Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Over the Wire Bible Study Take #2

Luke Chapter 1 revisited

Reading through Luke chp. 1 for a second time in recent days, I noticed a couple of things that I didn't know the first time through. This often happens and this isn't the main thrust of this entry but I think that it is valuable to note.

One of the chief things that I noticed is the tone of Luke's writing, possibly it has something to do with the translation or maybe the English syntax makes everything seem similar, but I noticed and thought that this first entry in Luke's Gospel sounded a lot like some of the earlier books of the OT that I am most familiar with. I have been reading through the OT in the Message version of the Bible, and am currently stalled in early 1 Samuel. The part where Elizabeth mentions the baby jumping in her womb sounded really familiar and it seemed like something that could have happened in the OT. If you knew nothing about the Biblical writers, one would easily assume that one person wrote the whole thing, or it was all written in cohoots with each other so tonal similarities seems reasonable. But as I understand the process of the Bible coming together, it happened over thousands of years through many different authors in completely different contexts writing to completely different audiences. That Luke initially sounds like the OT and I would feel ridiculous if I did not do my studying and this incident actually happens in the OT, but the way it is worded the way it is mentioned twice, it rings of Biblical revelation. 

The other thing that struck me was that Zechariah and Elizabeth were considered righteous according to the Law and blameless. The verses here go into great length to show how righteous this couple was, and I couldn't understand why. I assume some of the most obvious reasons are probably the right one. In order for Zechariah to enter the temple and not to end up dead in God's presence in the holiest of holies was probably important for the rest of the story, but why were we suppose to know this. The first thing that I think is that we understand that in our covenant relationship with God, there is no way for us to be blameless before him. We are born into sin, and in sin we will die returning to dust, which I assume is no different for Jews of this time, Jesus time, or Biblical antiquity, but what is different is the process that Jews went through to become clean. There was a time, and it could happen daily or monthly, however often you sacrificed at the temple, on Yom Kippur that you could truly be considered blameless. When Jesus comes and says if you look at a woman lustfully you sin in your heart, we are all done (speaking for men everywhere), and thus we can never be considered blameless. I wonder what that means for us practically as Christians, shouldn't that be a predisposition toward humility, that we are so aware of how short we fall of the command, 'Be holy as your Father in heaven is holy'. 

This is obviously not the case. 

So I wonder what we can take from understanding Zecharias as being blameless...I am not and i I don't know anyone who is. Christians are often accused of thinking that they are blameless. Ok let me back up. We who have the hardest standard to live by on earth are considered uptight and hypocritical. The only way we can ever be considered holy is because of an action we had no part in, and if we were considered to have a part in it we were the ones shouting 'Crucify him', ok - so we are the hypocritical ones, the judgemental ones, the biased - prejudice- intolerant ones...that can't be right...

Well, that's what the world thinks of us.

Thats what I think of myself. Everytime I drive past a stranded car. Every time I have an opportunity to tell someone my story and fudge it a little because I don't feel up for the debate. Every time I get impatient with my wife, my brother, my friend, and my neighbor. I am a hypocrite. To steal a line from Paul and to take it vastly out of context - a Pharisee of Pharisees. So no I am not blameless like Zechariah or Elizabeth for that matter, but I hope I never think I am either.

Christ's love,

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Over the Wire Bible Study Take #1

This blog series, as you can see from the archives I am not very good at or consistent, is an attempt to keep a friendship alive that is floundering in an uncertain sea of turmoil and distance. So this blog series is to take a stand, fight the good fight worth fighting and make this friendship work. Drew Moody and I haven't been friends that long but his time with me has been invaluable, and his accountability in our spiritual walks is priceless to me. In order to see that sustained and our friendship and relationship with God grow, we plan on reading the Gospel of Luke separately, and blogging about our discoveries - reading each others discoveries and being emboldened to in our faiths by each others faiths and writings. Here is it goes. I don't know where this is going to end up but I know that Luke's Gospel is the first step in what could end up as anything. We will leave comments on each others pages, you are welcome to do so with us. We don't have a reading plan because reading plans are an avenue to some sort of failure of missed goals and frustration. We are going to read and post everyday that is the only plan. Other than that we are going to let God guide us...

