Analysis of The Shack

The Shack has been under scrutiny for a while (both the novel and the film). Critics of the novel point out that The Shack is crippled in the theological department. There is heresy upon heresy upon heresy upon . . . However, as I sit here, having just made a cup of tea, and reflect on the film, these possible theological misnomers come to mind. I will lay out the points, weigh them, measure them, and see if they are found wanting.

 

God the…Mother?

ct-god-black-woman-shack-20161221

The first subject I’d like to discuss is the portrayal of God the Father as a woman. This is definitely what stands out most to people. In the Bible people read about God the Father this and God the Father that: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God, when depicted in a human way, has always taken the masculine pronoun rather than the feminine one. Thus, when seeing God the Father portrayed as a woman, there is hesitation to accept it. Now, while this portrayal of God as a woman is controversial and shocking, I don’t think arguments against it hold much water. For instance, in the Bible it is explicitly told that God is not male or female but spirit: “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). But someone may make the claim “Jesus came to earth as a man not a woman; therefore God is male.” The premise of that statement is true. Yes, Jesus came to earth as a man, and if The Shack had portrayed Jesus as a woman, then there would be validity to the arguments against The Shack concerning this. However, as it is, God the Father is spirit and only spirit. This is verifiable from Genesis: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Here, the term “man” is, for our purposes, more correctly translated as “humankind.” Since God created both male and female in his image, the image of God is sexless; the image of God is spirit. Thus, if one is to get angry at The Shack for portraying God the Father as a woman, one must also get mad at movies such as Bruce Almighty for portraying God the Father as a man.

 

Modalism (misrepresentation of the trinity)

wear-your-modalism1

This topic is along the same line as the previous one as it is examining the person of God. However, the claim that The Shack conveys modalism is a bit trickier. The orthodox view of the trinity is that there is one God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.

The_Trinity

However, modalism purports that the trinity is one person, one God who shows himself in different forms or functions (Father, Son, Spirit), but never simultaneously.  A claim is that The Shack misrepresents the trinity in this way. However, as far as I can tell, The Shack depicts the trinity in its truest sense (orthodox). God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are personified in human form in the film, yes, but that is not to say that they are not three distinct persons. The Shack gets this theology right, undisputedly: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Universalism

Universalism is a theory of salvation that is made up of quite a minority of people within Christendom. It is usually cast aside, along with theories such as pelagianism, as heresy. Universalism is the belief that, in the end—ultimately—every human will be saved. That is, every human being will be in heaven, and no human will be in hell.

tumblr_lvuxf1cUlK1qd7un5o1_400

I am not completely sure where I stand on whether I think The Shack promotes universalism or not. In the beginning of the film, it is shown how Mackenzie, the main character, was abused as a child by his father. His father was not a temperate man as he would get drunk often, beat his wife, and beat his son. One would probably call Mackenzie’s father a bad man. This would also make one think that, given scripture such as James 2:24: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone,” Mackenzie’s father would not be justified before God and would thus go to hell since “. . . [the unjustified] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). However, towards the end of the movie, Mackenzie sees and interacts with his father’s spirit. His father’s spirit is the opposite of what it was when he was alive on earth. He is now temperate, kind, and peaceful. Those are not the attributes one would ascribe to someone in hell. Even Mackenzie’s father says to him that when he was alive, he could not see God because he was blinded by his own anger. If he could not see God (spiritually speaking of course), then how could he even have faith in him? The bottom line, here, I believe is that I think The Shack did not accurately portray what happens to humans in the afterlife.

Forgiving God

forgiveness2

Another thing that seems slightly off about The Shack is the fact that, throughout the entire movie, Mackenzie is struggling to forgive God about what happened to his daughter. He doesn’t know how to deal with the idea that God allowed his daughter to die. Mackenzie’s heart becomes hard, and he closes himself off to everyone else, especially God. “How dare he blame God for what happened to him. God does not need his forgiveness nor does he need to explain himself,” retorts the sinless Christian. No, God does not need anyone’s forgiveness. No, Mackenzie shouldn’t have blamed God for what happened to his daughter. But what is revealed in The Shack is that God wants Mackenzie to forgive him. God wants Mackenzie to learn where the blame truly lies. So what if Mackenzie may be blaming God and will not forgive him? This is not a film about man’s greatness; it is a film about God’s greatness, and God wants to change Mackenzie’s heart so that he will forgive not only God but everyone else he has been condemning as well: “[God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

Purpose of the Film/Conclusion

This point, though it is not dealing with a theological issue, I think is the most important. When examining anything, one must try to observe what Aristotle called “the final cause” or the purpose. Many people are slamming The Shack for its horrendous theological teachings, but even the beginning of the film starts out by saying that the following is not true. The film is basically saying “the theology may not be one hundred percent accurate, but the message is good.” The critics of the theology of the film cannot see the forest through the trees. It is either that or they are claiming that a few crippled trees ruin the whole forest. This is a narrow-minded view of the film and of life itself if one is to extend this view to everything. If one is to condemn The Shack for not accurately portraying theology to perfection, then one must also condemn Jesus for his parables. Jesus told factually inaccurate parable after factually inaccurate parable. But nobody condemns Jesus for telling these. Why? Well Jesus never claimed them to be true (like the film). Jesus was not trying to portray accurate realities of things; he was trying to convey moral truths through hypothetical stories. This is exactly what The Shack is trying to do. It does not claim to be a theological treatise. Rather, it is best viewed as a parable conveying a moral truth: it is better to forgive than to condemn. In summation, The Shack, in my opinion does not do a perfect job of accurately portraying the theology of the Bible. However, as a parable, The Shack conveys a timeless and moral truth just as it is presented in the Bible.

Analysis of The Shack

The Shack has been under scrutiny for a while (both the novel and the film). Critics of the novel point out that The Shack is crippled in the theological department. There is heresy upon heresy upon heresy upon . . . However, as I sit here, having just made a cup of tea, and reflect on the film, these possible theological misnomers come to mind. I will lay out the points, weigh them, measure them, and see if they are found wanting.

 

God the…Mother?

ct-god-black-woman-shack-20161221

The first subject I’d like to discuss is the portrayal of God the Father as a woman. This is definitely what stands out most to people. In the Bible people read about God the Father this and God the Father that: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God, when depicted in a human way, has always taken the masculine pronoun rather than the feminine one. Thus, when seeing God the Father portrayed as a woman, there is hesitation to accept it. Now, while this portrayal of God as a woman is controversial and shocking, I don’t think arguments against it hold much water. For instance, in the Bible it is explicitly told that God is not male or female but spirit: “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). But someone may make the claim “Jesus came to earth as a man not a woman; therefore God is male.” The premise of that statement is true. Yes, Jesus came to earth as a man, and if The Shack had portrayed Jesus as a woman, then there would be validity to the arguments against The Shack concerning this. However, as it is, God the Father is spirit and only spirit. This is verifiable from Genesis: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Here, the term “man” is, for our purposes, more correctly translated as “humankind.” Since God created both male and female in his image, the image of God is sexless; the image of God is spirit. Thus, if one is to get angry at The Shack for portraying God the Father as a woman, one must also get mad at movies such as Bruce Almighty for portraying God the Father as a man.

