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Topics - Brian Stoffregen

Your Turn / Covered Heads
July 21, 2023, 07:20:12 PM
This topic as come up again. I thought we might explore the biblical text more in depth. There are translation issues in 1 Corinthians 11:6-7 that can be seen by comparing different translations.

The first is katakalupto that occurs twice in 11:6 and once in 11:7.

Louw & Nida define it: "to wear a covering over one's head - to have one's head covered, to cover one's head."

BDAG - cover, veil
a. act. (Is. 6:2) and pass. (Sus 32) of a young woman covered or veiled to the forehead.
b. mid. cover oneself w. a veil

A difficulty with this word is whether it implies covering the whole head so that the woman is not recognizable or some sort of covering on the top of the head. I think that the arguments for it referring to a covering over the whole head are stronger than just a hat on the top of the head.

The word is used in Genesis 38:15 when Tamar covered her face, so that Judah couldn't recognize her. A similar use is in the Apocryphal Susanna 32 where scoundrels uncover her, "for she was veiled" (uses the same Greek word). It is clear that it covered her face because the uncovering allowed them to see her beauty.

Numerous other uses in the LXX refer to waters that cover everything (Hab 2:14; Isa 11:9; Jer 26(46):8; 28(51):42; Ezek 26:19; 38:9 (NRSV uses "deluge"). The idea that it refers to fully covering something is also found in 2 Chronicles 18:29 where the king "disguises" himself so that he appears like a regular soldier rather than the nation's king.

A noun, kalumma, based on the root, kalupto (= "to hide"), means "veil." It is used of the veil that Moses put over his face (2 Cor 3:13-16).

Some translations start v. 6 with something like: "If a woman does not cover her head, ...." "Her head" does not appear in the Greek. Rather, it uses the middle (or passive) voice of the verb, "to cover oneself" (or "to be covered.").

However, "head" does occur in vv. 3, 4, 5, 7, 10. (In most of these verses it does not refer to the body part that rests on the shoulders.) Verse 5 uses a noun based on the negation of the verb discussed above, akatakaluptos. The head is exposed, rather than covered.

These words have the prefix kata- which often means "down" (as opposed to ana- which means "up". anakalupto refers to lifting up the covering, i.e., to uncover, to reveal). The prefix kata- could imply covering something by pulling something down over it. Thinking that it refers to putting something up on top of the head seems less likely than a covering pulled down over the whole head - something that would hide the identity of the person (as in OT uses).

What is covered/hidden is one topic of many that can come from these verses for our discussion.

Some others are the meaning of "head" in v. 3 and its relationship to "head" in vv. 4-5?
How does shaming fit into this discussion?
How different is it in the biblical honor/shame culture compared to our culture?
Does "nature" teach us that long hair on a man brings him dishonor (v. 14)?
How should we understand that verse when many of us men have had longer hair than our wives?
Your Turn / Adaptive Leadership
July 11, 2023, 03:10:23 PM
A number of the discussions here suggest the need for "adaptive leadership." I first came across this phrase in 1996 when I read Leadership Without Easy Answers, by Donald A. Heifetz (© 1994 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College). Later he, with Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky, wrote The Practice of Adaptive Leadership (© 2009 Cambridge Leadership Associates).

Adaptive Leadership is in contrast to Technical Leadership. An illustration of the difference: father fell and broke his arm, the doctor fixes it: sets it, puts a cast on it, prescribes some pain medication. After a while, the arm is as good as new. That's "technical leadership." It is able to fix problems. The air conditioner in the church isn't working. Technical leadership is getting it fixed so that it works like its supposed to.

Mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It can't be fixed. The whole family has to adapt to this changing reality in their lives. In some families, it can mean that normal rules have to change. Mom will no longer be the one who cleans the house, washes clothes, cooks the meals, etc.

Many of the issues congregations faced with COVID required adaptive leadership - changing long-established practices to deal with the present reality of the pandemic. However, I think that there are other adaptive challenges congregations are facing: the legalization of same-sex marriages; the fact that most couples are living together before marriage (if they even decide to marry); churches are not the center of people's activities like they used to be. The reality in many communities is that there are secular activities, e.g., soccer practice of games, that compete with Sunday morning worship.

Such things require adaptive leadership because we can't fix them. I don't believe that same-sex marriages will become outlawed. I don't believe that pre-marital sex will disappear. Congregations will not regain the high level of influence that we once had. It's likely that such secularization of the world will just get worse. This is the world the churches live in and minister in.

Leadership seeks to discern what can be changed for the sake of ministering in this reality; and what values cannot be messed with. Some areas where change might be considered: how we provide Christian education for youth and adults; how we provide Christian fellowship for teens; how we structure the congregation's organization, (just talked to someone who had three meetings a month for the position he had on council - he won't serve on council again); etc.

I open up this discussion for ways that the church might adapt the ways we do church for the realities of our changing world.
Your Turn / Ten Commandments
July 05, 2023, 05:03:01 PM
I've been doing a deep dive into the Ten Commandments comparing the versions in Exodus and Deuteronomy. A copy of the comparison in English (from NRSVue) and followed by the Hebrew. Complete differences are highlighted in red. Minor differences are highlighted in yellow.

There are also some minor differences between the MT and LXX, like the order of a couple of commandments.

If God had written these commandments in stone as many text state: Exodus 24:12; 31:18; 32:16; 34:1; Deuteronomy 4:13; 5:22; 9:10; 10:2, 4; why are such differences?

