Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

The Heroic Women of Jesus’ Ancestry

November 24, 2022

In the ancestry of Jesus, we find some really interesting women of faith:

Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary the mother of our Lord.

One will notice that in a conventional genealogy we have such and ‘such begat’ or ‘the father of’…  In Matthews genealogy there is a twist and the reason there is a twist is that sometimes God works in unconventional ways. All these women have a story to tell, and they all faced some type of persecution in their lives. 

Tamar and Judah

Tamar was married to one of Judah’s sons and he died.  According to the law (levir practice) she was to have a surrogate husband.  She got a surrogate husband, but he wasted his seed on the ground so that she wouldn’t get pregnant.  God judged him and he died.  Judah decided that Tamar was not going to get the youngest son but lied to her… that when he grew up, he would perform by making her pregnant.  It didn’t happen. Judah lied to her.  So, one day she got dressed and pretended to be a prostitute so that she would ensnare Judah so that she could keep the line of her dead husband alive.  Judah fell into her temptation and Tamar took his seal and cord in waiting for his payment for sex.  Three months later she was found to be with child, and he was going to burn her to death. Tamar pulled out the cord and the seal and he admitted that he was at fault.   

Although it is against Leviticus to sleep with one’s father or sister-in-law.  The levir law is an exception and the law here is suspended so that it is not counted as incest:

“You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness. Leviticus 18:15-16”

If Tamar who was a foreigner did not do this act, then the genealogy to David and then to Christ would have been broken.  Tamar was a very brave woman as she wanted her rights and by faith she fought for her rights before God and protected her husbands and her blood line to the next generation.  It is also very interesting what Rabbi Sacks says about Judah on this issue when he admitted he was in the wrong:

“This moment is a turning-point in history. Judah is the first person in the Torah explicitly to admit he was wrong.[5] We do not realise it yet, but this seems to be the moment at which he acquired the depth of character necessary for him to become the first real baal teshuvah. We see this years later, when he – the brother who proposed selling Joseph as a slave – becomes the man willing to spend the rest of his life in slavery so that his brother Benjamin can go free. (Gen. 44:33) I have argued elsewhere that it is from here that we learn the principle that a penitent stands higher than even a perfectly righteous individual. (Brachot 34b) [6] Judah the penitent becomes the ancestor of Israel’s Kings while Joseph the Righteous is only a viceroy, mishneh le-melech, second to the Pharaoh.

Thus far Judah. But the real hero of the story was Tamar. She had taken an immense risk by becoming pregnant. Indeed she was almost killed for it. She had done so for a noble reason: to ensure that the name of her late husband was perpetuated. But she took no less care to avoid Judah being put to shame. Only he and she knew what had happened. Judah could acknowledge his error without loss of face. It was from this episode that the Sages derived the rule articulated by Rabbi Rabinovitch that morning in Switzerland: it is better to risk being thrown into a fiery furnace than to shame someone else in public.” From https://www.rabbisacks.org/covenant-conversation/vayeshev/the-heroism-of-tamar/

(I also used jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/tamar-bible)

Rahab and Salmon

Rahab was another foreign woman in King David’s and Jesus’ genealogy and originally she was a prostitute.  Yet she had respect for the God of Israel and protected the spies.  God protected Rahab and she married some Jewish general and became a citizen of Israel.  The following is about the promise to Rahab:

“Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall, so that she was living on the wall. 16 She said to them, “Go to the hill country, so that the pursuers will not happen upon you, and hide yourselves there for three days until the pursuers return. Then afterward you may go on your way.” 17 The men said to her, “We shall be free from this oath to you which you have made us swear, 18 unless, when we come into the land, you tie this cord of scarlet thread in the window through which you let us down, and gather to yourself into the house your father and your mother and your brothers and all your father’s household. 19 It shall come about that anyone who goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be free; but anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. 20 But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be free from the oath which you have made us swear.” 21 She said, “According to your words, so be it.” So she sent them away, and they departed; and she tied the scarlet cord in the window.” Joshua 2:15-21

Then later in Joshua it says:

“25 However, Rahab the harlot and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. Joshua 6:25”. 

