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Archive for July, 2011

Not a Fib

July 21, 2011 Leave a comment

“The divine name that is explicitly associated with [the Abrahamic covenant] is ‘êl šadday. Its sign is the circumcision” (The Oxford Study Bible, page 154).

Does not the word Shaddai mean God’s breast? How strange that God would give Abraham this explicitly feminine name to call her, and then ask him to respond with an explicitly masculine sign. I don’t know, maybe not so strange. Read more…

Sterile Gloves

July 21, 2011 Leave a comment

I don’t like it when people write about the gods and myths of this or that time and place with a tone of superiority, intellectual distance and essential disbelief. Why should I trust anything they have to say? They’re trying to hand me something while refusing to touch it. I don’t need their sterile gloves.

The Hebrews’ Book

July 21, 2011 Leave a comment

It seems that so much of biblical interpretation in the early church was an attempt by Christians to find themselves in the Hebrew Bible. To prove it a mirror in which their reflection was clear, a prophecy of self, a validation of their belonging. What does a relationship with this text look like if that’s not your attempt? Do you still belong if you allow it to be only itself? Can you have a friendship with someone and still let them have their own life? Must you continue to tell them that only in having become your friend have they fulfilled their identity in this world?

I am interested in a friendship of freedom.

Whose Scriptures Are They?

July 12, 2011 2 comments

Reading this article – “Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church” (Oxford Study Bible, pages 129-140) – I’m struck by how hard these particular early Christians were working to justify the cognitive dissonance engendered by the fact that they had appropriated the heritage of the Jews without actually converting, submitting, to Judaism. The points that get me are these: Read more…

New v. Old

July 11, 2011 Leave a comment

“…in the early second century, some Christians believed that if you could not find a teaching in the ‘charters’ of the Old Testament, you should not believe it in the gospel” (Oxford Study Bible, page 129).

Funny, because in my undergrad class on hermeneutics, I remember them saying the exact opposite. The culture of interpretation has changed such that if you can’t find it in the New, you can or should discount it in the Old. (Or at least, take it with a large grain of salt.) What a transformation. What a revolution, in the literal sense.

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Sola Scriptura Sadducees

July 11, 2011 Leave a comment

“Sadducees, a group notorious for its refusal to acknowledge the binding validity of any religious custom not explicitly ordained in Scripture” (Oxford Study Bible, page 123), remind me of extreme evangelicals in this respect. This is ironic, because those same evangelicals talk about the Sadducees in Sunday School with an air of rejection. I don’t remember being told as a child why the Sadducees were wrong. Could it be in part because of their sola scriptura stance?

That’s a silly question. In any case, limiting the possibilities of your practice to what happens to have been written down by others who observed no such limitation is like putting hobbles on the donkey before leading it out to pasture.

Christianity was Young Once

July 11, 2011 Leave a comment

“The oldest surviving document delineating regulations for church life… usually goes by the title The Didache…. After establishing ethical expectations for the community, The Didache then prescribes the proper performance of Christian rituals, establishes rules for the community organization and discipline, and concludes with apocalyptic prophecies” (Oxford Study Bible, page 119).

I find this compelling. Today, Christianity is a tradition two thousand years old, with all the inertia, the generational ancestry of practice, that one could need. Today, I consider ways to transform or even recreate my tradition, and balk in the doorway because one person does not have the weight to create that kind of inertia: the kind it would take to affect the direction of such a force.

But once, Christianity was young. Once, they wrote a document defining what it looked like, because it was new and had no inertia, no ancestry, no established practice.

I suppose we have permission to do so again. I suppose what will last is what resonates, and continues to resonate, with those who encounter it.