Anselm on Reconciliation and the Atonement

April 2, 2021

ANSELM

Last Week we looked at Irenaeus and how his method was more Biblical and historical withing the framework of the rule. Anselm is not like that. He is more philosophical and he grinds things down to basic premises. Without atonement and reconciliation there would be no relationship with God. Anselm is another way of looking at these great themes of our salvation especially now at this Easter Weekend.

Anselm 1033-1166 was archbishop of Canterbury, thus he always had responsibilities on the political scene. Anselm’s life thus revolved around the monastery and one of the functions of any monk was to pray. Southern says that from the time that Anselm arrived in Bec (in 1059), one can see ‘three threads running through the whole development’ of Anselm’s life and thought; 1) Anselm received his intellectual tools from Lanfranc in who’s footsteps he followed. 2) Anselm immersed himself totally in St Augustine’s thought and language. These two points in some way influenced the writings of ‘Prayers and Letters’ and the ‘Proslogion’. 3) From 1078 new influences in the world took Anselm outside of the Monastery. His theological questioning was also growing due to contact with Roscelin. Jewish arguments were brought to the attention of Anselm via Gilbert Crispin. There were also the teachings from the Laon school which was brought to the attention of Anselm via Boso. These were contributary factors for the culminating works of the Proslogion of 1078 and his more mature work of the Cur Deus Homo in 1098 (15/437). In our search for Anselm’s understanding of reconciliation and atonement we shall concern ourselves mainly with the Cur Deus Homo? (why did God become man?).

Anselm is one of the first theologians to have written a systematic theology on the atonement (1/87). Anselm rejected the view that, ” The Devil, it was held, had obtained, as a result of the Fall certain rights over humankind, either on his own account or by divine permission. Freedom from this bondage was won by means of the payment represented by the blood of Christ” (1/87). (It would be unfair to say that Irenaeus held this view completely as there is also atonement language in his writings). Anselm rejected this view. He wanted to give an account that was rational in relation to the Atonement. Gunton says that at places Anselm is being too systematic with his approach to the atonement and the incarnation (1/88). This does seem to be the case, as in the CDH Anselm does put a great deal of emphasis upon the death of Christ and not enough emphasis on other historical questions in the second part of the CDH.

Anselm viewed the Fall,”…as sin, which was the cause of our condemnation, had its beginning from a woman, so should the author of our righteousness and salvation be born of a woman. And as the Devil had conquered man by the tasting of a tree, to which he persuaded him, so by the suffering endured on a tree, which he inflicted, should he, by a man, be conquered” (2/38). It is interesting to see in this quotation that Anselm does give the Incarnation a high priority, as does Irenaeus. But it must be said that in between the Incarnation and the Passion, the historical works of Christ (for example the miracles etc) are omitted.

Whatever the case maybe concerning the ballance of atonement ~n the CDH there are important points to consider for the rejection of the ransom language which was mentioned before. If one for example holds to the ransom language it does have too much of a dualism in ~t. In Mark 10/45 for example where it says, ” to give his life a ransom for many” (1/88). If the blood of Jesus is treated as a literal price which was for payment to the Devil, then this is going beyond what the NT actual ly al lows in its language (1 /88). The next point to realize

is that ransom language gives too much autonomy and too much authority to the Devil. Gunton quotes CDH1/7,” the Devil and man belong to God alone, and neither one stands outside God’s power; what case, then, did God have to plead with his own creature, in his own affair…?” (1/88 and CDH 1/7).

Satan can only give out punishment according to what God allows. Ransom language does not give an account that is reasonable enough to explain the atonement. Satan is only a creature like all of the other creatures and if he should be given a priority of place as is implied in the ransom language, then the authority of God is undermined. With the rejection of ransom language Anselm turns to a new metaphor which is language of ‘satisfaction’. ‘Satisfaction’ was taken from the legal establishment (1/89). The starting point for Anselm is,” The entire will of a rational creature ought to be subject to the will of God” (2/63). If this formula is broken by sin, then the one that has committed the sin is ‘owing to God’.