 

Modalism (misrepresentation of the trinity)

wear-your-modalism1

This topic is along the same line as the previous one as it is examining the person of God. However, the claim that The Shack conveys modalism is a bit trickier. The orthodox view of the trinity is that there is one God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.

The_Trinity

However, modalism purports that the trinity is one person, one God who shows himself in different forms or functions (Father, Son, Spirit). A claim is that The Shack misrepresents the trinity in this way. However, as far as I can tell, The Shack depicts the trinity in its truest sense (orthodox). God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are personified in human form, yes, but that is not to say that they are not three distinct persons. The Shack gets this theology right, undisputedly: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Universalism

Universalism is a theory of salvation that is made up of quite a minority of people within Christendom. It is usually cast aside, along with theories such as pelagianism, as heresy. Universalism is the belief that, in the end—ultimately—every human will be saved. That is, every human being will be in heaven, and no human will be in hell.

tumblr_lvuxf1cUlK1qd7un5o1_400

I am not completely sure where I stand on whether I think The Shack promotes universalism or not. In the beginning of the film, it is shown how Mackenzie, the main character, was abused as a child by his father. His father was not a temperate man as he would get drunk often, beat his wife, and beat his son. One would probably call Mackenzie’s father a bad man. This would also make one think that, given scripture such as James 2:24: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone,” Mackenzie’s father would not be justified before God and would thus go to hell since “. . . [the unjustified] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). However, towards the end of the movie, Mackenzie sees and interacts with his father’s spirit. His father’s spirit is the opposite of what is was when he was alive on earth. He is now temperate, kind, and peaceful. Those are not the attributes one would ascribe to someone in hell. Even Mackenzie’s father says to him that when he was alive, he could not see God because he was blinded by his own anger. If he could not see God, then how could he even have faith in him? The bottom line, here, I believe is that I think The Shack did not accurately portray what happens to humans in the afterlife.

Forgiving God

forgiveness2

Another thing that seems slightly off about The Shack is the fact that, throughout the entire movie, Mackenzie is struggling to forgive God about what happened to his daughter. He doesn’t know how to deal with the idea that God allowed his daughter to die. Mackenzie’s heart becomes hard, and he closes himself off to everyone else, especially God. “How dare he blame God for what happened to him. God does not need his forgiveness nor does he need to explain himself,” retorts the sinless Christian. No, God does not need anyone’s forgiveness. No, Mackenzie shouldn’t have blamed God for what happened to his daughter. But what is revealed in The Shack is that God wants Mackenzie to forgive him. God wants Mackenzie to learn where the blame truly lies. So what if Mackenzie may be blaming God and will not forgive him? This is not a film about man’s greatness; it is a film about God’s greatness, and God wants to change Mackenzie’s heart so that he will forgive not only God but everyone else he has been condemning as well: “[God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

Purpose of the Film/Conclusion

This point, though it is not dealing with a theological issue, I think is the most important. When examining anything, one must try to observe what Aristotle called “the final cause” or the purpose. Many people are slamming The Shack for its horrendous theological teachings, but even the beginning of the film starts out by saying that the following is not true. The film is basically saying “the theology may not be one hundred percent accurate, but the message is good.” The critics of the theology film cannot see the forest through the trees. It is either that or they are claiming that a few crippled trees ruin the whole forest. This is a narrow-minded view of the film and of life itself if one is to extend this view to everything. If one is to condemn The Shack for not accurately portraying theology to perfection, then one must also condemn Jesus for his parables. Jesus told factually inaccurate parable after factually inaccurate parable. But nobody condemns Jesus for telling these. Why? Well Jesus never claimed them to be true (like the film). Jesus was not trying to portray accurate realities of things; he was trying to convey moral truths through hypothetical stories. This is exactly what The Shack is trying to do. It does not claim to be a theological treatise. Rather, it is best viewed as a parable conveying a moral truth: it is better to forgive than to condemn. In summation, The Shack, in my opinion does not do a perfect job of accurately portraying the theology of the Bible. However, as a parable, The Shack conveys a timeless and moral truth just as it is presented in the Bible.

What does Hebrews 6:4-6 mean for believers?

large_why-i-love-the-apostle-paul-vfglghfg

In this blog, I intend to examine a particularly difficult phrase employed by the Hebrews writer:

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:4-6)

Now, it is evident from the passage that this seems to deal with a topic that has been visited in numerous others books contained in the New Testament; this topic has been given the name “eternal security” or—rather—it is the question of eternal security. What the Hebrews writer is saying seems to be in conflict with what other writers of the New Testament have said, even John’s account of what Jesus, himself, said: “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:29). Thus, there have been mainly two answers to the question of eternal security:

  1. Yes, there is eternal security
  2. No, there is conditional security

However, both of these answers come with multiple consequences; they are not simple yes and no answers. Therefore, I will be examining these positions in order to produce an accurate answer to the question of eternal security as well as discovering what place this answer has in the scheme of the letter to the Hebrews.

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The answer of “yes” to the question of eternal security is more commonly known as the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. This is the “P” in John Calvin’s acrostic TULIP. When researching Calvin’s exegesis of Hebrews 6:4-6, I was surprised to find that, in my opinion, he did not adequately defend his stance that saints persevere to the end. In fact, he gave heavy implications that a Christ follower could “backslide” which ultimately leads to falling from grace:

The knot of the question is in the word, fall away. . . . But it must be noticed, that there is a twofold falling away, one particular, and the other general. He who has in anything, or in any ways offended, has fallen away from his state as a Christian; therefore all sins are so many fallings. But the Apostle speaks not here of theft, or perjury, or murder, or drunkenness, or adultery; but he refers to a total defection or falling away from the Gospel, when a sinner offends not God in some one thing, but entirely renounces his grace. . . . Thus gradually we slide, until at length we rush headlong into ruin. We may observe this daily in many. Therefore the Apostle does not without reason forewarn all the disciples of Christ to beware in time; for a continued torpor commonly ends in lethargy, which is followed by alienation of mind.

 

john-calvin-9235788-1-402

Here, it is clear that Calvin has in mind that the writer of Hebrews means “fall away” not in the sense that a Christian may sin, but he understands that the writer means that a Christian who falls away is one who turns away from God; this is one who leaves his faith. For, from Ephesians 2:8, it is shown that salvation comes only from the grace of God, and that grace is accessed by faith. Calvin even astutely acknowledges that this renunciation of grace is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the unpardonable sin:

We now see whom he excluded from the hope of pardon, even the apostates who alienated themselves from the Gospel of Christ, which they had previously embraced, and from the grace of God; and this happens to no one but to him who sins against the Holy Spirit.

Here, Calvin’s observation agrees with that of Augustine who believed that the sin against the Holy Spirit, the unpardonable sin, must be impenitence, the unwillingness to repent and to be forgiven by God. Nevertheless, Calvin claims that the elect (the Christians) will not fall away. He then goes on to say that these people who were enlightened were not Christians. They had some taste of God’s grace, they had some sparks of light in their minds, they had some perception of God’s goodness, and God engraved some of his word on their hearts, but they were the reprobate. He ends this turnaround with this summation: “There is therefore some knowledge even in the reprobate, which afterwards vanishes away, either because it did not strike roots sufficiently deep, or because it withers, being choked up.”