We also have Exodus 34:27-28 where the LORD tells Moses to write down the ten words on the tablets and he does.

One answer is that Exodus and Deuteronomy were written by different people using different sources, but based on a common tradition. (Similarly, the differences in the LXX from MT - they used different sources.)

Your Turn / Interpreting the Word of God
June 25, 2023, 05:48:52 PM
As part of a now closed discussion, there were posts about interpreting God's Word (or from a Greek word, hermeneutics). In a study I read, the researcher discovered that the questions: "What does this mean?" and "What does this mean to you?" were different questions to clergy, but were the same question to lay people.

As I recall, the researcher didn't elaborate, but I suspect that clergy, through their exegetical work, discover different meanings that could come from a text. (I know that I do, as well as many commentators I read.) Of those possible meanings, I've said that sermon writing is deciding what I'm not going to say. That is, to center on one message from the text that is pertinent to the congregation and/or the them for that Sunday and prune away all the extra stuff that doesn't relate to that message.

In the other discussion, I presented the idea that "meaning' occurs when the message(s) of the text intersect with the life of the reader/hearer. I've found that in different life-experiences, a text can take on a different meaning - or at least, emphasis, e.g., the death of a parent.

This illustration also indicates that there are messages contained within the circle of the text that might not having meaning for the person who is interacting with it. It also indicates that there many areas of the readers' life-experiences that don't find meaning in the particular text.

So, what do you think?
Your Turn / Deuteronomy 32:8
June 13, 2023, 09:09:54 PM
Doing further study on the Hebrew word 'adam, I came across Deuteronomy 32:8 where it refers to all humankind. However, there is another significant issue at the end of the verse. This can be seen by the different ways it is translated.

A number of translations follow the MT: "sons  (or children or people) of Israel."

However, many others do not. They have:
CEB – gods
CEV – guardian angel
ESV – sons of God
GNT – heavenly being
NABRE – divine beings
NET – heavenly assembly
NLR – heavenly court
NRSV – gods

Why such a difference? The LXX has "aggelon theou" ("angels (or messengers) of god"). In a strange twist: the LXX (3rd - 1st centuries BCE) is older than the Mazoretic Text [MT] (6th - 9th century CE) that is the source for OT translations. (Granted, the MT is based on ancient Hebrew manuscripts.)

In addition, a manuscript of Deuteronomy found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (3rd century BCE – 1st century CE) contains "sons of god" in 32:8. This has led many of the newer translators to conclude that the DSS and LXX are more accurate than the MT. In addition, as an annotation on this verse in the Jewish Study Bible says: "Almost certainly, the unintelligible reading of the MT represents a 'correction' of the original text (whereby God presides over other gods) to make it conform to the later standard of pure monotheism: There are no other gods! The polytheistic imagery of the divine council is also deleted in the Heb at 32:43; 33:2-3, 7."

Two conclusions: The ancient people, including some Israelites, believed that there were other gods. There are places in the OT where YHWH is called Elyon (a borrowed name of the supreme Ugaritic god who ruled over other gods). For the Israelites it is their God who rules over a council of gods (elohim). However, in other passages, these other gods are seen as worthless idols. Even if they are nothing, they were something powerful for those who believed in them. There are a number of websites that argue that the ancient Israelites were polytheistic – not monotheism was a later development. When God commands them to have no other gods before (or besides) me, it indicates that there was a belief in other gods.

It seems that copyist felt that they could "correct" a text that they believed was misleading. If the scholars are right, "sons of gods" in an ancient Hebrew version was changed to "sons of Israel" that ended up in the MT. (The LXX used "angels of god" – still giving a picture of a council of divine beings.) Perhaps no difference to Luther adding "alone" to emphasis a point he wanted Romans 3:28.
Our son sent me this link to a YouTube video.

It's titled: Math's pedagogical curse by Grant Sanderson, at a Math awards banquet. He also offers a second title: Raising the ceiling and Lowering the Floor in Math Communication.

It's some heavy stuff about teaching math. As I watched it a couple times, it struck me that much of what he talks about can also apply to theology.

Some of my notes and comments on the lecture.

He divides communicating math into three areas: education (divided between lower levels and upper levels), research, and popular. The style of writing for each of those audiences will differ.

Similar divisions are in communicating theology. We offer theological education in Sunday school, confirmation, and adult classes. We also offer it at seminary and graduate school levels. While I was a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, I received their research magazine. I also attended an SBL convention. Most of what was communicated was at a level I was interested in learning - and certainly at a level most lay people wouldn't seek out to read.

There is also popular theology, like the popularity of the Left Behind series, or Purpose Driven Life. Sometimes there can be conflicts between the good theology we pastors were taught in seminary and the popular theology people are reading in such books or hearing through the media.

"I'm not a math person," people will say. Perhaps worse, he had people tell him, when they learned he had majored in math, "I thought I liked math until ...."

Why do people say such things about math and not about other subjects? I'm afraid that people think that about theology/religion. I had an adult state that he learned all we wanted to know when he was a kid in Sunday school. I've heard students in seminary complain that this higher education level of theology was destroying their faith, (which probably hadn't grown much since 8th grade confirmation).

He believes part of the problem is the way math has been taught. The gift that math has is also its curse. (He used the story about King Midas having the gift of turning anything he touched into gold, but that also happened to the food he wanted to eat, and in some stories, also his daughter.)

The gift and curse in math is its exactness. There isn't any fuzziness in solving formulas and getting the right answers. E.g. a2+b2=c2 is always true for every right angled triangle.