Then in Matthew’s genealogy we have:

“Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Matthew 1:5”

The function of Rahab in the story according to Tikva Frymer-Kensky:

“Rahab has a special function in the biblical narratives of Israel’s existence in the land. When uncovering the men, she explains that she knows that God will give Israel the land (2:8). She has heard about the events of the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) and the defeat of the Amorite kings Og and Sihon, and she declares (quoting from the Song of Miriam in Exodus 15; see v. 11) that “dread” has fallen on the inhabitants and that they all “fear” Israel (2:9). This is the message that the men bring back to Joshua. Rahab is thus the oracle, or prophet, of Israel’s occupation of the land.” Taken from jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/rahab-bible

So, Rahab was a Canaanite and a prostitute which is a double whammy as far as social niceties go but because of her faith and by God’s grace she became an ancestor of Kings and princes.

Ruth and Boaz

Naomi was married to Elimelech, and they had two sons.  One of the sons was married to Ruth the Moabitess. Unfortunately, there was a famine and Naomi’s Husband and two sons also died.  She was left with nothing. She decides to go back to Israel, and she encouraged the daughters to go to their lands.  Ruth refused as the God of Israel was also her God.  This was a dire situation, and the situation was similar to Tamar and Elimelech’s family genealogical line was about to be cut off.  God intervened for Naomi and Ruth and the Davidic genealogical line was not cut off.

“Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab, for she had heard in the land of Moab that the LORD had visited His people in giving them food. 7 So she departed from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 May the LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, but we will surely return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is harder for me than for you, for the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me.” Ruth 1:6-13”

There was only one way for the line not to be cut off and that was that Naomi through her foreign daughter in law could be her surrogate and so it happened, and Boaz married and had children with Ruth.

Bathsheba and David

Bathsheba is the first Jewish woman by blood we actually meet, and she was originally married to a Hittite (a foreigner).  She was a pawn in David’s hand to satisfy King David’s lust.  She got pregnant and David tried to cover it up by getting Uriah to lie with his wife.  Uriah was too honourable so David sent him to the front line where he got killed.  David then took Bathsheba to be his wife. Judgement fell on David and the baby died.  Nathan the prophet confronted David about this and David’s repentance is found in Psalm 51:

“1 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;

According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity

And cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,

And my sin is ever before me.

4 Against You, you only, I have sinned

And done what is evil in Your sight,

So that You are justified when You speak

And blameless when You judge. Psalms 51:1-4”

According to some Rabbinic writings Bathsheba was destined for David but he went about it the wrong way.  Bathsheba along with Nathan played an important role in setting up Solomon for kingship and hence the first Temple to be built for the God of Israel.  Even after David died there were those in court that tried to use Bathsheba for the usurpation of king Solomon’s position to someone else.

Mary (The mother of our Lord) and Joseph the stepfather of Jesus

Mary freely chose to be the receptacle for God taking on humanity through Christ.  Because of her obedience God’s salvation for the world became possible.  It is well worth quoting her song the Magnificat:

46 And Mary said:

“My soul exalts the Lord,

47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;

For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.

49 “For the Mighty One has done great things for me;

And holy is His name.

50 “AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION

TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.

51 “He has done mighty deeds with His arm;

He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.

52 “He has brought down rulers from their thrones,

And has exalted those who were humble.

53 “HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS;

And sent away the rich empty-handed.

54 “He has given help to Israel His servant,

In remembrance of His mercy,

55 As He spoke to our fathers,

To Abraham and his descendants forever.”