 

There is also the position of conditional security. This is usually considered as the Arminian view of conditional security. Conditional Security (CS) is the belief that Christians can lose, or forfeit salvation through either a lifestyle of unrepentant sin, or a complete falling away from the faith. Wesley has the view that not only were the people mentioned in the Hebrews passage Christians, but he asserts they reverted back to Judaism. Within the context of conditional security, this passage indicates that it is possible to lose one’s salvation as other verses would also repeat the same language (1 Timothy 4:1-5, Galatians 5:4, James 5:19).

In conclusion, this passage, since it is in Hebrews, must be examined within the context of Hebrews, not within the context of preservation of the saints, and not within the context of conditional security (duh). The people who were the recipients of the letter were Jewish-Christians (the Hebrews). These Christians were being persecuted by Judaizers who wished to impose practices of the Law on them.

tol_081813_herzog_pharisees

Therefore, the goals of the Hebrews writer were to show that Jesus is superior to the Law and to encourage the Jewish-Christians to stay faithful to Jesus rather than the Law precisely because of his superiority. Now, with this context, it can be seen that the passage of Hebrews 6:4-6 will have something to do with these two goals. Most probably, the writer was trying to convince the Jewish-Christians that if they revert back to the teachings of the Law rather than the teachings of Christ, as long as they adhere to the teachings of the Law, Christ’s sacrifice is meaningless for them. In other words, the Law and Christ cannot both be followed. When there is faith in one, the other will condemn. It is impossible to be “restored to repentance” in Christ when faith is in the Law. Thus, the Hebrews writer urges the Jewish-Christians to stay strong in the faith to Christ. One question to finish with: If it is impossible for an elect (a Christian) to lose salvation, then why was the Hebrews/Galatians/1 Timothy/James writer warning the elect (Christians) to not fall away?

 

 

 

 

 

Reconciliation of Science and Christianity

Concerning Bacon’s New Atlantis, there have been many interpretations detailing Bacon’s use of Christianity as a façade to cover up his ideals of science and materialism. One critic, Jerry Weinberger, proposed that “Bacon’s utopia provide[d] a primary source for understanding the transitional phase from early modern political ideas to those of the modern age, and he maintains that Bacon manipulate[d] religious language and concepts to conceal his secular agenda.” Another critic, Marina Leslie, claimed “Bacon transform[ed] spiritual salvation into material well-being accomplished by humans and not by God” (Francis Bacon’s God, McKnight). Needless to say, the predominant theory as to the purpose of New Atlantis is that it was a treatise advocating for the abandonment of religion and philosophical thought in favor of science and materialism to be heralded above all else. Proponents of this view claim that Bacon makes this clear in the statement of the end of the House of Salomon: “’The End of our Foundation is the knowledge of Causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible” (Bacon, 177). Bacon was definitely a proprietor of the sciences, but he was also a professed Christian. The notable options, then, as to the logical purposes of his utopian literature are that he either superficially was a “Christian” and revealed his true thoughts of rejecting it in favor of science and materialism in New Atlantis or he sincerely was a Christian, and his purpose in New Atlantis was to reconcile the notion that science and Christianity were at odds as the preceding years had seemed to indicate. The following argument is in support of the latter conjecture.

Decades prior to Bacon’s struggle with Aristotelian physics, an astronomer named Nicolaus Copernicus “proposed that the sun was stationary in the center of the universe and the earth revolved around it” (Nicolaus Copernicus, Rabin). This idea became known as heliocentrism and was in stark contrast with Ptolemy’s claim that the earth was the center of all things. Having introduced his idea of heliocentrism in his Commentariolus “somewhere between 1510 and 1514,” Copernicus elaborated his full thought later in his work, On the Revolutions, which was published in 1543. To his dismay, however, his ideas disagreed with the Church’s interpretation of the Bible. In response to a book published in 1615 by Paolo Antonio Foscarini where he was “arguing that [heliocentrism] did not conflict with scripture” (Galileo Galilei, Helden), “[heliocentrism] was deemed heretical [by the Church] in 1616” (Galileo Galilei, Machamer). Despite being a scientist during the sensitive times of the 16th and 17th centuries, Bacon remained a Christian—as can be seen throughout his other works—even to his death. Having this background information, one is able to correctly interpret the purpose indicated by New Atlantis.

There are a couple of key points, in New Atlantis, I will be discussing that clarify the overarching meaning of the book. The first key point is the conversion of the Bensalemites into Christians. The second point is the king’s description of the House of Salomon. Starting with the first point, in the text it is revealed that a miracle occurred in Bensalem just twenty years after the resurrection of Christ. Off the coast, a giant pillar of light appeared, so citizens of Bensalem took their boats to investigate the light. When they were about 60 yards away, some force restrained them from getting any closer to the light. At this point, a wise man from the House of Salomon prayed to God declaring that this pillar of light was a miracle. After this recognition, his boat was able to approach the light while all of the others were still bound by a force. The pillar of light disappeared and an ark (though floating in the sea, it was completely dry) containing the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments and some that were not written yet (the book notes that all this means is that at this time—around AD 50—not all of the books of the New Testament had been written); it also contained a letter from the apostle Bartholomew blessing the people who were to read his letter for those people were brought salvation by God. One more important note here is that another miracle accompanied the arrival of this ark: the gift of tongues. The text notes that “. . . being at that time in this land Hebrews, Persians, and Indians, besides the natives, every one read upon the Book and Letter, as if they had been written in his own language” (Bacon, 161). From this conversion story, traditional interpreters of New Atlantis claimed that this “miracle” of the light was brought forth through science in order to control the people by way of Christianity. This view is haphazardly asserted as it does not take all of the points of the conversion story into account. For this fake miracle view to make sense, one would have to explain why everyone’s boats were stopped equidistant from the pillar of light, why—after praying—one man was able to approach the light while the others could not move, why the ark was dry while floating on the sea, and most importantly why—though the book and letter were written in only one language—all of the people of Bensalem who spoke differing languages were able to read this book and letter. No science allows instant translation of texts within the mind. The interpretation that this conversion miracle was forged holds no water. Furthermore, in this conversion story, Bacon is trying to convey that this land of Bensalem is not the same Christianity as was around in the 16th and 17th centuries. Since Bacon was a protestant, he clearly did not agree with the Catholic Church. Thus, by presenting the information that Bensalem miraculously received its Christianity from God about twenty years after the resurrection of Christ and that Bensalem has barely had any visitors since then, Bacon is conveying to the reader that this Christianity is a pure form of Christianity, untouched by corruption and even more advanced in the understanding of scripture (this will be important for the conclusion).