Other hard sciences wish that they had the exactness that math has. Physics and computer science come close, but still have some ambiguity in their fields. They often try to remove the ambiguity by coming up with mathematical formulas.

Other fields have little to no exactness: e.g., art or music appreciation. 20 people could have 25 different ideas about what makes one composition better than another.

Some of our discussions have been about the exactness of theological constructs, e.g., the Trinity: one God, three persons.

He calls this exactness, "rigor." Unambiguous rigor might be illustrated with the quadratic formula I remember from high school algebra:
To solve for x in this pattern: ax2+bx+c=0, the solution is -b+ or - the square root of (b2-4ac) and all that is divided by 2a.

Students can plug in the numbers for a, b, & c, and solve for x. There can be two absolutely right answers and all the rest are wrong. That's the exactness of math.

He states that being able to solve this equation is not the end of teaching math. The additional aspect he calls pedagogical clarity. How will students actually use this formula in real life? How can we teach it so that it will have meaning for them long after they've left school. (I happened to love math.)

We've tended to teach math formulas as something that have been handed down from on high. (Sounds a bit like theological truths.)

He suggests the pedagogical clarity comes from students discovering the truths themselves. An experiment he share about this.

In one math class the students were taught the formula for Standard Deviation. Then they applied it to a problem.

In a second math class, the students were presented a problem: over the course of a season two basketball players scored many points, which one should receive the award for being the most consistent scorer? They struggled with ways that they might use the lists of what they scored each game to determine who was the most consistent. After they had come up with ideas, then they were taught about standard deviation. They had a much greater retention of the concept than the first class did.

He suggests that teaching math might start with data and examples, rather than general abstractions, e.g., math formulae.

A checklist he proposed for a pedagogical approach:
• motivating example(s) - I would say, something that relates to the students' lives.
• does it feel personal, does the example have personality?
• are proofs rediscoverable? Could a bright student come up with the concept of standard deviation in trying to solve the problem?
• are there diagrams? (He's really big on creating diagrams and animations in his YouTube channel.

A thought that struck me with this pedagogical approach is the characterization of a Jewish rabbi. When asked a question, his answer begins, "Let me tell you a story." There's a fuzziness to the stories in the Old Testament. There's a fuzziness in the parables of Jesus.

At one time, scholars argued that each parable should have one and only one correct meaning - the exactness of math. Today, they are more likely to talk about multivalent meanings and applications of the parables. They lose their exactness, but they draw meanings out of us (interpreting us) as we see ourselves in the stories. How they affect us can change given different circumstances.

What if, rather than starting with the Athanasian Creed in teaching an adult class on the Trinity, they were given all the NT verses where God, Father, Son, Jesus, Christ, Holy Spirit - persons of the Trinity are mentioned together with at least one another person; and they were asked to figure out the relationship?

After they struggle with it, then the formula that the historic church approved could be presented.

A final comment. I was with a group of 30 or 35 people. We were divided into groups of 5. Each of us was given a large envelope. Each envelope had five pieces of a white, square puzzle in them, but no envelope contained the pieces to a completed square. The assignment was to complete five puzzles by sharing pieces. We couldn't speak. We could share a piece we thought would help another.

The most amazing part of this exercise wasn't the puzzles at all. As a group finished, they got up and watched other groups struggle with it. Finally, one group was left trying to figure out the puzzle, with everyone else watching.

The leader asked the last group, "Did you want those who knew how to do it to help you?" They all answered, "No."

That connects with his pedagogical clarity of letting people discover truth for themselves.
A long, long time ago, in a different place, I read that before the Creed(s) became part of the communion liturgy, the confession of faith in the Triune God was in the Great Thanksgiving. "A Guide for Giving Thanks at the Table," in Renewing Worship 6: Holy Communion and Related Rites, gives this outline following the Sanctus. Boldfaced added to the quotes.

"The minister continues the prayer by citing the reason for our praise, recalling God's love, faithfulness and grace as shown in creation, as experienced by the people of ancient Israel, as revealed to us in the saving work of Jesus Christ."

Part of the saving work of Jesus Christ is the Words of Institution.

"The minister remembers the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, praying that this salvation always present in Jesus may now be present and active among us."

"The minister prayers for the transforming, renewing, and healing power of the Holy Spirit in this sacrament."

"The minister concludes the prayer by praising the glory of the triune God.

"The assembly says Yes to the prayer of thanksgiving by speaking or singing, Amen."

I think that we lose something in our proclamation when the Great Thanksgiving is omitted. It is both a prayer and a proclamation of God's saving work as Creator, in Jesus Christ, and the continuing work through the Holy Spirit.
Your Turn / Jews and God(s)?
March 24, 2023, 02:52:38 PM
Not to further side-track a meeting on VU, I thought I'd move a discussion to its own meeting. The Subject comes from the following post. I will make some responses here.

Quote from: Jim Butler on March 23, 2023, 08:06:05 PM

At this point, thanks to you arguing that UUs are Christian, we are now far afield of this thread title. So be it.

I agree. Thus, there is this new discussion. Not so much about UUs, because we have agreed that what they teach is not traditional Christianity.

Quote1) Aren't you the one who says that Genesis 2 and 3 are a myth? If it's only a myth, then there was no Garden and no first humans. Now you are acting like that actually took place. Sorry, you can't have it both ways. You've said it was a myth. That means it didn't actually take place. That means your example is specious.

