• Psalm
  • 24 Isaia
  • h 7: 10-17 Roman
  • s 1: 1-7 Matthew 1:18-25 The best Advent meditation I know is this: Imagine the world if Christ had NOT come. For starters, I'd be sitting home, knowing I'm not good enough to meet the Psalm 24 qualifications for church-building admission. The Psalm speaks of the coming of God to His people, and of a good person's coming to church. The BCP translation of 24:5 bothers me. I'm only an amateur, but the Hebrew word translated "just reward" is ts@daqah, "righteousness", whether the righteousness of God or the goodness of a good person. The sense seems to be that only law-abiding folks can approach God, and that God will reward them with supernatural goodness. The charismatic Jews talk in modern times about tsaddiks, righteous Jews who secretly have supernatural powers. Notice that in the Old Testament, it's the good folks that walk into church feeling good about themselves. In the New Testament, it's the not-so-good folks like me who go to Jesus (or the publican in the temple, etc.) and are given supernatural grace. Hebrew 'owph (sign, Isaiah) covers a range from memorials (phylacteries) to remembrances (the rainbow) to miraculous signs that let a person know that God's prophecies are to be trusted. It seems obvious to me that Isaiah is talking about a "virgin" getting pregnant, not a "young woman". It's also fairly obvious that Isaiah is prophesying events in Hezekiah's time, not Mary and Joseph's. I'm told, however, that Israel is recapitulated in her Messiah, and... Romans 1:4 Jesus is "declared" Son of God is a weird translation of "horisthentos" (hawr-ees-THEN-taws). The root is horidzo, our "horizon", the limit and decision set by God. See Luke 22:22, God has determined (horismenon) that Jesus will be betrayed, and Acts 2:23, God determined (horismene(i)), purposed, and foreknew that Jesus would be betrayed. Also Acts 11:29, the disciples decide (horisan) to support missions, and Acts 17: 26, God has determined (horisas) what different nations (ethnos, see below) should exist and where they should live, in order that each nation might seek ("grope for", "feel- around for", pselapheseo) God in its own way (!!!). The meaning of Romans 1:4 does seem to be problematic. A reader without other information might conclude that Jesus was born normally from two human beings, descended from David according to the prophecies, and that God decided that Jesus would be God's son. The key isn't Jesus's natural origins (Paul says we don't know Jesus after the flesh), but that Jesus's coming is the decision and act of God. "The resurrection of the dead" in Romans 1 is a plural, resurrection of dead people, not just the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is the first of many, and Paul assumes everybody knows this. The theme (Christ is first of many) continues through Romans. For Year A, the Gospel is usually Matthew's. Secular scholars consider that Matthew's aim was, specifically, to evangelize Jewish folks. Matthew's birth story focuses on elements that would be understood by his Jewish audience. (1) Jesus, like the Jews, was taken in his infancy to Egypt by a Joseph. (2) Jesus, like Moses, was rescued from a massacre of infants by a wicked king. (3) Jesus is descended from David's royal line, the genealogy being traced. (4) Jesus is born of a virgin, to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy. (5) The Messiah was supposed to come from Bethlehem. Matthew has Joseph and Mary living in Bethlehem and moving to Nazareth to avoid Herod. (Luke gets Jesus born in Bethlehem by having Joseph and Mary go there from Nazareth to get taxed and counted in the census. Luke often tries to show Christians as working well with the Romans, and this census was the occasion of much anti-Roman agitation among the Jews, for whom a census was forbidden by Mosaic law.) Many secular scholars talk about Matthew's gospel including fiction. I don't worry about this ("Jonah and the whale? Fiction. Noah's ark? Fiction. George Washington and the cherry tree? Fiction. But told to make important points about God, morality, and.... Christ resurrection, the Easter faith, salvation by Christ's blood? NOT fiction.") Is the virgin birth fiction? An Episcopalian pastor is going to have to have an after-hours answer for this. I'll leave the classics scholars on the list to tell about other famous folks of the ancient world who were supposedly fathered by divine beings, and how Matthew's story and Luke's story are like, and unlike, these stories. The virgin birth is not mentioned by the second evangelist ("Mark", Jesus's first biographer), the fourth evangelist ("John", Jesus's best friend and the most theological of the four writers), Paul (our first theologian), or James (Jesus's "brother", whatever that means). If they didn't worry about it, then I'm not going to worry about it. prin e synelthein (preen ay soon-ell-THANE, "before their-coming- together-for-themselves", of Mary and Joseph in Matthew 18:25) specifically means that they did "come together". The same words is used several times each in Acts and First Corinthians for folks getting together for church, rather than having sex. If anybody wants to defend the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, I guess that person could... Seems a little far-fetched for me, but I need to worry more about living decently between now and Christmas. Speaking of the virgin birth, is Paul claiming (Romans 1:3, from the seed of David according to the flesh, "kata sarka", kah-TAH SARR-kah) that Joseph is Jesus's biological father, and God is Jesus's spiritual father from the foundation of the world? The angel names Jesus, which of course is the north-of-Israel Aramaic pronunciation of "Joshua" (yeh-hoe-SHOE-wah) which literally meant "Yahweh is salvation". Matthew knew this. "His people" (ton laon autou, tawn lah-AWN aww-TOOO) is from "laos" (lah-AWSS), which ordinarily refers to a particular group of folks united by ancestry and language, i.e., an ethnic group. The other word for people is "ochlos" (AWKH-lawss), which usually means "crowd". Matthew, Mark, and Luke use both. Luke 2 (including the Song of Simeon) promises that Jesus will be for "all nations" / "all peoples" (panton ton laon, PAHN-tone tone lah-OWN). John uses "ochlos" except when Caiaphas says (twice) that it is expedient for one man to die for the people. In Greek, "people" is often understood, and when Jesus says "I will draw all people to Myself", it's really "I will draw all to myself", as we might say in English too. In Paul's introduction to Romans, the "nations" (mission fields to be evangelized) are "ethnesin", hence our ethnic groups. Four words for people. The contrasts are obvious. Back to Ed's Propers
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