Next, the House of Salomon and its purpose is to be examined. Firstly, it is good to note the text’s reverence of King Solamona:

“There reigned in this island, about nineteen hundred years ago, a King, whose memory of all others we most adore; not superstitiously, but as a divine instrument, though a mortal man; his name was Solamona: and we esteem him as the law-giver of our nation. This king had a ‘large heart’, inscrutable for good; and was wholly bent to make his kingdom and people happy. (Bacon, 165)

Here, Bacon brings up King Solamona’s nature. He conveys to the reader that Solamona was a good person. Not only was he a good person, but he even identifies him with King Solomon during the first years of his reign, when Solomon sought after God and was righteous and good and sought for wisdom (1 Kings 4:29). King Solamona also founded the institution in the text known as Salomon’s House. This institution was “dedicated to the study of the Works and Creatures of God” (Bacon, 167). Since we know that King Solamona was of good nature (meaning he was a Christian), Bacon is conveying that this institution that he created was designed for good and not for bad. However, traditional interpretation of the previously mentioned statement of the end of the House of Salomon is that the institution is dedicated only to science, to the advancement of human learning of the nature of physical things with any means necessary. This interpretation is only partly true. Sure, the purpose of the institution is to further understand science, but why is this the purpose of Salomon’s House? The answer is given earlier in the text when discussing the introduction of Salomon’s House:

. . . I find in ancient records this Order or Society is sometimes called Salomon’s House, and sometimes the College of the Six Days Works; whereby I am satisfied that our excellent king had learned from the Hebrews that God had created the world and all that therein is within six days; and therefore he instituting that House for the finding out of the true nature of all things (whereby God might have the more glory in the workmanship of them, and men the more fruit in the use of them) did give it also that second name. (Bacon, 167, emphasis added)

It is shown, here, that Bacon did not intend for the reader to view Salomon’s House as an institution for the unchecked, boundless exploration of the nature of things with no regard to a higher power. In fact, he intended that the reader see the House as an institution working for the glory of God.

It can bee seen, now, that, given the historical context of Francis Bacon—with the disciplining of scientists by the Catholic Church—that the issue of science and Christianity needed to be resolved. Paolo Antonio Foscarini tried to reconcile the two directly with scripture, but his work was banned by the Church (Galileo Galilei, Helden). Thus, Bacon had to be more clever. Just as More set forth reforms for England in his Utopia, Bacon set forth reconciliation in his utopian society. This utopian society of his was not only purely Christian and had more advanced understanding of scripture, but they were also scientifically advanced. Furthermore, the institution for the understanding of the sciences, Salomon’s House, also housed the religious officials. By combining the house of science and the house of God, Bacon is saying that the two are not at odds: they are harmonious. As Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is the rich storehouse for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man’s estate” (Francis Bacon, Christianity Today).

 

 

 

Works Cited

(Francis Bacon’s God, McKnight):

http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/francis-bacons-god

(Francis Bacon, Christianity Today): http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/scholarsandscientists/francis-bacon.html

(Galileo Galilei, Helden):

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Galileo-Galilei

(Galileo Galilei, Machamer):

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/galileo/

(Nicolaus Copernicus, Rabin):

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/copernicus/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why were the Christians in Corinth advised to remain married whereas the Israelites were commanded to divorce by Ezra (both concerning the partner’s infidelity)?

 

 

In an attempt to keep the newborn church in Corinth from dividing against itself, Paul wrote a letter to them addressing their issues of division. Among these topics of division was the subject of marriage and divorce. Within this subject, Paul gave a charge, with the authority of God, that those who are married should not be divorced. Immediately following that charge, Paul gave another for those who were married to unbelievers in Christ. He told them that as long as the unbelievers were willing to live with them, they should not get divorced; however, he prefaced that charge by saying that he said that, not the Lord. Basically Paul said that he was giving his own opinion, his advice, that the believers should not divorce the unbelievers. This teaching from Paul is in stark contrast to how Ezra handled a similar issue a few centuries earlier, and with Paul being a Pharisee Alum, he knew all about Ezra and his divorce decree. Therefore, the main focus of this blog will be determining Paul’s reasoning in his advisement to the new Corinthian Christians to abstain from divorce from unbelievers as opposed to Ezra who charged Israel to divorce from the unbelievers a few centuries prior.

 

 

1 Corinthians

In 1 Corinthians 7, the marriage between an unbeliever and a believer could come about in one of two ways:

  1. Both parties were Jews and married, then one became Christian
  2. Both parties were Gentiles and married, then one became Christian

There was not a third option as, shown in Deuteronomy 7, Israelites (Jews) were not to marry with non-Israelites (non-Jews). What Paul is trying to convey here is that Christians are not hindered by the restraints of the Law like the Jews were. Instead, they are under a new covenant brought about by Jesus Christ. If the same restraints were in place, especially regarding marriage, the number of converts to Christianity would have, almost certainly, not been what they were.

 

Ezra

Concerning Ezra and the topic of divorce, a quick summary of the situation is needed. After Zerubbabel led a group of Israelites back to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon, Ezra was selected to lead another group of Israelites to Jerusalem. During this time, Ezra, being a scribe, taught the Law to the Israelites in order to strengthen the community and their relationship with God. However, as recorded in Ezra 9, it comes to Ezra’s attention that some of the returned Israelites had intermarried with some of the people from the surrounding area. Now this could or could not be a big issue depending on whether or not these people were Israelites because, as Ezra had been teaching the returned Israelites, Deuteronomy 7 states that God’s people were not supposed to intermarry with the following peoples: the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. So Ezra tells Israel that they must divorce from these foreigners in order to renew their covenant with God.

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However, as was noted in a previous blog of mine, Malachi, a contemporary of Ezra’s wrote: “’But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. For I hate divorce,’ says the LORD, the God of Israel” (Malachi 2:15-16). Ezra’s actions and Malachi’s prophetic words seem to be in conflict with each other. In fact, one can’t help wonder if Ezra could have handled his situation more delicately since there were four who disagreed with his charge of divorce. Even later rabbis disagreed with Ezra’s choice: “As later rabbis advocated, rather than the extreme edict of banishment, embracing sincere converts and encouraging Jewish literacy among Jews are more effective prescriptions for dealing with the contemporary threat of assimilation.”

 

 

 

Antithesis

After noting the two contexts, what is interesting is Paul’s explanation about why this abstaining from divorce is possible under the new covenant as opposed to what was possible under the Law: “For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy” (1 Corinthians 7:14). Under the Law, there was this concept that uncleanness was transferred from unclean things to clean things by association. Paul says the opposite here. He says that because of the holiness of the Christian within the marriage, the unbelieving spouse and child will be made holy as well. In other words, the marriage, where one party is a Christian, produces a species of sanctification, or diffuses a kind of holiness over the unbelieving party by the believing party, so far as to render their children holy, and therefore it is improper to seek for a separation.

 

Explanation/Conclusion

 

So what changed between Ezra’s time and Paul’s time that caused this changed in imputation of holiness?

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Well, about 300 years prior to Ezra, a prophet name Isaiah had a vision in which he saw God sitting on a throne in his temple. Isaiah also saw a seraphim which, when he exclaimed, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts,” the seraphim came to him and seared his lips with a burning coal saying, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

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As a result of his sin being atoned for through the coal, he is able to be in the presence of God. Most scholars agree that this is a messianic prophecy of Jesus Christ. In other words, the burning coal that atones and imputes holiness over to Isaiah, in this vision, is symbolic of Christ. This difference in holiness and how it is gained is the key to understanding why Paul is able to give the Christians the freedom to not divorce their spouses. These Christians had the burning coal of Christ in them (Holy Spirit). Therefore, they would not become impure by association with impure things/people, and, actually, Paul counted this holiness as having two sides to it: not only would the impurity not transfer over to the Christian, but the Christian’s purity would transfer, in a way, over to the spouse. This new covenant is, then, far superior to the Law which Ezra had with Israel in his time (though I, and many scholars, would argue that Ezra went a bit Pharisaical in his application of the Law).