Yup, Genesis 1-11 are mythical. That doesn't mean that we can't talk about them as stories that convey the truth about humanity and God. Myths are stories meant to convey truths. God is the creator of Humanity and Living (if we were to translate the Hebrew 'adam and chayyah).

Quote2) As to Abraham and Moses you might want to do some serious study into the concept of the Angel of Yahweh. You will discover that many rabbis prior to Jesus believed that God was plural. They spoke of "two Yahwehs" and they discussed the Memra Yahweh (Word of the Lord) as a distinct person. I think both Abraham and Moses spoke to the pre-incarnate Jesus many times and they believed that He was Yahweh, yet distinct from Yahweh.

I have dived deeply into the study of angels (mal'ak and aggelos). Both words mean "messenger." Their job (even in some pagan schemes) was to bring messages from the divine realm to the human realm. In some writings "angels" are synonymous with "God," e.g., the burning bush (an "angel" in Exodus 3:2; "God" in v. 4).

I would need to see some evidence that rabbis in Jesus' day spoke of "two Yahwehs." "Memra YHWH" is not a phrase that occurs in the OT. "Memra" is an Aramaic word - not Hebrew. Hebrew, like at Gen 15:1 uses debar YHWH. The LXX uses "rhema kyriou" in that verse, not "logos" as we read in John 1.

Granted, in searching Google for "two yahwehs" some sites came up. The most complete without reference to who wrote it is:

Repeating YHWH in a verse doesn't mean that there are two YHWHs. It could be a way of avoiding gendered pronouns (but probably not).

Quote3) It was only after the time of Jesus that Jews became unitarian and the discussions of the two Yahwehs ended. However, if you study the Targums, you will find it in there.

The Targums have no official authority. They are Aramaic oral paraphrases of the Hebrew Bible from the 1st century.

Much older is the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 that affirms the one YHWH. While translations often offer different ways of translating the six words of this verse; the meaning is clear. Literally: Hear Israel, YHWH our-god YHWH one.

Among many other verses, the link posted above uses Psalm 110:1 where the LORD (YHWH) says to my Lord (adon) as evidence of two YHWHs. He argues that the Massoretes changed the original with a second YHWH to adon. I don't know where he gets that argument - as well as the 134 other times they changed YHWH to adon.

As much as some Christians would like to think that there is the Christian Trinity in the Old Testament, I think it's a stretch. There was one God, named YHWH, but also called by other terms, adon, elohim, etc. which also have additional definitions, e.g., "master," "divine beings."

I've often said that we live by our perceptions. That is, what we believe to be true.

As an illustration of this, "up" for me in Arizona is in the opposite direction from those on the other side of the globe. They are certain that their understanding of "up" must be true, because it is for them.

Similarly, the understanding of folks in the 1st or 10th centuries about "truth" will be from their perspectives. It is based on what they know and believe at the time. The earth is the center of the universe. It is flat. It is covered by a blue dome that has holes in it to let down the waters that are above the dome.

We have more knowledge about the universe, and so our understanding of what is true will be different than those who didn't have the benefit of the knowledge that we have gained over the centuries.
Your Turn / Revelation
February 23, 2023, 07:30:05 PM
I thought I'd start a new discussion on the book of Revelation. I've taught a few different times in the parish. Some comments from the introduction I've given to the book in these classes.

It is written by someone named John. The first readers knew him. We don't. Some of our guesses are: John the apostle, John the writer of the Gospels and Epistles (if not the apostle), John the Baptist and his followers, some other John.

What we know about the author: he is a pastor writing to help his people; he is a believer who is suffering because of his faith.

It was a letter written to a specific group of people at a specific period of time dealing with specific problems. It is addressed to seven specific churches. (We are reading someone else's mail.) Both the writer and the readers knew what was going on. It made sense to them. If it hadn't, I suspect the letter would have been thrown in the garbage. The fact that they made copies of it and preserved it, indicates that it was extremely important to them. If they understood it, we can understand it. We need to try to put ourselves in the shoes of the first readers/hearers. We try to understanding their situation, their problems, their struggles? We try to understand the message John was giving them.

Another thing that they knew, perhaps, better than us, was apocalyptic literature. It's not the same as prophetic literature. Prophets wrote because the people are suffering because of their sins. Their difficulties come from God (or God allowed it) as punishment for their sins. The basic prophetic message is repent. Turn from your evil ways.

Apocalyptic writings occurred when believers are suffering because they are faithful. It is the evil world who is persecuting the believers. The basic apocalyptic message is remain faithful, be patient, endure your suffering.

One theory is that apocalyptic writings grew out of wisdom literature. The basic message of wisdom literature is cause and effect: if you do good, you are blessed/rewarded. If you do bad, you suffer. In wisdom literature the blessings and suffering were seen as happening in this life. Generally, it's true; but not always. Job and Ecclesiastes both point out that even good people might suffer; and sometimes bad people seem to be rewarded.

Apocalyptic literatures pushes the rewards for the good and the punishment for the bad off into the future; often in a vision of a future world. It's possible that because the present time is under the control of evil people; the message was couched in symbolic language and numbers. So, in Revelation, rather than criticize the Romans who were persecuting Christians, it talks about Babylon - an evil empire from Israel's past.

Studying Revelation, like many biblical books is a bit like playing Jeopardy, we are given answers, and we have to figure out the questions. We are given solutions, and we have to figure out the problem.

