should invoke in us the image that Jesus extends his invitation to us, sinners as we are to his table to feed on the living bread.

The understanding of the prayer said before the meal is more than just a simple saying of grace for the Jews. The prayer of blessing and thanksgiving “carried with it the idea that the bread was eaten as God’s gift”. “The whole meal was offered to God in thanksgiving, and then given back to them by God for their use. The bread becomes the locus of meaning for the whole meal. It was all consecrated in the bread.”

The meal also had strong communal perspectives- “So in blessed and broken bread the whole meal was consecrated, and in its sharing a community was formed.”

Connecting the significance of the meal to Jesus- Jesus himself takes the bread and pronounces a blessing and says “this is my body.” “Jesus thus links the bread and his own self. Just as the bread was received as God’s gift shared between them, so now, in his death, Jesus is given to them by God.” 143 Since the bread signified the whole meal consecrated, in a way the whole Christ takes place of the whole meal taken in as well. Christ’s whole person was now given to us, we take in us Christ’s whole life and in that we have fellowship with one another in taking the meal.

A Passover feast- The meal is also a special meal, which was the Passover feast. To signify that the actions of Jesus complied to this was his action of taking the bread, blessing it and distributing it. This shows that this could have happened at the beginning of the meal, just after the Haggadah (explanation of the meal).

There were four cups of wine drunk during the supper. Taking Luke and Paul “say that these words came with the cup “after the supper” and Paul calls it “the cup of blessing.” This then points to the third cup-cup of blessing which came after the meal.

The Passover sacrifice- Jesus’ words “This is my body and blood, given, poured out for you” is rich with sacrificial meaning. These word’s are in rich connection with Isai 53:12 “…he poured himself out to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sins of many.” Paul in 1 Cor 5:7-8 claims that Christ is the Passover sacrifice and in 1 Cor 10:16-17 places the cup and the lord’s supper side by side- “sharing the blood of Christ” and “sharing in the body of Christ.” Paul further stresses that Israel, in eating the sacrifice made them “partners in the altar” (10:18) which in turn means that participants share in the sacrifice and in the benefits of that sacrifice.

Passover and remembrance- Often times we hear the call to remember when we participate in the Lord’s supper. More is at the heart of what it means to remember. “The Passover rituals were not merely recalling an event, they were a “re-presentation, making present the past which can never remain merely past but becomes effective in the present.” When the Israelites remember the Exodus, they were participating in it.” “Remembrance means I participate in his death and resurrection as I receive the bread and the wine.”

Passover and longing- the setting of the Passover helps us grasp the eschatological character of the supper. The meal at the time of Jesus has been connected to a feast longing for the Messiah. Mk 14:25 & Lk 22:15 talks about the meal as a farewell meal, a last supper with the disciples. But in it also was the a meal in which Jesus anticipated a future fulfillment where he says in Luke “I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Paul echoes this in 1 Cor 11:26. At the Lord’s supper we long and anticipate the coming of Christ which has a future dimension and with that in a strange way imply that Christ is absent. In it we pray that the one present with us in spirit will be present with us in his glorious kingdom.

Eating his flesh and drinking his blood- “Jesus wants us to receive the bread and wine, which are his body and blood, as powerful symbols that carry with them the redeeming power of his death and resurrection that brings us into eternal life, and as personal confirmation of his presence to us…Eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood is the most vivid imaginable way of being both participants and beneficiaries of his death on the cross and the resurrection by which it won the victory over sin and death.”

Blood of the covenant- “…when Jesus refers to his blood as the blood of the covenant, he is telling his disciples and us that he will keep the blood covenant by the shedding of his own blood as the covenant representative, the one who comes to stand for all Israel, the Christ, the anointed.” … “the saying over the cup directs attention to Jesus as the one who fulfills the divine will to enter covenant fellowship with his people on a new and enduing basis.”

Concluding Reflection: The significance of this understanding gives rich meaning to how we are to position our understanding on the significance of the Lord’s Supper as we participate in it. It is a meal which we are invited to not by our own merits, a meal where we participate in the whole nature of the saving life of Christ (encompassing his life, death and resurrection), which connects us who partake in it in the fellowship of the body of Christ. In it we remember which invokes the vivid memory that we are participants in his death and resurrection. In it informs us now of the benefits we have now in our walk with Christ, to reinvigorate and sustain our devotion in our living presently in him. We also long or anticipate for the future, when Christ will come again. In the meal is the encapsulation of the gospel message not in words but in participating in a meal.

One aspect of the Lord’s Supper that gets put on the sidelines is the community aspect. We mostly stress on introspection of the personal self on whether we have lived our lives in faithful obedience to Jesus. But it seems, the overemphasis on whether I have displeased Christ in my personal life has removed the community dimension and importance that the Lord’s Supper points to. The participation in the Lord’s Supper can be a good reminder to the church why it is the community of believers who share in a common bond in Christ. The meal we partake together reemphasizes that we are one body who are brought together by the bond of being in Christ, though his body and his blood. There is a strong sense of belonging that it creates.

“For Paul the Lord’s supper binds the participants together with Christ and with each other into a single body. This bond is not a mere symbol but actually points to the deepest reality of community. The one loaf which is Christ, and the one cup which is the sharing in his sacrifice binds us together so powerfully that breaking the bonds through carelessness or lovelessness has demonstrable physical effects.” So what if the stance of introspection of personal walk is combined by how we have daily lived out the communal aspect of being the body of Christ? How have we disrespected the body of Christ by our actions and thoughts? Are we faithful to the implication that lies in the practice of partaking in the shared body of Christ and his blood?

Some other questions that we should consider also which i found interesting for our reflections as well are:

1. Should we revert back to how the supper was practiced in the NT; a love feast, rather than just ding it like how we have always done it; a symbolic meal?

2. Who should partake of the Lord’s supper? Is it for only those who have been baptized?

3. Can we ascribe to a teaching that says that healing can come by taking in the Lord’s supper? (This question might seem odd but many point to a supernatural blessing that derives from taking it which some have attested to. But personally I am inclined myself to teach according to this belief.)

Adam is Israel

This has got to be one of the most interesting readings regarding Adam for me. Make sure you check the article out by Pete Enns, writer of Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament,a book that has probed my mind to think deeper.

“There are two ways of looking at this parallel. You could say that the Adam story came first and then the Israelites just followed that pattern. But there is another way. Maybe Israel’s history happened first, and the Adam story was written to reflect that history. In other words, the Adam story is really an Israel story placed in primeval time. It is not a story of human origins but of Israel’s origins.” (read the rest of the article here: Adam is Israel)