Violence against the ‘other’ is nothing new. The shooting of Walter Scott in North Charelston earlier this week is another violent action in a long line of violence against the ‘other’. The ‘other’ is a social scientific category used to describe how groups determine their identity over against others around them. Thus, ethnic identities are fictitious, in that they are created by groups; yet real, because they influence real intergroup relationships.
My studies the past few months have taken me on a long journey through Roman, Greek, and Jewish literature to see how these groups relate to the ‘other’. All three groups in antiquity allowed the ‘other’ to join the larger group if they agreed to the groups norms (e.g Romans, worship of Roman cults and participation in Roman civic and moral life; Jews, conversion to Judaism); yet these three groups responded to those who continued to be different to them in the same way, violence.
Bringing non-Athenian into Athens and pretend that she’s not from Corinth is fine until it comes to light. What follows is a beating (Demosthenes, Oration 59). The surrounding villages don’t want their daughters to marry you or your friends, then it’s fine to set a trap and steal them (Livy, the History of Rome). You don’t like that Herod has given trophies to the winners of the Greek games at Jerusalem, propose to several of your friends that you all don’t eat until that king is dead (Josephus, Antiquities).
Yet Jesus in the gospel of Luke turns this standard on its head. When the disciples want to call fire down upon the Samaritans because they won’t allow those traveling to Jerusalem to lodge in their villages Jesus rebukes them (Luke 9.46-56). Jesus’ ethic which he calls his followers to is in complete contradiction with a good share of his surrounding world:
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6.32-36)
This is not to say that similar ethics did not exist in Greco-Roman or Jewish literature. Because there are similar statements in both bodies of literature. For Christians however, we need to examine our own textual traditions and rediscover this early ethic again. Love of the ‘enemy’ demonstrates that a person is a son or daughter of the most high. For our Father is kind to both ‘the ungrateful and the evil.’ How much more should we then love those who are not ‘enemies’; but rather, those who are simply different? Hatred and violence towards the ‘other,’ those different than we are, is ungodly. It’s that simple.
For an in depth discussion on this topic see Aaron J. Kuecker’s “Filial Piety and Violence in Luke-Acts and the Aeneid” in the T & T Clark Handbook to Social Identity in the New Testament (New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2014), pgs 211-233.
I participate in a preaching rotation at a nursing home in Louisville with several other great guys from Southern Seminary. This week I was assigned 1 Peter 3:13-22, which is not the easiest text to preach. I recently finished 2 Enoch in my daily Pseudepigrapha readings, and as I was working through 1 Pet. 3:18-22 tonight I read the text in a way I hadn’t before.
Here’s the text of 1 Peter 3:18-22.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. (ESV)
What does Peter mean when he says, “[Jesus] went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison”? (v.19) Where are these spirits and why does Jesus go to them? What is interesting about v.19 is the verb “went” (πορευθεὶς) is the same verb used in v.22 which refers to Christ (πορευθεὶς) into heaven. Both participles are in the aorist past tense. In this post I’m interpreting these two participles to be referring to the same event. So how can Jesus proclaim to the spirits in prison if he is going into heaven? This is where the cosmology of Second Temple Judaism (STJ), more specifically 2 Enoch, is helpful.
[Disclaimer: The cosmology of STJ is somewhat daunting to wrap one’s mind around, and I wouldn’t even suggest that I’ve grasped much of it.]
In 2 Enoch, Enoch is taken up into each of the seven levels of the heavens, the seventh and highest level being the throne of God. The second level in Enoch’s vision is the location of the evil spirits who joined Satan in the failed overthrow of God’s rule. (2 Enoch 7) Written sometime in the 1st Century BCE, 2 Enoch is only a sample of the multiple descriptions of the different levels of the heavens. (cf. Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs, 3 Baruch, Ascension of Isaiah, etc.) Yet this book gives an interesting perspective of how Jesus could have been exalted to heaven and at the same time proclaimed to the spirits in prison.
Some have interpreted 1 Pet. 3:19 to mean that Jesus descended into hell. This interpretation in light of STJ cosmology does not give the best interpretation of the two verbs of motion (both πορεύομαι) which have Jesus as their implied subject. It would possibly make more sense for Jesus to proclaim to these Spirits in prison when he ascended to the right hand of the Father. (1 Pet. 3:22) Jesus, made alive by the Spirit of God in his resurrection, proclaimed his resurrection life on his way to his throne at the right hand of the Father, “…with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” (1 Pet. 3:22)
After an extended blogging hiatus due to a litany of factors (including sheer lack of desire) my blogging will begin again. Additionally, the blog has narrowed in its scope as my writing interests continue to focus for future doctoral studies. The new title you is described on my about page.