The most plausible situation that created the need for Revelation was the persecution of Christians under the Roman empire, probably Domitian. The specific problem was the call for all within the Roman empire to worship the emperor as a god. When Christians refused to do this (as well as refusing to worship the Roman gods and goddesses,) they were labelled "atheists" and unpatriotic and traitors to the empire. For most people within the empire who were polytheists, worshiping Domitian as another god was no problem.

Revelation is a past-tense book. It is a writing about events which happened in the past - specifically, the persecution of Christians in Asia Minor by the Roman empire at the end of the 1st century. In writing about their problems, John often used older apocalyptic images to convey the faithfulness of God in oppressing times. The promise given to the faithful believers is that God is moving history towards his goal. Be patient. The end, with the reversal of believers being rewarded and the evil being punished, has been revealed to John who shares it in his writing.

Revelation is also a present-day book. It is a writing about the struggles of every generation to remain faithful to God in the midst of competing claims of loyalty.
Your Turn / Sanctification
January 14, 2023, 04:40:19 PM
A recent discussion turned to sanctification before it was deemed too off-topic and shut down. We can continue.

In checking my notes, I found this indication that it had been discussed before.

I think that Gary is talking about sanctification in the narrow sense, of which the Lutheran Cyclopedia has this to say: In a narrow sense, sanctification is the spiritual growth (1 Co 3:9; 9:24; Eph 4:15; Ph 3:12) that follows justification (Mt 7:16–18; Jn 3:6; Eph 2:10). By God's grace (Gl 5:22–23; Ph 2:13) a Christian cooperates in this work (2 Co 6:1; 7:1; Ph 2:12; 1 Ti 4:14; FCSD II 65–66); through the Holy Spirit's work faith is increased daily, love strengthened, and the image of God renewed (cf., e.g., Jn 14:26; 16:13–14; Ro 6:15–23; 8:15–16, 26; 14:17; 15:13; 1 Co 12:7–11; Gl 5:16–18; 2 Ptr 3:18). A believer's good works are not perfect; but sins of weakness are forgiven (Jn 15:3). Sanctification differs in the same Christian at different times (Ro 7:14–19; Gl 2:11; 5:17; 1 Jn 1: 8) .

I recently checked "sanctify, sanctification" in the New Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible. The article begins:
[ ??? ??? qadash, ??? ??? hagiaz?, ??? ??? ??? hagiasmos, ??? ??? hagniz?] [The ? are where I had written the Hebrew and Greek words.]
The NRSV uses a variety of words to render this word group into English, e.g., sanctify, consecrate, dedicate, set apart, hallow, purify, make sacred/holy, be/become holy, show/display/manifest/maintain holiness, sanctification, consecration, holiness, sanctuary. In general terms, sanctification is the act or process by which persons or objects are cleansed and/or set apart for God's purposes. In its full canonical significance, to be sanctified is to be graciously taken up into, and set apart for active participation in the saving, reconciling purposes of God. For Christians this happens only as they become and remain part of the community of God's people, a people who are corporately and personally being shaped by the Spirit into the image of the crucified Son, and thereby being restored into the image of the holy, life-giving, Triune God.

Reading through the nearly five pages of the NIDB article, the thought struck me as to whether a consecrated bowl, i.e., set apart for God's purpose; is consecrated in itself or when it is used in the temple in the service of God. Related to that, and discussions I remember back in seminary, was whether the consecrated bread was in itself the body of Jesus, i.e., if one stuck it in a pocket, they would be carrying a piece of Jesus with them; or if the consecration is connected to its actual use in God's service, the eating of the blessed food?

The author of the article, Robert B. Coote, stresses that the purpose of God, i.e., missio dei, is related to community. He summarizes about the OT (boldface added): ... both God's and Israel's sanctifying actions ultimately move toward the corporate formation of a distinct and public people as a set-apart instrument for the mission Dei, i.e., God's intent to engender life in all its fullness for Israel, and through Israel, for the nations and creation as a whole.

His summery of the NT includes (boldface added): Sanctification continues to entail being set apart from those outside the people of God for the sake of God's ultimate life-giving purposes in the mission Dei. But both sanctification and the mission Dei have been reconfigured in light of the Christ event. Sanctification occurs when persons are forgiven, cleansed, set apart and incorporated into a holy people by means of, and in order to participate in, God's cruciform pattern of redemptive/reconciling activity. The Spirit's enabling of the church to participate in practices of costly, self-giving love is the means by which God continues sanctifying his people, shaping them more fully into the image of the crucified Son, "the Holy One of God."

At least according to his article, sanctification involves being part of a community that is different from people outside of that community. Or, a phrase I had used, it's about our relationship with other people. I now add: with those within the body of Christ and those outside of the body.
Your Turn / Mary the Tower
December 29, 2022, 08:04:14 PM
Diana Butler Bass in a sermon argues first of all that the Mary and Martha in Luke 10 are not the same Mary and Martha in John 11-12. Secondly, based on research that a friend has done on papyrus 66, the oldest manuscript of John, that originally, the story had one Mary and no Martha. Looking closer at the text, one letter in ΜΑΡΙΑ was changed to form ΜΑΡΘΑ. She found other changes to introduce Martha as a second sister. Thirdly, when Tertullian writes about this passage he states that Mary confesses that Jesus is the Messiah. It's possible that his version of John didn't have Martha, who is the one who confesses in our translations (John 11:27). All this leads up to the theories: this was Mary Magdalene and "Magdalene" doesn't refer to a place, Magdala, (which wasn't the first century name of the place that is claiming that name now,) but comes from the Aramaic for Tower. Just as Jesus called Peter a rock when he made his good confession, it's possible that Jesus called Mary a tower when she made her good confession.

