Posts Tagged ‘ancient Israel’

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…


When the Prophets Railed

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

I always took the prophets at their word when they denounced the worship of other gods as blasphemy deserving of divine judgement; no, when they implied that monotheism was the unanimous, uncontested religious identity of their people… when they implied a common starting point for debate: “This is who we are. It’s who you are too, O people. You know it. I know it. And you’re breaking the agreement.”

Suddenly I wonder if they were actually acting on premises that weren’t, after all, universally accepted. Like some of our own people calling this a Christian nation (despite what all those atheists say), and holding the atheists accountable to a national religious identity they never accepted. Maybe, when the prophets railed, the people weren’t interested. Maybe it’s not a given that they were supposed to be.

My Faith Must Be of This Land

January 29, 2011 Leave a comment

I paused from my study to read back over these entries, trying to make sense of something that eludes me. It has to do with this subject of lineage and place and how they affect religion.

I think I understand how we got here: how the history of ancient Israel came to be so important to us contemporary American descendants of European pagans. It’s a strange story, but logical enough when you lay it out.

We Americans are just as strange, ourselves. We’re not Europeans (though we each have a nation or two across the Atlantic to claim for a heritage), and we’re not natives (though we were born here). We’re the starling among birds, the rock dove, the non-native blackberry that has become Read more…

Stories that Wear the Clothes of My People

January 22, 2011 Leave a comment

In exile, the “Jewish heirs of old Israel” came “to perceive that there were other ways to understand the death of their nation…,” to “sing new songs to their God,” whose authority “transcended all national boundaries… to be both Jewish and citizens of diverse nations” (Oxford Study Bible, page 42). It was “a situation in which the struggle for new identities, new forms of religious community, and new ways of being the people of Yahweh, could be explored.” These were the communities of the biblical tradition, those “that produced and treasured it” (ibid., page 41).

I did not produce the biblical tradition, but I come from a community that treasures it. Read more…

Ancient Israelite Activists

January 21, 2011 Leave a comment

It may be that ancient Israel was non-ecumenical, actively shaping themselves in contrast to their surroundings, but I suppose this element didn’t come of age until early Judaism when the exiled people were forced to survive without a nation in an alien world. I see them, before then, almost as activists, setting up the rules of their federation in protest against the monarchies and hierarchies nearby (Oxford Study Bible, pages 35-36), visionaries dreaming of some unknown alternative. Yet they were deeply influenced by the givens as well.

Said the Sluice Gate

January 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Ancient Israel was not ecumenical. Their whole mission was to keep from mixing with their surroundings, to preserve a distinct identity in the midst of shifting political currents, lodged as they were in a geographical corridor that lay between powers, a river of trade and influence whose forces threatened to wash them away.

I am ecumenical. This fundamental difference between me and the writers of my holy book seems just slightly problematic. Read more…

Mixed Lineage

January 17, 2011 Leave a comment

The Oxford Study Bible, page 6: “both [the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament] relate the continuing story of God’s involvement with the Jewish people and the surrounding Gentile world.”

What does this have to do with me? Why are these the scriptures on which I’ve built my life? I’m not Jewish, and since the word “Gentile” only has meaning from a Jewish worldview, I’m not Gentile either.

I suppose there is both form and content at play here, Read more…