56 And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home. Luke 1:46-56

Mary was devoted to her God and our God.  She conceived as a virgin and King Herod attempted to kill her child.  She had to flee with Joseph to Egypt.  They only came back to Judah when Herod the Great was dead. In Islam she is also very important and there is even a chapter named after her ‘Meryem’.  In the Quran Mary faced persecution by some in the Jewish community for this miraculous birth:

“Later, after Jesus’ birth, Mary brought him to the temple. All of the men in the temple mocked her, except Zechariah, who believed in the virgin birth. The Israelites demanded to know how she could possibly have had a baby without a man, whereupon the Virgin Mary responded by pointing to Jesus who then spoke his first prophecy.” (Taken from simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_in_Islam)

Reflection on these women of great faith

God cares for the unwanted of society as an example in Isaiah it says:

“Learn to do good;

Seek justice,

Reprove the ruthless,

Defend the orphan,

Plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:17

Reflection

All the cards were stacked up against these women of faith.  They were helpless and society can at times have a blind eye towards the weak and helpless.  In this genealogy women were especially mentioned as they played a seriously important part for the coming of the Messiah into this sinful world.  It is also very important that in the background of the ministry of Jesus, the backbone that held Jesus’ ministry together was in fact women. This is not a man’s world; it is God’s world and women are just as important as men.  The majority of those in power in history have tended to be mainly men although there are exceptions such as Cleopatra and the Late Queen Elizabeth the Second.  The world is in a mess as we face lots of challenges.  Jesus cared for women that society cast aside, he cared for children, he cared for the sick and he cared for the foreigners (Romans and Samaritans as he taught against racism).  In fact, in Jesus’ life and works (his incarnation) we see a blueprint for an inclusive society. As jesus cared for the weak and vulnerable in society so we too should care for those less able than ourselves, this to me is also an extension of the Christmas story.  As Jesus reminds us later in his sermons that we ought to love God and our neighbour.  Our neighbour is ‘anyone.’

(Note:

The image of Mary I am using has been taken from:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary,_mother_of_Jesus

I am using it according to the creative commons law.)

An overview of the genealogies of Christ though the eyes of Matthew the entrepreneur and Luke the white collared professional

November 17, 2022

Have you ever thought about your own family background and where your roots are found?  In today’s world this is big business and with the advent of DNA testing one can find out even more. We all want to know where we are from as it helps us to build a picture of our identity and where we belong.  Sometimes when we read the news either from the papers or online it is sometimes the only good news we can find. However, DNA may also bring one bad news, perhaps one is related to a despot such as Hitler, Mussolini or even Ceausescu and Stalin. Perhaps sometimes it is better to keeps one’s ancestry at a safe distance.  Herod for example was half Edomite and he wanted to hide this from Judaism of the time so he destroyed the archives in which his ancestry could be found.

In Judaism genealogies are very important as they can show in the Old Testament if one is fit to be a priest or not or to be considered Jewish.  So then today we are going to ask the question why two different genealogies about Christ in two Gospels (both legitimate). Before we even consider opening the Gospels we need to be reminded how different Matthew and Luke are.  Matthew was a tax collector for the Romans but had also spent three years with Jesus and Luke was a doctor who could write a profound history. In one children’s encyclopaedia it says about Matthew:

“Saint Matthew is one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. Sometimes, he is called Levi. He was a tax collector before his decision to follow Christ.

In the New Testament

Among the early followers and apostles of Jesus, Matthew is mentioned in Matthew 9:9 and Matthew 10:3 as a publican who, while sitting at the “receipt of custom” in Capernaum, was called to follow Jesus. He is also listed among the twelve, but without identification of his background, in Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13. In passages parallel to Matthew 9:9, both Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 describe Jesus’ calling of the tax collector Levi, the son of Alphaeus, but Mark and Luke never explicitly equate this Levi with the Matthew named as one of the twelve.

Early life

Levi was a 1st-century Galilean (presumably born in Galilee, which was not part of Judea or the Roman Iudaea province), the son of Alpheus. As a tax collector he would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek. His fellow Jews would have despised him for what was seen as collaborating with the Roman occupation force.