Further articles by Elizabeth Schrader on her studies can be found by googling her name or papyrus 66 Martha.
Your Turn / The Contexts of OT Quotes in Matthew 1-2
December 20, 2022, 02:13:37 PM
Matthew gives us five OT quotes in his first two chapters. He repurposes them to show how Jesus fulfills prophetic texts. However, the original contexts say something quite different.

Isaiah 7:14 quoted in Matthew 1:23. Isaiah is talking what King Ahaz about Aram's King Rezin and Israel's King Pekah (Is 7:1). Isaiah tells Ahaz that before this child reaches the age of reasoning, the lands of the two kings will have vanished. Matthew follows the LXX more closely than the Hebrew, but changed "she will call his name" to "they will call his name."

Micah 5:2 is quoted in Matthew 2:6. Micah is writing while Judah is in the midst of a crisis. Assyrian is named in vv. 5-6. Micah promises a king who will lead surviving Judeans to victory over the Assyrians. Matthew doesn't seem to follow either the Hebrew nor LXX. Neither have the line "among the rulers of Judah." It's omitted in Hebrew and reads "among the thousands in Judah" in LXX. The line: "who is to shepherd my people Israel" comes from 2 Samuel 5:2 and refers the LORD's promise that David will shepherd his people.

Hosea 11:1 is quoted in Matthew 2:15b. Matthew uses the verse to talk about Joseph taking the holy family to Egypt. Hosea's context is about Israel (who is called "son" in Hebrew) having been led out of Egypt. Here Matthew is closer to the Hebrew than Greek which says "I [God] called back his [Israel's] children." Hosea's context is that these people continued to worship other gods even after their God had saved them from the Egyptians.

Jeremiah 31:15-17 [38:15-17 in LXX] is quoted in Matthew 2:17-18. Jeremiah is using "Rachel," Jacob's favored wife, and grandmother of Ephraim (Gen 41:50; 46:20,) who is the personification of the wayward nation who have been exiled to Babylon. Jeremiah promises that the lost children will return home. This is quite different than the execution of children who will not return to their wailing mothers.

In Matthew 2:23 he quotes an known verse. The closest connections could be that the Hebrew nzr refers to a nazirite (see Num 6) like Samson (Judg 13;2-7) or Samuel (1 Sam 1-2); or Hebrew ntsr which could refer to the "sprout" or "shoot" of Jesse in Isaiah 11:1. The NT uses three spellings of "Nazareth." a. Ναζαρά, b. Ναζαρέθ, c. Ναζαρέτ. "Nazorean" is a closer translation of Ναζωραῖος, which is used 13 times in the NT. The LXX uses ναζείρ, ναζίρ, and ναζιραῖος for nazirite. ῥίζα is the Greek word for "root."

Your Turn / Christ's Mass?
December 14, 2022, 07:59:00 PM
It was my practice in the parish to celebrate communion on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (even though not many showed up on Christmas Day, but we often had folks from other congregations who didn't offer a worship on the 25th). I was asked to accompany the Christmas Eve service at the congregation I served (where I also accompanied the worship services). There is no communion on Christmas Eve - and there is no service on Christmas Eve, even though it's a Sunday. Part of it may be that the pastor they have called, is Canadian, and is having troubles getting a work visa to legally come and work in the U.S. The interim, had a strike and is recovering out of state. I believe that they are just doing the same Xmas Eve service that he did the year before.

It's not my place to comment on what they are doing where I formerly served. (I'll accompany the hymns they chose to the best of my ability - and use hymns they didn't choose as a prelude and postlude.) So I thought I'd see what others are doing in this forum.
Your Turn / Was Paul Aware of the Apostolic Council?
November 21, 2022, 07:32:20 PM
1. Yes, Paul knew, he was there according to Acts 15 and hears about it again in Acts 21 when Paul returned to Jerusalem and faced charges that he was teaching the Jews who live among Gentiles to reject Moses. (Quotes from the CEB)

Acts 15:2: The church at Antioch appointed Paul, Barnabas, and several others from Antioch to go up to Jerusalem to set this question before the apostles and the elders.

Acts 15:12: The entire assembly fell quiet as they listened to Barnabas and Paul describe all the signs and wonders God did among the Gentiles through their activity.

Acts 21:18 On the next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James. All of the elders were present.

While this council affirmed "On the contrary, we believe that we and they are saved in the same way, by the grace of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 15:11); also imposed a few rules from Moses that are repeated three times in Acts.

Acts 15:20 avoid ...                            Acts 15:29 refuse ...               Acts 21:25 avoid ...
the pollution associated with idols       refuse food offered to idols     avoid food offered to idols
sexual immorality                              blood                                    blood
eating meat from strangled animals    meat from strangled animals   meat from strangled animals
consuming blood                               sexual immorality                   sexual immorality

Acts 15:20 τοῦ ἀπέχεσθαι ...        Acts 15:29 ἀπέχεσθαι ...     Acts 21:25 φυλάσσεσθαι αὐτοὺς ...
τῶν ἀλισγημάτων τῶν εἰδώλων   εἰδωλοθύτων                     τό τε εἰδωλόθυτον
καὶ τῆς πορνείας                         καὶ αἵματος                       καὶ αἷμα
καὶ τοῦ πνικτοῦ                          καὶ πνικτῶν                       καὶ πνικτὸν
καὶ τοῦ αἵματος                          καὶ πορνείας                      καὶ πορνείαν

2. Paul does not make any reference to this decision when he writes about εἰδωλόθυτον in 1 Corinthians 8(:1, 4, 7, 10) and 10(:19). He does not prohibit it.