Jesus—the Curse of Humanity

 

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In Paul’s letter to the Christians of Galatia, he addresses an issue where some people were telling the Galatians that they had to obey Jewish traditions (such as the sign of circumcision) in order to obey the gospel of Jesus. This issue seemed to cause Paul to be furious when writing as this letter did not follow the same suit as his other letters: Paul gave no thanksgiving or praise to the Galatians. He staunchly defends his authority to teach them, and then he profoundly rebukes them for entertaining the “Judaizers.” He, then, condemns the Law, and praises the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul proclaims that everyone who is under the Law is under a curse and that Christ saved everyone from the curse by becoming the curse himself. This blog will be aimed at understanding what Paul meant by this statement.

 

First off, we must examine what Paul actually said. In Galatians 3:13, Paul says “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” He is quoting the Law, specifically Deuteronomy 21:22-23, which says:

And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

Both quotations mention that a man that is hanged on a tree is cursed; however, let us take a closer look at each quotation to see what is meant within context:

Deuteronomy 21:22-23

In order to establish the true meaning of Paul’s usage of this text, we must note the dissimilarities as well as the similarities. It is interesting that it says “[If a man] is put to death, and you hang him on a tree . . .” rather than it just saying “[If] you hang him on a tree . . .” The Hebrew word וְהוּמָ֑ת (and he is put to death) means “to be put to death” (obviously, right?). The Hebrew word וְתָלִ֥יתָ (you hang him on a tree) means “to be hanged” (also, duh). This might seem elementary up to this point, but what is interesting is the Hebrew word used here to convey “hanging” doesn’t necessarily mean the person was put to death by the hanging. The wording of this verse is vague, but it seems to imply that the hanged person was already dead. This practice of hanging the dead was not uncommon.

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The Pharaoh’s chief baker was hanged after being killed by sword (Genesis 40:19), and Joshua killed and then hanged five kings (Joshua 10:26) where the same phrasing of Deuteronomy 21:22 is employed. Not only this, but as given in L. Cilliers’ paper on the history and pathology of crucifixion, it is noted that crucifixion “probably originat[ed] with the Assyrians and Babylonians, it was used systematically by the Persians in the 6th century BC.” This information eliminates the possibility of reference to crucifixion. This is important because it means that this text is not prophetic of Christ’s death. Albert Barnes also concluded that crucifixion was not the mode of death being referred to in Deuteronomy: “Suspension, whether from cross, stake, or gallows, was not used as a mode of taking life, but was sometimes added after death as an enhancement of punishment.” By conglomerating this information and noting that death happened before the hanging in this context, it can be concluded that the “curse” on the hanged man in Deuteronomy is not death itself.

 

Galatians 3:13

Now, let us revisit what Paul was saying in light of this new information. In full, here’s what Paul says:

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

Now, what we must ask is “what did Paul mean when he said that Christ became a curse for us?” Well, we know that he didn’t mean that Christ died for us, at least that’s not what Paul is trying to convey with the word “curse” since he’s referring to Deuteronomy 21:22-23. Therefore, applying the context of Deuteronomy 21:22-23, since the curse is not death per se, the curse must be what is left:

And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God.

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Saying that a man has committed a crime punishable by death is to say that God has condemned him to death. This curse, then, is condemnation from God. This condemnation can be viewed in many different ways which lead to multiple theories of how the atonement that Christ made for the sins of humanity actually works. I will give an example of how one view of the “curse” can lead to an atonement theory.

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Penal Substitutionary Atonement:

The view on the “curse” that brings about the penal substitutionary atonement theory is the view that when Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” God literally forsook him because of the sin imputed to him.

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R.C. Sproul claims that Jesus was actually cast out from the presence of God, being cast into hell until he rose on the third day. While he has the view of the curse that supports his conclusion of penal substitution, Jesus being cast into hell is in stark contrast to Jesus’ response to the criminal on the cross: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

In opposition to this theory, Jerome Hall, in Biblical Atonement and Modern Criminal Law, writes, in view of the penal substitutionary atonement theory, that “It is contrary to the spirit of the New Testament to list a set of ‘vocables’ as substitutes for penalty, compensation, transferable merits, sins carried over, sins accepted for the sinner and so on.” He goes on, in the words of Dillistone, to say that any idea where Jesus appeased or propitiated the Father’s wrath in lieu of humanity is blasphemy.

A clearer view of the penal substitutionary atonement theory, I believe, is one that has its roots in the atonement practices found in Leviticus 16:

Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses . . . And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness . . . For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins.

In this view of the atonement, Christ is the goat that is killed as well as the goat that is sent off out of the camp to “bear all their iniquities.” The sacrificed goat is the representation of what happened to Christ’s body while the wandering goat that is to be sent to Azazel—which is typically thought of as either meaning “scapegoat” or “removal”—foreshadows Christ’s removal from God’s presence once he had borne all the sins of the people. This is where the theory of imputational sinfulness comes from.scapegoat-300x179

Anticlimaxes of Ezra-Nehemiah

Throughout the journey with my classmates through the literature of the Old Testament, I have studied many extraordinary individuals including Abraham, Moses, and David to name a few. I would hone in on all of their idiosyncrasies and shortcomings because I wanted to find a flaw in them and say, “See! They’re not perfect. They’re flawed.” And they are flawed. They’re human. If they weren’t flawed, we wouldn’t be having this major millennium year old discussion. That’s exactly what I didn’t pick up on quite immediately. I scorned Abraham because I read that he had told two lies. I honed in on his flaw without looking at the grandeur portrait. However, that’s what I aim to do in this blog. I will hone in on the flaws but only because they illuminate the play unfolding behind them.

Ezra and Nehemiah are quite similar fellows. Well, they want similar things. Ezra wants to restore the glory of God to the people of Israel: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach His statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). Nehemiah is of like mind. He wants to restore Jerusalem to its former glory by rebuilding its wall: “And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if I have found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it’” (Nehemiah 2:5). Ezra and Nehemiah were also contemporaries during this period as Ezra went to Jerusalem in 457 BC with Nehemiah joining in 444 BC. With their missions being similar and within the same time period, it isn’t much of a shocker that Ezra and Nehemiah, originally, were not separate books:

The Masoretic tradition regarded the books of Ezra and Nehemiah as one book and referred to it as the Book of Ezra. This was also the Greek tradition, and the same Greek name, Esdras, was given to both books. The division into separate books does not occur until the time of Origen (fourth century C.E.) and this division was transferred into the Vulgate where the books are called I Esdras (Ezra) and II Esdras (Nehemiah).

Seeing how Ezra and Nehemiah fit closely together in time as well as literature, we’ll be exploring both of them, their actions, their failures, and what they contribute to the grand theme of redemption.