After his call, Matthew invited Jesus to his home for a feast. On seeing this, the Scribes and the Pharisees criticized Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners. This prompted Jesus to answer, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17, Luke 5:32)” (Taken from kids.kiddle.co/Matthew_the_Evangelist)

The same children’s encyclopedia says:

“Luke the Evangelist is said to be the man who wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. Irenaeus, Eusebius of Caesarea and Jerome say that he was a friend of Saint Paul and a doctor, and that he accompanied Paul on some of his travels. These people also say that he was of Greek origin, from Antioch in Syria.

Modern-day scholars think that the person that wrote the two books was not the same that accompanied Paul. Paul had a theology that was special, and slightly different from that of other writers of the New Testament. The two books written by Luke never refer to this theology. Also, the name of Paul’s companion is never linked to writing the two books. The Acts of the Apostles often tell things about Paul which Paul does not tell himself in his letters.

Luke wrote about the Three Wise Men who visited Jesus in the Bible. Luke never said there were 3 wise men, only wise men from the east.” (Taken from kids.kiddle.co/Luke_the_Evangelist)

To sum up then these two Gospel writers one was a physician who was highly educated and the other was originally a tax collector for the Romans!  He would have been seen by his own people ‘worse than scum’ for collaborating with the Romans.  Having said that Matthew had some special qualities and in the Masters hand he wrote a beauytiful Gospel in which one of the geneologies is found. 

So how intelligent was Matthew to be a tax collector and what were their jobs?

Answer

“Tax farming deals in newly acquired eastern provinces in Asia Minor proved to be a highly lucrative source of income for the companies, which placed publicani in competitive positions with the appointed local governors of the provinces. Also, the exclusion of the publicani from the Senate opened up positions for them in the special courts, allowing them to weigh the limits and practices of government power.[1]

The actions of the publicani were fiercely criticised. They were accused of insurance fraud in delivering goods during the Punic wars, of excessive greed when collecting taxes in the provinces, of exceptionally cruel conduct towards slave labour working in the mines, and of fraudulent practices in trying to get rid of unprofitable public contracts. However, surviving literary sources are mainly based on accounts of senators, who were in a competitive position with the publicani. Still, the overall operation of the private contractors seems to have supplied satisfactory results for the management of the Republic.

The degradation of the role of private contracting coincided with the beginning of the rule of the emperors, during which the oligarchic power of the Senate had to give way for the autocratic rule of the Caesars, and a more centralised public civil service system replaced private contractors in implementing the most important parts of public policy. However, the order of the knights, to which the publicani belonged, formed the backbone of the population from which civil servants were recruited. Throughout history, the publicani, or, more precisely, their local henchmen, were probably best known from their minor local tax collecting duties in Roman provinces during the imperial era [3]

By New Testament times, the provincial people came to see the publicans chiefly as tax collectors. It is in this sense that the term is used in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. However, their role as public contractors, especially as regards building projects, was still significant.[citation needed] With the rise of a much larger Imperial bureaucracy, this task of the publicans, as well as their overall importance, declined precipitously. Evidence for the existence of publicans extends as far back as the 3rd century BC, although it is generally assumed[by whom?] that they existed at still earlier times in Roman history. Knowledge of a tentative terminus post quem is taken from the histories of the 1st century AD Imperial historian Livy.” (Taken from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publican)

In that sense Matthew was a businessman who knew the inner workings of the financial systems governed by Rome which included building projects.  From this point of view Matthew was probably one of the most educated disciples.