Take #1 - 
I will inevitably read more than the first 4 verses but they are the ones I personally want to comment on. I don't know what Drew is going to talk about, but I will talk about this lines for a moment. The Gospel of Luke, as I understand, is the only with a preface. Some books in the OT have a sort of intro - or at least introducing the author to you, just as Paul does in his Epistles. The interesting thing about Luke's preface is that it admits to several things that are already going on in First Century Palastine. Luke admits that there are several other narratives about the events that happened. Luke doesn't state that this is a biography of Jesus, but that this is a history of events. Jesus is just the main character. We understand in a very almost coded way that Luke is admitting that he followed the events for some time past, and his ambition is the give an orderly account from eyewitnesses of the events. Another interesting bit about this intro is that Luke's intention is that Theopholis might have certainty concerning the things he has already been taught. Luke wants to get into writing the stories that are obviously circulating, he wants to grant Theopholis certainty also about the things he has already been taught. That makes us understand that Theopholis might believe these things already. I think this is interesting given the speculative or explicit purposes of the other Gospels. We see that in Matthew's Gospel, he is speculated, but pretty clear purpose is that he wanted to translate the events surrounding Jesus to the Jews of the time - including the most OT references of the 4 Gospels and the most prophecies fulfilled and mentioned, so that Jews would have a clear witness to the murky events surrounding Jesus. Mark's, as I have been taught, was purposed to be written to the Romans and has several devices in his language that make his portrayal of Jesus more apparent to a Roman audience. John expressly mentions that he has written 'these things so that you may believe', which is at its inception different from Luke's Gospel. 
John's is written so that people might believe
Luke's is written so that Theopholis might have certainty about the things that he has already been taught, big difference. Luke goes into the most detail of any of the Gospels. Luke gives us the most of Jesus' teachings than any gospel. Luke gives us the most parables. 

What does this mean to us today? As I see it, and I wanted to mark that phrase, there are a lot of things that people have been taught today. There are a lot of 'facts' that circulate about Jesus today and there are a lot of opinions that circulate, speculations, and interpretations that have little to do with Jesus and more to do with people criticizing and being criticized for being a follow of Jesus. There are a lot of misconceptions about the immaculate conception, I just wanted to sound like Rev. Al Sharpton, or GK Chesterton both champion-rhymers. So we need an orderly account that will be authoritative, sufficient, clear, and concise. We need an account that people can quote and believe in. We need a text that people can turn to in time of trouble and despair and feel like they are connecting to something that is bigger than them. No ordinary book will do. No cliffnotes, abbreviated version, no interpretation of the events, just the words alone, and that is all that we need, the words themselves, and we will know the truth of the matter. Put all the speculations to bed. Did Jesus marry anyone? Did Jesus actually come back from the dead? Did Jesus actually not sin his whole life? I heard He killed a man, what about that? Well, read the book, and find out for yourself. Any translation will do. I am using the ESV because I have a slim edition of it that I can carry around. Just read the book, 24 of the smallest chapters you're ever going to find, in my edition 30 pages that will get the story straight once and for all. 

In Luke's time they didn't have CNN or FOX news. So people had to tell you what happened if you were there, and then if you did see something important you had to go and tell everyone else because that is the only things go around. So gossip is kind of a big deal in this time because you could really start interpreting things for people pretty quickly. So if you had heard something about Jesus, that might be the only thing you find out forever about him until you saw something or heard or read something about him yourself. Isn't that the same way now, even though they can broadcast news, video/audio/text all over the world, most times people only here one-side of the story and thats all we need. Why did Al-Queda blow up the Trade Center - I still don't have a clear answer for that? The news just reports the WHO?WHAT?WHERE?WHEN?HOW? sometimes WHY? Luke gives us why - to have certainty. I hope it grants you that, certainty - who knows?

Christ's love,