Before Ezra enters the scene, it must be noted how he was impacted to rejuvenate the souls of the people of Israel in Jerusalem. Zerubbabel lead the charge given by Cyrus, king of Persia, to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem which fulfills the prophecy given by Isaiah:

Thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed . . . “I have stirred him up in righteousness, and I will make all his ways level; he shall build my city and set my exiles free, not for price or reward,” says the Lord of hosts. (Isaiah 45:1,13)

As Zerubbabel is building the temple, Samaritans come up to offer help with building the temple as they say they worship the same God and only want to help. Zerubbabel, however, declined their help and said, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God.” This generates conflict between the Israelites, who are rebuilding the temple, and the Samaritans which seems to go against what God wants for His people as evidenced by Zechariah’s prophecy from God:

“These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgements that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord . . . Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.’” (Zechariah 2:16,20-21)

In Zerubbabel, we see a first glimpse of unfulfillment of prophecy of the new Jerusalem in a time that seemed to have all the settings for Israel to begin a golden age in Jerusalem. Instead, the Israelites had to turn away the Samaritans in order to retain purity as noted by Ellicott:

“The account in 2 Kings 17 carefully studied will show that the stern refusal of the leaders was precisely ill harmony with the will of God; there was nothing in it of that intolerant spirit which is sometimes imagined. The whole design of the Great Restoration would have been defeated by a concession at this point.”

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While Zerbbabel and the leaders of Israel managed to rebuild the temple, they weren’t able to unite the peoples in worship to God. In fact, they drove away the Samaritans who wanted to take part in the worship of God. Here is where Ezra comes into play (about 70 years after the completion of the temple). As mentioned aforehand, Ezra wanted to increase Israel’s zeal and spiritual prowess through teaching of the Torah. Thus, Ezra, being supported by the king of Persia, Artaxerxes, took Jews, who were willing, to Jerusalem to bring about spiritual renewal and dedication to God. However, instead of finding people dedicating themselves to God, he found that “the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands.” Israel had mingled with the idolaters. As a result, Ezra tears his clothes and begs God for forgiveness for the sins of the people.

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Afterwards, Shecaniah convinces Ezra to force all the Israelites to divorce their idolatrous spouses and children. Some scholars seem to believe this action by Ezra to be harsh; however, Hastings illuminates the other side with his comment:

It was certainly an action that could be justified only by extreme circumstances. To an impartial onlooker it might seem high-handed, harsh, even cruel. But there could be no doubt as to the perfect purity and integrity of his motives. Unlike most of his adversaries, he had no personal interest in the dispute- -no selfish ends to gain. His one ambition was to glorify God and to be of service to his nation.

A contemporary of Ezra, the prophet Malachi, quotes God with a rather stark contrast to that of Ezra’s decree: “’But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. For I hate divorce,’ says the LORD, the God of Israel” (Malachi 2:15-16).

However, regardless of whether or not the action was justified, the result of Ezra’s proclamation was disunity. At this point, a type of literary foil can be seen within Zerubbabel’s anticlimactic end where the nations were not worshiping God with Israel. The foil can also be seen with Ezra whom wanted to bring up Israel with spiritual teachings and zeal for God, but, in the end, he tore husband from wife, mother from son, and maybe even brother from sister. Next, Nehemiah leads the last attempt at unifying Israel for this newly rebuilt Jerusalem.

The book of Nehemiah opens up with him weeping after the brokenness of Jerusalem’s once great wall. He recalls a commandment to Moses in a prayer to God:

“Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the people, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’” (Nehemiah 1:8-9)

Nehemiah, then, acknowledges that the place God chose to dwell was the temple in Jerusalem. He uses this as a plea for God to grant him the chance to go and rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. King Artaxerxes of Persia grants him permission and supports him in his endeavors. After Nehemiah went to Jerusalem, he began building on the wall when conflict arose.

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People who had already been living around Jerusalem question Nehemiah and his attempt to erect a wall around Jerusalem: “’What is this thing you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?’” Nehemiah replies to them, “’The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.’” Nehemiah’s answer is very similar to Zerubbabel’s reply to the Samaritan’s in Ezra 4:3; It’s a very purity-driven reply.

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However, the contemporary prophet, Zechariah, quotes an angel saying, “’Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst’” (Zechariah 2:4-5). This seems to be a rather ironic mixture of opinions between Nehemiah and Zechariah. Nehemiah is aware of Zechariah’s words, but he continues to build his wall anyways, dividing Jerusalem from the world. Interestingly enough, towards the end of Nehemiah, even after the efforts of Ezra with his spiritual teachings and after the efforts of Nehemiah with his wall to keep Jerusalem safe from the Samaritans and other idolaters, the Israelites continue to break God’s laws.

After all of the efforts, Zerubbabel’s work is compromised by people neglecting their duties in the temple; Ezra’s work is compromised as people do not remember the Torah and work on the Sabbath among other things; even Nehemiah’s work is compromised as merchants set themselves up on the Sabbath on the walls of Jerusalem. This anticlimactic nature of Ezra and Nehemiah brings a thought to the forefront of the mind: “If all of these efforts were made to bring in the new Jerusalem, and they all failed, then the prophecies of the new Jerusalem were either wrong or not yet fulfilled.” This is the true meaning I believe the reader is supposed to get from Ezra and Nehemiah: While the people of Israel have returned from exile to Jerusalem, not much seems to have changed except their location. While Ezra and Nehemiah try to work to better the people of Israel, they fail. These failures are portrayed by the writer in order to convey the message to the reader that much more change is needed than just a city in order to please God. The reform of the heart is required, and that is what Ezra and Nehemiah failed to get across to the people of Israel. The Jerusalem that Zechariah talks about is not the location of Jerusalem. The Jerusalem God wants is the Jerusalem that chooses Him in their hearts: “’And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God’” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

 

Identifying Michael

 

The concept of angels is one of the most elusive topics in Christianity. What is known about them is infinitesimal compared to the knowledge concerning them. As humans, we have this peculiar want of knowledge. This is portrayed in the creation story where Adam and Eve succumb to the temptation of the serpent to become like God in knowledge of good and evil. Even then, angels were present. Daniel, however, has some of the more extensive writing that includes angels and it is the first book to recognize the angels with names: “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia . . .” (Daniel 10:13). This verse was one that, while I was reading, caused me to double take. While there are many questions to ask pertaining to angels, this blog will focus mostly on Michael.

In examining Daniel 10—and, in particular, verse 13—there are numerous points of wonder, but the immediate cause of my stupefaction was that the prince of Persia, a mere man, kept an angel from traveling to Daniel for twenty-one days until Michael came to help him. I thought there was no conceivable way that a man could contest with an angel and subdue him. My inquiry on the matter was satisfied when I came upon the knowledge that virtually all scholars agree that the “prince” of Persia was not a human prince but rather a spiritual prince. Albert Barnes was able to shed light on this issue:

Undoubtedly, one who takes into view all the circumstances referred to in this passage would most naturally understand this of an angelic being, having some kind of jurisdiction over the kingdom of Persia. What was the character of this “prince,” however, whether he was a good or bad angel, is not intimated by the language. It is only implied that he had a chieftainship, or some species of guardian care over that kingdom – watching over its interests and directing its affairs. As he offered resistance, however, to this heavenly messenger on his way to Daniel, as it was necessary to counteract his plans, and as the aid of Michael was required to overcome his opposition, the fair construction is, that he belonged to the class of evil angels.