Luke on the other hand was a doctor and a friend of Paul’s.  When I say a doctor I mean a physician, someone who heals people.  He would have known all of the classics such as Plato and so forth.  Luke Greek is some of the most polished Greek anywhere in the New Testament bar (except) the book of Hebrews.  Matthew and Luke are like chalk and cheese; They were very different people.  Yet, Matthew and Luke had one thing in common Love for the Lord Jesus Christ.  Their personalities and their roots from my point of view are completely different but they created two genealogies of Jesus Christ.  We need to be aware of this when we start to look at these geneologies in closer detail.  We can learn a lot about the Lord Jesus because the genealogies are so different.  In Jewish circles genealogy is important to prove identity.  It is possible for example that Luke wrote to a Sadducee priest named Theophilus (See notes below (Taken from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theophilus_(biblical)#cite_note-9)) Anyhow concerning Jesus identity Mark Matthew Mark Luke and John call Jesus the Son of God.  In Psalm 2 the King ‘The Anointed One’  was the Messiah and the Son of God:

  • The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah Matthew 1:1 …And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” Matthew 14:33
  • The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1
  • the son of God Luke 3:38
  • In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

I find the above partial verses very interesting.  Matthew starts by stating the facts before the genealogy starts calling Jesus the Messiah. Matthew’s genealogy is very Jewish in style and was aimed at a readership of those who were Jews. Sticking the genealogy at the beginning of the Gospel was the appropriate thing to do.

Mark does not bother with genealogies as he was more interested in his Gentile readership, and it was all to do with action with a powerful first verse that the Son of God has broken into our space and time. For example Mark uses a lot of ‘ands’ in his sentences to join sentences which is really bad Greek but it gets the job done.  He also uses ‘immediately’ a lot.  His Gospel is a fast paced Gospel for the ordinary person on the street.

Luke on the other hand starts to build the evidence slowly and the genealogy does not come until chapter 3 which seems rather late but if he was writing to a high priestly Sadducee official this makes perfect sense.

John does not mess around with convention as for his point of view Jesus being fully Divine breaks into our time and history here on earth.

Matthew’s Genealogy

Matthew was only interested in getting the facts out in terms of salvation history for Israel. He breaks the genealogy into three time spans:

  • From Abraham to David
  • From David to the deportation to Babylon
  • From the Babylonian captivity to the advent of Christ

Matthew prefers to use ‘Father of’ instead of ‘son of’.  From my point of view this is one reason for the chronological direction differences in Matthew.  This way of doing the chronology also allows women to be included in his chronology. 

Luke’s genealogy

The time order is in reverse order from that of Matthew and he says, “When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, Luke 3:23”

  • He starts from Joseph
  • He ends with before Adam as the Son of God

In Luke’s genealogy it is followed by the ‘son of ’.  It only reflects the male line of descendants

Reflection on the two chronologies.

If Luke was writing to an important priest in the Sadducee party to show the facts about Jesus, then this was a wise move from Luke.  He kept his genealogy within acceptable standards in the Jewish community

Matthew in contrast metaphorically throws an incendiary bomb into his work.  He is not afraid to mention women in his genealogy:

  • Tamar got pregnant outside of wedlock
  • Rahab was a prostitute (a foreigner)
  • Ruth was a Moabitess (a foreigner)
  • Mary was a virgin (Pregnant outside of marriage although she was a virgin)

We have two versions of the genealogy of Jesus, one that is safe for the standards of the day and Matthew’s genealogy which smashed the ‘safe boundaries.’

Reflection

Matthew and Luke were very different people.  Matthew who was a bit of an entrepreneur made deals with the Romans for his living.  A lot of Jews would have hated Matthew’s lifestyle and he would be seen by a lot as a traitor to his country.  As an extra thought Josephus too would have been seen as a traitor as (metaphorically speaking) he caved into the Romans but at the same time today, Jews and Christians will definitely use his sources for information about the destruction of the second temple.  Although Matthew was despised by his fellow Jews Jesus called him and changed him into a true man of God and that is why we have such a beautiful Jewish Gospel.