Anselm has a particular concept of Justice. God will not allow injustice to have its own way in the universe, otherwise the universe would be seen as irrational (1/89-90). If the universe is seen as irrational, then God does not deserve the name ‘God’. Sin must be punished, ” And since it is not possible to bring sin into accordance with right order without satisfaction being made, except by punishing it, if it is not punished, it is let go without being brought into due order” (2/65).

The important words in the above quotation are ‘right order’. If we also look at CDH I/15 (pages7l-72) where it has the expression ‘order and the beauty of the universe’, we start to see that Anselm sees satisfaction in terms of the welfare of God’s creation. Satisfaction initially is not in terms of the honour of God. Anselm writes that nothing can harm ‘the power and dignity of God’ (2/15/pages7l-72). It is with this in mind that Gunton writes, ” The point is that God does not demand satisfaction for sin because he is in some way personally affronted or offended by transgression” (1/90).

As well as God who is seen as the guardian of universal justice we must also take into account ‘the seriousness of sin’ (1/90). To do something that goes against God’s will is a very serious thing. In the dialogue between Anselm and Boso, Anselm writes,” You do not, therefore, make satisfaction unless you return something greater than that for the sake of which you were under obligation not to have committed the sin”. Then Boso replies,” I see that reason requires it, and yet, that it is altogether impossible” (2/pages 100-101//CDH/I/21). Anselm goes on to say that if it wasn’t for faith, he would despair of there being any possibility of reconciliation to God (2/100).

It is within the framework of justice that mercy must be understood. Man is in a state by which he is incapable of paying God back for his sins. At the same time God cannot forgive man without there being a payment for the debt of sin. God’s Mercy has to be understood within the framework of justice. After what has been said, it must also be noted that ‘satisfaction’ must not be understood in terms of the primary emphasis being on penal substitution.

When Anselm uses the word satisfaction we must also take into account the word ‘poena’ . Satisfactio and poena must be seen as alternatives. Gunton writes,” Satisfaction is therefore according to Anselm the way by which God is enabled not to exact a tribute of compensating penalty from the sinner” (1/90). Then Gunton writes, ” He (Anselm) is therefore not propounding a version of what came to be called penal substitution, in which Jesus is conceived to be punished by God in place of the sinner. There is a substitution, an exchange, but it is not penal in character” (1/90-91).

The framework for the theology of satisfaction in terms of ‘human fallenness’ is only a secondary consideration. The main “focus is on the goodness of God and the excellence of creation’s crown” (1/91). Satisfaction was made because of a gracious act of God. God was not willing to see his creatures annihilated. This act of God is to be understood in terms of a Trinitarian framework. Anselm writes,” Hut this Man (Jesus) freely offered to the Father what it would never have been necessary for Him to lose and paid for sinners what He did not owe for Himself” (2/166 book i I/8). Anselm in the same chapter goes on to say,”…He offered himself for his own honour, to Himself, as he did to the Father and the Holy Spirit i.e., His human nature to his divine nature, which is also one of the Three Persons” (2/170). Barth makes use of this motif and he makes this abstract motif relational, ” … the only One who is judged… He is the only who has come and acts among us as the Judge” (16/237-238). In the same context Barth is also fond of the language of Jesus Christ being ‘ for us’ (16/235). The point is that Anselm did extremely well to think up this motif, yet he misses to bring it into the context of ‘our time’ as opposed to God’s eternity.

CONCLUSON

To begin with both Irenaeus’ and Anselm’s historical settings and hence world views were different. At the same time however they wanted to make a defence of the Christian faith. In the AH, Irenaeus begins by outlining the heresies and showing what is ‘apparent’. After this groundwork has been covered, only then does he begin ~n a rational way to demolish the heretical positions. Contrasting to this method, Anselm has inherited certain philosophical tools for use on behalf of the Christian faith against other religious or atheistic systems. He begins by trying to whittle down ‘ as he sees it’ to the common denominators of the Christian faith, particularly such things as, Fall, Incarnation, Passion etc. Both theologians took the Fall seriously and though their methods differed a great deal, it is interesting that some of the motifs later to be mentioned (in our conclusion) have remarkable similarities. The point is that Anselm looked at reconciliation and atonement from a rational perspective. It has to be noted though that it is ‘faith seeking understanding’ (not natural theology) which is one of his presuppositions. Irenaeus doesn’t spell out a concept of faith seeking understanding, but maybe his ‘rule of faith can in some way be seen a loose equivalent (both presuppose the existence of God). In their search for explaining how God reconciles man to Himself, maybe a way to explain their contrasting methods, one can use the analogy of the Mathematician and the historian. The mathematician uses abstract concepts to gain insight into universal truths, Anselm tends to use this method. Irenaeus on the other hand sees the historical data and sets out to explain and evaluate the data in the best way he knows how. This is a crude analogy, but it does show that both methods are valuable in

explaining reconciliation and atonement.