 

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From this scenario, it is made known that angels, in some way, have influence (evil or good) over nations and the directions in which they go. In fact, Michael is the guardian angel of Israel in the sense that he dealt with matters concerning Israel in the spiritual realm as depicted in Jude 9: “But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” This idea of Michael being the protector of Israel is further supported by the Exodus Rabba: “There is in heaven an accuser and a defender of man; the name of the former is Semoel and that of the latter Michael.” Thus, we are given insight as to how God interacts with forces behind the scenes.

Another particularly significant matter to address starts with the exhibition of Michael being a “chief prince.” Now, if the scholars’ contentions that “prince,” in this context, is referring to angels, then the phrase “chief prince” can be reworded as “chief angel” without loss of generality. This conclusion is supported by scripture in Jude 1:9 where Michael is referred to as “the archangel Michael” which literally means “Who is like God? The ruler of angels.” This simplified translation shows that Michael was not merely an angel, but he had favor in God’s eyes and ruled over the angels. As a result of the meaning of his name, some Jews even began to consider that Michael was the Messiah as “in the kabbalistic (Jewish occult) literature, the status of Mikha’el is further exalted. He is associated or even identified with the angel Metatron, himself sometimes equated with the Messiah. Mikha’el is given a role in redemption and becomes a personification of grace.”

In some Jewish scholarship, Michael is identified with Melchizedek (“Yalḳ. Ḥadash,” “Mal’akim,” No. 19); and the words “and the priest shall pronounce him clean” (Lev. xiii. 23) are explained in the “Tiḳḳune Zohar” (fol. 2b) as referring to Michael, the high priest, acting as the representative of clemency. Michael, the high priest, is the standard-bearer of God (Joseph Gikatilla, “Sha’are Orah,” p. 60c). The institution of tithes is ascribed to Michael (Targ. pseudo-Jonathan to Gen. xxxii. 25); and his place is appointed in the east, with the tribe of Levi (“Midr. Konen,” in Jellinek, l.c.ii. 39). With the building up of these characteristics of Michael, and messianic sounding prophecies like that of Daniel 12:1, “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book,” one can see how someone could come to the conclusion that Michael is the heavenly form of Jesus. There are even those who trace back the records concerning former incidences of angels such as the “commander of the army of the LORD” from Joshua 5, the angel that appeared to Gideon, etc. to be referring to Michael.

Thus, there are some viable reasons to think that Michael would be the heavenly form of Jesus. However, that is not the whole of what the text has to say on the matter. In Hebrews 1:5, a rhetorical question is asked: “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you?’ Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son?’” The answer to this, of course, is that God has never called an angel his Son. Furthermore, Barnes addresses the issue of misinterpreting Michael as the Messiah in his commentary:

There is no authority for applying this to the Messiah, as many have done, for the term Michael is not elsewhere given to him, and all that the language fairly conveys is met by the other supposition. The simple meaning is, that he who was the guardian angel of that nation, or who was appointed to watch over its interests, would at that time of great trouble interpose and render aid.

John Calvin actually interpreted “Michael,” in Daniel 12:1 to be a metaphor for Christ: “By Michael many agree in understanding Christ as the head of the Church. But if it seems better to understand Michael as the archangel, this sense will prove suitable, for under Christ as the head, angels are the guardians of the Church.”

Therefore, Michael is not the heavenly form of Jesus, but everything else attributed to him remains. There is use to a study on Michael and angels in general. What is shown here is that God uses angels for a variety of purposes. Intrinsic to the name, angels are used as messengers to God’s people. But God uses them for much more than that as seen in the example of Michael. Michael, though he is not Christ, seems to be a type of Christ as they both did similar things for humanity. In that way, we can see how he points to Christ. Also, through Aristotle’s depiction of the chain of being as illustrated in the picture below, one can see how angels point to God in likeness.slide_2 Studying him also reveals the spiritual works involved “behind the scenes.” In these ways, the identification of Michael and how he is woven into history reflects God in how He interacts with us as well as giving a type to strive to be.

Why did God spare Nineveh when they “[did] not know their right hand from their left” while Israel was sentenced to destruction for their “lack of knowledge?”

 

 

 

There are different attributes of God that different people seem to hone in on. Some people hone in on his benevolence and mercifulness—Jonah was even upset because of God’s mercy on the city of Nineveh after they repented; nevertheless, he acknowledged that “[He] is a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (Jonah 4:2). There are others, however, who see God as the opposite. They view Him as unmerciful and hating toward certain people for no reason due to the destruction he brings on certain peoples within the Bible. What I want to focus on in this blog is the different attitudes shown by God toward two peoples—one spared, one “destroyed.” I will be attempting to answer the question “why did God spare Nineveh when they “[did] not know their right hand from their left” while Israel was sentenced to destruction for their “lack of knowledge?”

 

Firstly, these individual phrases, within their contexts, must be understood to fully grasp the portrait of the God that the writer is portraying. In Jonah 4, we find an angry Jonah as a result of God sparing Nineveh due to their repentance. For possible various reasons, God raised a plant to shade Jonah from the sun as he was resting. The plant being there for shade made Jonah “exceedingly glad.” However, over night, God destroyed the plant. The next day, Jonah revealed his anger that the plant had gone away. God used this moment to teach Jonah a lesson. He said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” According to the text, not only was Jonah angry that the plant died, but God reveals that he also pitied the dead plant. By making the plant and Nineveh analogous to each other, God justified his decision to spare Nineveh. In determining what the phrase, “ . . . in which there are 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle,” from Jonah 4:11 means, we must consider two of the following possible interpretations as offered by scholars:

  1. The 120,000 people were children whom did not know sin:

God waives for the time the fact of the repentance of Nineveh, and speaks of those on whom man must have pity, those who never had any share in its guilt, the 120,000 children of Nineveh . . . If these 120,000 were the children under three years old, they were 15 (as is calculated) of the whole population of Nineveh. If of the 600,000 of Nineveh all were guilty, who by reason of age could be, above 15 were innocent of actual sin.