I think of Luke as ‘steady Luke’.  Luke was highly intelligent, and he was not one of the twelve disciples but a friend of Paul.  I read somewhere that Luke was possibly pleading for Paul when he was in jail in Rome.  Metaphorically speaking he had a safe set of cards and he knew how to communicate in a hostile world. We are privileged to Have Luke and Acts in our Bible written in excellent Greek of the Ancient world.

When I looked at how the two genealogies were formed, I could see two very different people which reflects on how the genealogies were put together:

  • Luke the white collared worker (medical doctor, lawyer and historian)
  • Matthew the entrepreneur. (He was good at making money)

As followers of Christ, we are much richer because of their individual contributions to the Church.

Notes

Jewish priest

Some scholars[9] point to Theophilus ben Ananus, High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem from 37 to 41. In this tradition Theophilus would have been both a kohen and a Sadducee. That would make him the son of Annas and brother-in-law of Caiaphas, raised in the Jewish Temple. Adherents claim that Luke’s Gospel was targeted at Sadducee readers. This might explain a few features of Luke. He begins the story with an account of Zacharias the righteous priest who had a Temple vision of an angel (1:5–25). Luke quickly moves to account Mary’s purification (niddah), Jesus’ Temple redemption (pidyon ha-ben) rituals (2:21–39), and then to Jesus’ pilgrimage to the Temple when he was twelve (2:46), possibly implying his bar mitzvah. He makes no mention of Caiaphas’ role in Jesus’ crucifixion and emphasizes Jesus’ literal resurrection (24:39), including an ascension into heaven as a realm of spiritual existence (24:52; Acts 1:1). Luke also seems to stress Jesus’ arguments with the Sadducees on points like legal grounds for divorce, the existence of angels, spirits, and an afterlife (Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead). If this was the case then Luke is trying to use Jesus’ rebuttals and teachings to break down Theophilus’ Sadducean philosophy, maybe with the hope that Theophilus would use his influence to get the Sadducees to cease their persecution of the Christians. One could also look at Luke’s Gospel as an allegorical (רֶמֶז remez) reference to Jesus as “the man called the Branch” prophesied in Zechariah 3:8; 6:12–13, who is the ultimate high priest foreshadowed by the Levitical priesthood.

Most, if not all, of the commentaries on the Gospel of Luke say the “Question about the Resurrection” pericope presented in Lk. 20:27-40 is the only account in Luke of Jesus confronting the Sadducees. It is true that Luke only mentions the Sadducees by name once but it is not true that this pericope is the only one concerning the Sadducees. The Parables about the Good Samaritan, the Unjust Steward, the Rich Man and Lazarus and the Wicked Tenants are directed to the Sadducees who controlled the temple establishment. These parables are about unfaithful priests. They are the wicked sons of Eli.[10][self-published source?]

All of the New Testament passages concerning alms and almsgiving, except one in Matthew, are in Luke-Acts. Therefore, these parables may be about alms, almsgiving and the proper use of the wealth controlled by the temple authorities. Luke’s criticism focuses on the use of these temple resources by the religious aristocracy for their own selfish purposes. This means that the religious authorities controlled tremendous wealth that had been in times past properly distributed to the people as part of the institutional form of almsgiving. The priests in these parables are unfaithful, dishonest and disobedient because, inter alia, they have not invited the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind to the banquet table. Once the office of the High Priest became non-hereditary, and available to the highest bidder, the institutional role of almsgiving was abandoned or reduced as the purchaser had to recoup his purchase price.[10][self-published source?]

A minority view[who?] identifies Theophilus as a later high priest: Mattathias ben Theophilus who served from 65 to 66. Note that Luke refers to high priest Joseph ben Caiaphas simply as “Caiaphas”.[11] Thus, the reasoning goes, Luke used this pattern when addressing Theophilus.