Concerning the Fall, for both of them Mary plays an important part for its reversal . For Irenaeus Mary corresponded to Eve (in the reversal procedure), for Anselm Seeing that a woman was responsible at the Fall it was only fitting that a woman should be present at the incarnation. Obedience is also an important concept for the two of them. In Irenaeus, Christ obeyed the Father at every point of the natural sequence of human development and thus reversing the Fall at each of those particular points. For Anselm aswell the obedience of Christ was also important. Christ offered himself to his own honour. There is a contrast though, for Anselm propitiation seemed more of an abstract mathematical sum in putting the universe in harmony in relation to its Creator. For Irenaeus on the other hand, the obedience of Christ came out of love and there is more of a personal element of fellowship. With the previous statement it must also be stressed that mercy (as an abstract concept) seemed to replace the love motif as found in the Hible. This contrast must take into consideration their historical contexts. Concerning Satan, it may be true to say that he is given a more elevated role in Irenaeus due to the ‘ransom’ concept, it has to be stressed though, that even in Irenaeus Satan is still only a creature like all other creatures. In the plan of the historico-salvation, ‘the obedience of Christ’ is more important. Irenaeus and Anselm agree on the obedience of Christ but the history-salvation motif is unique to the second century theologian. Irenaeus and Anselm also contrast on the concept of sin and evil. For Irenaeus evil ~s held relative to free will thus sin is not treated as seriously as maybe it should be. Sin for Anselm is a very serious concept because it is this particular evil that knocked the universe out of right order. (presumably Anselm inherited this concept of evil from Augustine, then later after Anselm, Calvin) . So then at certain points anselm and Irenaeus do contrast but ‘at crucial points they agree’. Without the perfect obedience of Christ it would be impossible for salvation to be effected. The other point that I want to make is that, one could probably say and should say up to a point that both theologians seem to be ‘both sides of the same coin’ (colloquialism intended). The reason why I say this is that a great deal of the motifs used by Irenaeus and Anselm is found in the theological grammar of Karl Barth but that is another question.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1) THE ACTUALITY OF THE ATONEMENT/ BY COLIN GUNTON. 2) CUR DEUS HOMO?/ ANSELM.

3) EARLY CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES/ JND KELLY/ 5TH EDITION. 4) MAN AND THE INCARNATION/VINGREN

5) AGAINST HERESIES VOLUME 1/ANCIENT CHRISTIAN WRITERS/TRANSLATED HY DOMINIC J UNGER.

6) THE WRITINGS OF IRENAEUS HOOKS 1-4/ T AND T CLARK 1867. 7) IRENAEUS 2 HOOKS 4-5/ T AND T CLARK 1869.

8) IRENAEUS/ DENIS MINNS OP/OUTSTANDING CHRISTIAN THINKERS SERIES.

9) THE EARLY CHRISTIAN FATHERS/ TRANSLATED BY HENRY HETTENSON. 10) NEW DICTIONARY OF THEOLOGY/ IVP.

11) VISIBILE PATRIS FILIUS/JUAN OCHAGAVIA/ ORIENTALIA CHRISTIANA ANLECTA/171/1964.

12) THE GLORY OF THE LORD/ VOLUME II/HANS URS VON BALTHASAAR. 13) ANSELM AND A NEW GENERARION/ EVANS/ OXFORD PRESS. 14) NEW AMERICAN STANDARD HIHLE.

15) SAINT ANSELM/ SOUTHERN.

16) CHURCH DOGMATICS VOL IV,I BY KARL BARTH (THE DOCTRINE OF RECONCILIATION).