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/barnes/jonah/4.htm

  1. The 120,000 people refer to the total amount of residents in Nineveh:

Those who conclude the 120,000 people comprise all of the Ninevites provide an array of convincing evidence. First, the Hebrew word translated “people” in Jonah 4:11 is the general word for “people,” not the Hebrew word for “children.” Linguistically, the evidence favors a broader interpretation that includes all the people of Nineveh . . . Further, a parallel is made in Jonah 4:11 between the people and the livestock of Nineveh. It is much more likely the parallel refers to all people/all livestock versus only young children and livestock . . . Finally, it makes sense for the 120,000 to include all Ninevites because God showed compassion on the entire city, not just on its young children and animals.

https://gotquestions.org/Jonah-right-from-left.html

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Based on the textual evidence, it is more likely that the 120,000 persons is the whole of the population of the city of Nineveh rather than just the children. So, rather than God sparing the children of the city, He spared all the inhabitants of the city who “[did] not know their right hand from their left.” Therefore, since it has been established that this phrase is extended to all the people of the city, it can only mean that the people acted in ignorance. It means that the people did not know right from wrong in the sight of God. This makes sense since God sent a prophet to inform them of their wrongdoings. Once they realized what they had done was wrong, the repented, and so, God spared them.

jonahpreachingatnineveh

The second phrase, is found in Hosea 4:6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” This knowledge, as indicated by the Talmud, “means nothing but Torah, as it is stated: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

http://www.come-and-hear.com/sotah/sotah_49.html

carl_schleicher_eine_streitfrage_aus_dem_talmud

 

What is interesting about the phrase “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” is that this is not the only instance of it. Whereas, in Hosea, the phrase is directed toward Israel, the phrase, “therefore my people go into exile for lack of knowledge,” found in Isaiah 5:13, is directed toward Judah. These sayings were prophesied at different times, but they are both generally agreed upon by scholars to be accusations toward Israel and Judah on account of their rejection of the knowledge of God. This is not a deviation of God’s character as we can see in a discourse From Job 36:

“Behold, God is mighty, and does not despise any; he is mighty in strength of understanding. He does not keep the wicked alive, but gives the afflicted their right. He does not withdraw his eyes from the righteous, but with kings on the throne he sets them forever, and they are exalted. And if they are bound in chains and caught in the cords of affliction, then he declares to them their work and their transgressions, that they are behaving arrogantly. He opens their ears to instruction and commands that they return from iniquity. If they listen and serve him, they complete their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasantness. But if they do not listen, they perish by the sword and die without knowledge.”

As clarified from Job 36, God tries to get His people to listen and repent. He sends His prophets to remind them of Him and His commandments (the Law). As pointed out in Hosea 4:6, however, Israel rejected God’s prophets. They rejected them and, through generations, forgot their God’s commandments: “The more they increased, the more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I will change their glory into shame” (Hosea 4:7). Because they both rejected the knowledge of God, the fate of Israel and Judah were, ultimately, the same: destruction.

 

Now, it is understood that the phrase “they [did] not know their right hand from their left” means “they did not know right from wrong” or rather “they did not know the knowledge of God.” It is also understood that “lack of knowledge,” in Hosea 4:6 refers to “lack of knowledge of the Torah” or “lack of knowledge of the commandments of God” which is “the lack of knowledge of God.” The Israelites knew of God, for Hosea was prophesying to them about Him, yet they still lacked the knowledge of God. This is to say they did not keep God’s commandments for it says in 1 John 2:4, “Whoever says ‘I know [God]’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” So, since the people of Nineveh and the people of Israel both lacked the knowledge of God, why were the people of Nineveh spared and the people of Israel condemned? The Ninevites were spared simply because they repented when the prophet, Jonah, taught them “the knowledge of God.” The people of Israel were condemned because they did not heed the words of the numerous prophets God sent to them….

Nineveh doesn’t last long though (as shown in Nahum).

ninevehdestruction

David, an Ableist?

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The God of Israel has spoken;
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.

“For does not my house stand so with God?
For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
ordered in all things and secure.
For will he not cause to prosper
all my help and my desire?

As stated by God in 2 Samuel 23:3-7, good kings are to rule justly and righteously. A king should be wise, just, gentle, merciful, bold, etc. David, then, aptly acknowledges his good kingship over Israel. One would be hard-pressed to find those who would say David was evil to his people. It seems rather odd, then, that David would refer to people that are blind and lame as those who “are hated by David’s soul” (2 Samuel 5:8). That is rather uncharacteristically unjust to just hate people with disabilities.

The denigration occurs shortly after Israel anointed David as king. King David and his men went to Jerusalem to claim it as his new capital. When he arrived, the Jebusites, the people of Jerusalem, mocked David saying, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off.” They were taunting David by telling him that he could not even get past their blind and lame. Professor Yigael Yadin has offered what has become a generally accepted solution as to why the Jebusites made this mockery:

Noting that the Jebusites of Jerusalem were probably of Anatolian-Hittite origin, Yadin made the connection to Hattusha, the ancient Hittite capital, where documents were found that described soldiers taking an oath of loyalty to the ruler.

The soldiers were paraded in front of a blind woman and a deaf man, and told that anyone failing to live up to his oath “will be as these” – that is, will be stricken blind or deaf. The passage about the taking of Jerusalem may refer to a similar idea, where the defenders placed the blind and lame in the front lines as a way of casting a spell on the attackers, threatening them with blindness and lameness.

(jewishvirtuallibrary.org/…istory/davidjer)

And so, in an attempt to ward them off, all of the people David saw at the city’s outskirts were the lame and blind. Now, seeing people taunt him would definitely warrant his hatred of them, but it would not make sense for him to hate “the lame and the blind” in general. For, had he hated the lame and the blind, he would not let one in his presence. However, in 2 Samuel 9:3,6-7, David embraces Mephibosheth, a lame man:

And the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.” And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, “Mephibosheth!” And he answered, “Behold, I am your servant.” And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.”

David would not have this lame man in his house if he had a hatred for his kind. Thus, there must be some other explanation as to the meaning of 2 Samuel 5:8.

In paralleling the account of this expedition of Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 5 with the account in 1 Chronicles 11:4-9, the Chronicle account removes the “lame and blind” taunt issued by the Jebusites. This, coupled with the fact that the Jebusites were pagan worshipers (Deuteronomy 20:18), attracts Benson, in his commentary, to Dr. Delaney’s view:

There is another interpretation of these words which Dr. Delaney and many others prefer, namely, that they imagined their fortress to be impregnable and secure under the protection of their gods, whom the Israelites were wont to despise, and to call them gods who had eyes, but saw not; feet, but walked not. As if they had said, Our gods, whom you call blind and lame, shall defend us, and you must overcome them before you overcome us. “These blind and lame,” says a learned writer, “were the idols of the Jebusites, which, to irritate David, they set upon their walls, as their patrons and defenders. And they as good as said, Thou dost not fight with us, but with our gods, who will easily repel thee.”

(biblehub.com/…aries/benson/2_samuel/5.htm)

jerusalem_wall

This view somewhat makes sense, except that their idols had never fought for them before. The Jebusites surely knew they would need to fight should the Israelites come through. The stance I take, however, is less glamorous but also less outlandish:

  1. The account in 1 Chronicles 11:4-9 does not account for the taunt from the Jebusites.
  2. Since, in the text, David refers to the men to use the “water shaft” to go into the city to “ . . . attack ‘the lame and blind,’ had they used the water shaft to enter the city, they would have come up nowhere near the idols but in the heart of the city.

(jewishvirtuallibrary.org/…eology/jerwater)(youtu.be/8Te8HueJVCc)

warrens-shaft

Therefore, it seems fitting that David’s response, “ . . . attack the ‘lame and blind,’ who are hated by David’s soul,” in light of the information presented, refers directly to the Jebusites themselves and not the handicapped nor the idols of the Jebusites since the counterexamples show that David did not hate the handicapped nor would the Israelites have been able to reach the idols immediately as they entered the city.