Gloom and Darkness Before the Rising of the Son (The state of humanity before Christmas time)

November 11, 2022

Before we embark on our programme of learning about Advent and Christmas time it is good to pause and think about light and darkness.  It is great to get up in the morning and the sun is shining. however here in Finland as we come closer to the Christmas it gets darker and darker.  When it gets dark where I live it is very dark. It is so dark that it is easy to fall into the ditch. Here in Finland in certain places we have wolves and bears.  When it is dark there are dangers. Darkness can be scary on certain people like to watch horror films. I personally don’t like horror films and I certainly don’t want to be scared.

When I was a child I lived in Cyprus. Cyprus is a beautiful island, and the sun shines a lot. However, if you stay in the in the sun too long you will get burnt. Part of the culture is for the ladies especially, to stay where it is cool inside the house.  the men tend to go to the cafes and drink coffee. The sun is very hot, and you can get burned. If you put sunshine through a prism one can see lots of beautiful colours.  Show my friends light and darkness are very different. Emotionally when we’re in the light we can feel positive about life. When we are in the darkness it can make us feel negative. I don’t know if it’s true anymore, but I do know but at one time suicide was a serious problem in Finland because of the dark.

John uses light and darkness in his gospel. It is very interesting that John started to write his gospel with in the beginning. The beautiful thing about is his start to this gospel is that jaune takes his readers back to genesis chapter one, the creation story! What is look at genesis 1:

“The Creation

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. Genesis 1:1-5”

This is an amazing story! So, there was darkness everywhere and there was no order for the world. After the material universe was created it wasn’t a place where we could live as human beings. If anything the the the universe was a hostile place for human beings. Something had to happen and God created but heavens on the earth on the first day.  It wasn’t just darkness anymore but there was light. So the first day hard both light and darkness.  capital God’s word is very powerful my friend. The impressive thing is that God spoke and everything was created. I once read something by Rabbi Sacks.  He said that the Jewish religion is a spoken religion other nations put more emphasis on the visual stuff such as idols and so on. There are some very powerful stories in the Bible and stories are made-up of words. So then in Hebrew aren’t in Greek culture words play an important part for philosophy and religion. Without words you can’t have an argument.  Just imagine a world without words people would have to mime Found it will take a lot longer to get ones message across. In both Hebrew and Greek culture word has an important meaning it is linked to wisdom. For Greeks the logos was wisdom and this is how the philosophers used to talk about it. The power of word and wisdom has played a very important part in western cultures.

For Johns Jesus is the Word, “in the beginning was the word and the word was with God on the word was God”.  We also need to realise that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. In theology Jesus is fully God and fully Man at the same time. Jesus is usually referred to as the eternal Son and he has always existed with the father and the Holy Spirit.  God sent his son into the world not that the world would be destroyed but by through the work of Christ the world would be saved.

In all the great religions of the world light and darkness are important motifs in explaining great spiritual truths. Before we move on we need to realise what some  great Christians have said about this world. This is a fallen world and people have turned their backs on God. The natural man wants to enjoy himself and this seems to be the most important thing sometimes. In today’s world the idea of duty has been thrown out with the bathtub. There was a time row when there wasn’t sin in the world when God created the garden of Eden. I’m not really interested if you take it literally or whether you take it as an allegory both have the same message. The world God created was perfect and God walked in the garden and he talked with Adam and Eve and they had blissful communication.  This was such a beautiful picture but it was ruined because of disobedience and lies. Do not think that Satan hadn’t a part to play in this fall. Satan took on the form of a serpent and he started to give ideas to eve and he just twisted the truth a little bit to make it look beautiful. He said that if you eat of the tree you will not die but you will be like God.  That’s what he’s good at he deceives. This is why he was cast out of heaven. There is light and darkness my friends and we have been called to live in the light by faith in Christ.

We cannot save ourselves, yet God didn’t give up on us even though creation was marred.  On that special relationship we had with God, that was broken all that time ago, and it was not the end my friends. It would take great courage from God to save us. God became a man he lived among us; he was crucified, he was buried, but death could not hold him down as he was resurrected. Our Lord Jesus was resurrected and in him we can also have eternal life.  God had a plan for us from before the foundation of the world.