There are some with "knowledge." They know that false gods are nothing. The food has been sacrificed to nothing, so there's nothing wrong with (probably going to the pagan temple) and eating food there.

There are some who don't have this knowledge, who believe that such food was really dedicated to a false god. They cannot eat it. To illustrate the power of forbidden foods, a former Muslim talked about the first time he ate pork. He didn't know that it was pork. An hour later he asked about that meat. They told him it was pork. His body reacted. He vomited. My wrestling coach had a similar experience when he learned that the food he was eating in Japan was slug.

Food issues involve more than just knowledge in our heads.

While Paul doesn't talk specifically about εἰδωλόθτον that could be the context in his comments "One person believes in eating everything, while the weak person eats only vegetables" (Romans 14:2).

Paul confesses: "I know and I'm convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is wrong to eat in itself. But if someone thinks something is wrong to eat, it becomes wrong for that person" (Rom 14:14). [Note that "wrong to eat" is the CEB's translation of κοινός. Generally, it refers to "what is common, ordinary," but in regards to the cultic, it is often in contrast to what is sacred, consecrated, and thus can mean "profane" or "defiled." We continue to make this distinction between the consecrated bread and wine of the sacrament, and "ordinary" bread and wine that we eat at other places.]

I believe that this verse was the background for listing four positions within the ELCA in regards to same-sex relationships. For those who consider them wrong, they are wrong. For those who consider them acceptable, they are acceptable. I also see it in the LCMS in regards to women's participation in worship. Some think its OK and women read some lessons, etc. Others do not think it's acceptable, so women do not read.

Back to the main topic. Paul does not seem to indicate any knowledge about the Jerusalem Council's decree, which in participated in, according to Acts. Rather than advising Gentile believers to refuse to eat food sacrificed to idols; he indicates that he can be acceptable for some to do so - those who have the knowledge that they are nothing. He also puts himself into that category.

He seems to have had no knowledge of the prohibition against eating food that had been sacrificed to idols; or, if he knew, he disagreed with it.
Your Turn / Whatever happened to Molech?
November 07, 2022, 08:30:02 PM
Molech game up in a discussion. I decided to do some biblical research on it.

The Hebrew consonants מלך [MLK] generally refer to "king" or "ruling as king." A feminine form is "queen".

The pointing for the gods name, Molech/Moloch occurs in Leviticus 18:21; 20:2, 3, 4, 5; 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:10; Possibly Isaiah 57:9 (it is sometimes "king" there); Jeremiah 32:35. 1 Kings 11:5; 11:33; 2 Kings 23:13 have the name "Milcom" as the name of the God of the Ammonites.

In checking the LXX, in nearly all of these verses, "Molech" (and "Milcom") disappear.

In all five texts in Leviticus, the LXX uses ἄρχων = "ruler".
In 1 Kings 11:5, 11, 33; and Jeremiah 32:35, the LXX uses βασιλεύς = "king"
Only in 2 Kings 23:10 does the LXX transliterate: Μολοχ. (It also uses this word in Amos 5:26 where the Hebrew has "king." This is used when Luke quotes the passage in Acts 7:43.)

For a flavor of what difference this makes, here is the New English Translation of the Septuagint rendering of Leviticus 20:2-5:

You shall also speak to the sons of Israel: If any of the sons of Israel or of the guests who have come in Israel - whoever gives any of his offspring to a ruler, by death let him be put to death; the nation in the land shall stone them with stones. And it is I who will set my face against that person and will utterly destroy him from his people, because he has given of his offspring to a ruler, to defile my holy things and to profane the name of those consecrated to me. But if the natives of the land should by an oversight overlook with their eyes away from that person when he gives his offspring to a ruler in order not to kill him, then I will set my face against that person and his family and will utterly destroy him from among his people, him and all who are like-minded in going out to commit fornication with the rulers.

What might this version say about the type of allegiance folks give to rulers, e.g., the president (regardless of what party)?

Or, as a meme I copied: "Over the next six days don't let the elephants and donkeys make you forget that you belong to the Lamb."
I'm at our synod's retirees retreat. (The first one I've attended.)
Dr. David Lose is the key speaker and his general topic is: Why our children and grandchildren don't go to church - and what can we do about it. (He's in the process of writing a book on this topic - but has slowed since accepting the call as a pastor of a very large congregation.

He is the senior pastor at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN, one of the largest ELCA congregations.
Prior to that, he was president of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.
Before that, he taught on the faculty of Luther Seminary for 14 years.

He's giving three presentations:
1. Exploring the Cultural Landscape in which We Minister
2. Spiritual but not Religious - How We Became a Church without Youth
3. Faith that is Caught, Not Taught - What Can We Do

My impression is that many of the retired clergy at this retreat have children and grandchildren who are not attending church.

A key reason from his first presentation is that they live in a different culture than we oldsters grew up in. He related a story from a colleague about a family who made a list of all their activities and what they were getting out of them. Attending church didn't make the cut. Making such a decision was not on my parent's radar when we were growing up. Sunday morning we went to church. In addition, to even ask, "What am I getting out of it?" wasn't a question we asked.

It should be an interesting two more days.
Your Turn / Emmett Till et. al.
October 27, 2022, 07:06:54 PM
In watching ads for the movie "Till," about the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till, I wondered, is teaching about what happened to him fall under Critical Race Theory? Is it something that should be taught in our schools about our unfortunate racial history.