B&H Publishing has been gracious enough to send me two volumes on the relationship between the Church and Israel. After a reading a recent monograph on Paul’s Jewish identity in his apostolic mission I decided I needed to get a better feel for the supercessionist/ non-supercessionist positions. (review forthcoming)
Both books in this post are form a non-supercessionist perspective (Church does not replace Israel).
Both books seek to provide a history of the debate throughout Church history as well as exegetical arguments for the continuation of Israel as a geopolitical nation. I look forward in the coming months to engage with their arguments.
I’m slowly progressing through Chadwick’s The Church in Ancient Society (Oxford, 2001). Concerning the literary connections between the DDS and NT scriptures Chadwick offers this insight.
The Parallels between the New Testament texts and Dead Sea Scrolls are valuable to the historian. The closer the Qumran texts stand to the language and thought of early Christian texts, the more evident it becomes that traditions in the canonical gospels, perhaps also some in the Gospel of Thomas transmitted in Coptic, provide a broadly reliable portrait of first century Christianity and are not anachronistic inventions. Anachronisms and other misfits are the primary indication that a text does not belong to the alleged time and place. Similarly a high proportion of matter in the synoptic gospels is illuminated by parallels in rabbinic documents, which, although written down substantially later in time, belong to a closed society much attached to the tradition of the elders… It also speaks for the value of the traditions in the synoptic gospels that although Galatians 2 and Acts 15 attest impassioned controversy about the terms of admission for Gentile believers, the gospels do not contain sayings given to Jesus which looked designed to settle the question e.g. of circumcision, which is what one would expect if someone had wanted to create an authoritative decision.
John R.W. Stott’s Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century is a classic work on Christian preaching. When I picked up reading this work a few weeks ago I was surprised to find that Stott begins his book with a historical apology for Christian preaching. Stott presents an argument that preaching was regular within corporate worship within the early Church. He references several Church Father’s who an explain the pattern of worship.
And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits, then when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen.1
We assemble to read our sacred writings… With the sacred works we nourish our faith, we animate our hope, we make our confidence more steadfast, and no less by inculcations of God’s precepts we confirm good habits. In the same place also exhortations are made, rebukes, and sacred censures are administerd…2
John Chrysostom: (Most notable preacher of the late patristic period)
One only means and one way of cure has been given us…. and that is the teaching of the Word. This is the best instrument, this the best diet and climate; this serves instead of medicine, this serves instead of cautery and cutting, whether it be needful to burn or to amputate, this one method must be used; and without it nothing else will avail.3
1Justin Martyr. “The First Apology of Justin.” In The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Vol. 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885. pg. 186.
2Tertullian. “The Apology.” In The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian, edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, translated by S. Thelwall. Vol. 3. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885. pg. 46
3Fant and Pinson, Vol. 1 pg. 108-109.
This week a my paper proposal (below) was accepted for the SE regional ETS conference. The conference is March 21-22 in Birmingham, AL on the campus of Samford University. This is the first academic conference that I have attended, and so I’m looking forward to networking, interacting with others, presenting my paper, and receiving feedback. The conference theme, “The Theological Interpretation of Scripture” is an area of which I possess absolutely no knowledge. My friend Shawn Wilhite is presenting as well. He has posted concerning his paper here. If by chance your wanting to read my paper before hand I’d be happy to send you a pdf copy. After the conference I will be posting it here on the blog.
Identifying the Elect: Peter’s Use of Metaphor and Scripture in 1 Peter 1:22-25
This paper evaluates the literary methods Peter employed to communicate to his audience their identity as elect exiles. Put forth here is Peter’s use of metaphor and Scripture as a means for his original readers to comprehend their identity in 1:22-25. By using certain metaphors, Peter desires his original readers to understand themselves as a new Israel in exile. To understand the significance of Peter’s language Old Testament, Apocryphal, and Pseudepigraphal texts are examined as a possible historical and theological background of Peter’s original audience. Peter’s choice of metaphor in 1:22-23 under girds his dominant theme of election ( Tite, contra Thuren and Ransberg). Second Peter’s use of Isaiah 40:6,8 and its intended meaning to his original readers is discussed. The Isaiah quotation employed by Peter parallels with his choice of metaphor to communicate to his readers that they are the elect people of God awaiting a return from exile.