I don’t know how election works and there are different takes on it from different theological points of view. On the one hand you have the calvinists who Who talk about the five points of Calvinism:

  • total depravity
  • unconditional election
  • limited atonement
  • irresistible calling
  • perseverance of the Saints

the main drive is to protect the idea of the sovereignty of God that God elects his chosen people.  Others say that it is up to you to make that decision and to become a Christian. For some Christians this takes away the idea of the sovereignty of God.

Karl Barth has got a completely different idea, that Jesus is the as the elect of God and he is both judge on the one who is judged so that we can have eternal life. 1000 words is quite a lot actually

let the theologians argue over these things because it isn’t my point to win an argument. I’m only interested in looking at light and darkness as these are important motifs for the Christmas story.

Why did Jesus have to come into this world in the first place?

It’s because of sin, it is because of darkness, it is because we turned our backs on God. Even though we turned our backs on God, God did not give up on us. We are God special creation and he loves us, This is why the Christmas story is so special. We’re going to drill down a little bit into light and darkness now and we’re going to look at the beginning of John’s gospel in a little more detail where these motifs of light and darkness are found.

The Deity of Jesus Christ

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5

Verse one

This verse tells us that Jesus is God and it is a very important statement. Some have said that Jesus is a God with a small g.  this is not the case the eternal son was one with the father.

Verse 2

The second verse says that Jesus was with God at the beginning and this excludes angels. Believe it or not angels are created beings just like we are. As a general rule of thumb the good angels reside in the heavens but still they are only created beings. Satan is only a created being.

verse 3

If you remember we read genesis chapter one earlier and John John is reminding us dodgy Jesus played a part in the creation of the world. The creation was perfect my friends because God said on each day that it was good. If God said that it was good then what does it exclude?

It means it wasn’t bad, it was good, it was perfect and this is our God my friends.  In the letters of John it tells us that God is love. The nature of God is perfect love. God through the Son proved that he was perfect love. As a loving father you may be willing to give your life for your child. As a human being would you give your life up for a tramp? Human nature tells me no. This is what God did for us while we were grovelling in our sins and in our lawless state on our way to hell, God became a man. The perfect Creator the perfect Judge, the holy and perfect God became a human being. If you lived in heaven, would you be willing to give it all up?  In our human and selfish state, I don’t think we would leave heaven, that is my opinion.  God however left heaven the place of light and came t oa place full of darkness and lawlessness to sdave us.

Verses 4 -5

Our communion with God was broken and even though as Bavinck puts it somewhere we were spiritually dead to the things of God we were as it were a ‘dead twig’.  Jesus title in the Gospel of John is ‘Light of the World’.

Reflection

This world is a mess and too many people live in poverty, sickness or in war situations.  If as humans, we cannot even take care of this world then how can we save ourselves from destruction.  I think you already know the answer to that question.  We are in dire straits and the only way this world can be saved is through direct intervention from the Divine (The Trinity).  When we think about this time of year leading into the advent period and into Christmas let us ponder where we as individuals stand.  Perhaps the person reading this blog is from another religion, no religion or agnostic.   All that I can say to you is that whoever you are, God loves you and he wants you to come into fellowship with him.  It is an invitation of love, pure love.  Pure love from God’s side is selfless love wanting only your good.  Even though I am exclusivist in my Christian faith it is because of my exclusivity that allows me to talk to people of other faith or no faiths in humility.  I am not any better than anyone else; God loves the wealthy and the tramps.  God loves the Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Buddhist, atheist et al and the invitation is open to all.  Obviously, you might be from another faith and you might have an exclusive belief system that your religion is correct.  The truth is possibly the golden rule of loving ones neighbour is found in all of the great religions.  This Week we have started looking at this dark world.  We will continue looking at the Gospel and the Christmas story and picking various strands.  Thankyou for reading this blog.