If we teach about his torture and death, about about Matthew Shepherd's torturous death? His wasn't motivated by race.
Your Turn / The Blessing/Curse of Wealth in Scriptures
September 29, 2022, 06:22:22 PM
The discussion on Luke 16:19-21 has centered on wealth throughout Scriptures. It's a topic that will occur in some later texts, too.

To begin with, I ported over this post:

Quote from: Tom Eckstein on September 28, 2022, 10:42:32 PM
Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on September 28, 2022, 10:01:51 PM
Quote from: Tom Eckstein on September 28, 2022, 03:00:45 PM
Brian, above you wrote:  "In contrast to thinking that the man was wealthy because God blessed him, the common thinking in the 1st century Mediterranean world was that he was a crook."  Although Jewish beliefs were not monolithic in Jesus' day and some DID have a correct view of wealth as an undeserved gift from God and that one should give freely to the needy out of faith in the coming Messiah, the fact is that the Pharisees viewed their wealth as a sign that they had been blessed by God for their obedience - and thus their shock at the reversal in Jesus' story in Luke 16:19-31.

In a good article on this linked below it says:  "The Pharisees believed that being rich was a sign of being spiritual. The wealthier a person was, the more he was thought to be favored and blessed by God, a reward for his righteous conduct. In contrast, poor people were believed to be sinful and under God's judgment because of their unrighteous conduct ... This parable isn't about money, though Jesus tells it in response to the Pharisee's ridicule of his view on money. No, this parable is about believing in God and obeying his laws and commandments, which teaches us how we should manage his provision, including wealth, as well as other principles necessary for godly living ... The rich man was not unrighteous because he had wealth; he was unrighteous because he chose to live for himself and disobey God's instructions, ultimately leading him to reject God. Lazarus was not righteous because he was poor; he was righteous because he depended on and trusted in God for his provision."

I read no sources from which he based in his conclusions.

In his book The World of the Early Christians, Kelly writes that material wealth is highly valued in the Tanakh and that the Hebrews sought it and believed that God promised to bless them with it if they followed his commandments and that biblical writers portray God as enabling men such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Solomon to achieve wealth and that this wealth was considered a clear sign of divine favor.

In this article, The Morality of Wealth ( Rabbi Herman Abramovitz writes:  "In short, the Torah displays no trace of animus or ambivalence on the subject of the patriarchs' financial prowess. While they are not without their shortcomings, wealth does not diminish their moral stature. On the contrary, the Torah highlights it as a sign of God's favor."

Also, The Talmud (Babylonian Talmud, Yuma 22b) states that one who becomes a leader/administrator involved in community affairs becomes wealthy as a divine reward for serving the public honestly and dependably.

Many commentaries I've read (by both conservative and liberal Christians) mention how SOME Jews of Jesus' day viewed wealth as a sign of God's favor and poverty as a sign that one had sinned.  I don't have time to check their sources now, but they're there.

The point is that SOME (not ALL) Jews of Jesus' day - especially the Pharisees! - viewed wealth as a reward for one's piety and poverty/illness as a curse from God because of some sin.  Obviously, not ALL wealthy people in Jesus' day were viewed as pious because some wealthy were open sinners, such as the Tax Collectors.  But the Pharisees believed that the Tax Collectors would not enter heaven whereas the Pharisees believed they HAD merited heaven by their works (including their charity!) - and their wealth was a sign of this.  Jesus was dealing with this false teaching.

We even see this false theology as early as the Book of Job where Job's friends view his negative circumstances (including his loss of wealth!) as a sign that he had sinned against God.

In any cases, there is much information out there that confirms what I've been writing.

What might surprise some; I agree with Tom's post. Especially when preaching/teaching about the rich man, I've made the same kind of comments: That wealth was a sign of God's favor.

I decided to broaden this discussions as I'm doing a deeper dive into πλούσιος, πλουτέω, πλουτίζω, and πλοῦτος in the LXX and the Hebrew words they translated.

As a word group, they occur very seldom in the Torah - and generally show that the person was blessed by God:
Gen 13:2 - Abraham was very rich (πλούσιος).
Gen 14:23 - Abraham makes sure that it was not the King of Sodom that made him rich. (πλουτίζω)
Gen 30:43 - Jacob became very, very rich (πλουτέω)
Gen 31:16 - Reference to Leban's wealth (πλοῦτος).
Ex 30:15 - Both the rich (ὁ πλουτῶν) and the poor (ὁ πενόμενος) had to pay the same amount for the census compensation tax.
Deut 33:19 - Zebulon and Issachar will reap riches of the sea (πλοῦτος).

What I've seen so far, is that Wisdom Literature isn't as positive towards wealth as these verses in Torah. Sirach 13 has quite a bit to say about the rich.

Possible thesis: the positive sense of wealth as a sign of God's blessing in the Torah becomes less prevalent in the later OT writings. (I'm still looking up and recording verses from the prophets and writings.)
September 19, 2022, 08:17:27 PM
When I try to log on to ALPB from my computer I've been getting this warning.

This server could not prove that it is; its security certificate expired 3 days ago. This may be caused by a misconfiguration or an attacker intercepting your connection. Your computer's clock is currently set to Monday, September 19, 2022. Does that look right? If not, you should correct your system's clock and then refresh this page.

I can get on without problems with my iPad, but it's more difficult to type than on the computer keyboard.
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