Part 1 Irenaeus’ interpretation of reconciliation and the atonement

March 27, 2021

I have completed the book of Ruth, so I wanted to do an ‘Easter Special’ 

This is half of an essay I wrote on the Incarnations for the points of view of Irenaeus and Anselm. Irenaeus was a very important voice in the early Church.  He personally knew St Polycarp from Izmir in Turkey.  He was also a Bishop of Lyon (France).  The next quote is from Wikipedia

“Irenaeus (/ɪrɪˈneɪəs/;[1] Greek: Εἰρηναῖος Eirēnaios; c. 130 – c. 202 AD)[2] was a Greek bishop noted for his role in guiding and expanding Christian communities in what is now the south of France and, more widely, for the development of Christian theology by combating heresy and defining orthodoxy. Originating from Smyrna, he had seen and heard the preaching of Polycarp,[3] the last known living connection with the Apostles, who in turn was said to have heard John the Evangelist.[4] ” from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irenaeus

Compare and contrast Irenaeus and Anselm’s interpretations of reconciliation and atonement.

To begin with we shall look at Irenaeus and Anselm separately, we want to do justice to what they actually said within their historical contexts. Only then shall we give a brief discussion, in order to illuminate both comparisons and contrasts relating to our question. If we were to talk of the rules that governed their respective theologies, then the syntax they both employs are different to each other. Von Balthasaar says there are three collecting points for the theology of Irenaeus; 1) One point is that we need to think in terms of God hidden and revealed, in terms of unity and Trinity. 2) The relation of being and becoming, especially in particular God and man. 3) In the ordering of salvation, the relationship of time and eternity in terms of old covenant, gospel and church etc (12/58). Anselm on the hand is more philosophical in that he identifies three ‘ forces of change’ in the Cur Deus Homo; that of 1) will, 2) power, 3) and necessity (13/187). As can be seen there is no similarity of approach to how God reconciles and makes atonement for mankind. If anything, their particular approaches and hence their methods tend to be poles apart. For example, Irenaeus is not afraid of using the Bible to the fullest extent in his scheme of salvation. On the other hand, for Anselm, he uses as little Biblical information as possible to allow him to give a convincing argument for the need of the Incarnation and passion. Anselm then is more concerned with philosophical criterion which is a part of his training. (In this essay the Cur Deus Homo will be abbreviated to CDH and Against Heresies will be abbreviated to AH).

IRENAEUS

Irenaeus was concerned about the gnostic heresies due to certain apparent reasons, especially because it tended to use a Catholic language but with a different meaning for the initiates of Gnosticism ( 12/41 ) . In summary the Valentinian system began from Buthos and from him emanations’ went out from him until matter was created (it has to be stressed that Buthos always remains untouched by evil 1 matter). So according to the Valentinians, matter was made out of ‘ignorance, grief, fear and bewilderment’ (5/26. This is contrary to the Genesis account where the phrase ‘and God saw that it was good’ is repeated (Gen,chapter 1 verses 10,12,18 etc.). The distinction between God and creation becomes blurred (12/380). The concepts of person and idea also become blurred etc. Balthasaar writes,” Every concept becomes an aeon, every conceptual tension becomes a male-female relationship” etc (12/39). A great deal more could be said (but cannot be said due to length of essay) but one can see that this outline shows a new (false) foundation for the Christian faith.

Irenaeus believed that- mankind fell in solidarity due to the sin of Adam, this process through the work of Christ can be reversed. His main concept is ‘recapitulation’. He borrows Paul’s idea from Ephesians 1/10 ‘to sum up all things in Christ’. He sees this text in terms of as Kelly puts it,” He understands the Pauline text as implying that the Redeemer gathers together, includes or comprises the whole of reality in himself, (Christ) the human race being included”(3/172). Kelly goes on to say that Irenaeus takes advantage of Paul’s use of first and second Adam language. Christ being understood as the ‘second Adam’. Christ then as the second Adam recapitulated or reproduced the first Adam in the same way, in terms of birth from the virgin earth horn from the virgin Mary.

We also need to compare what Unger has to say, “It (recapitulation) must convey the idea of being brought to ahead as a unifying principle and of somehow resuming all things. This process of recapitulation of all things begins with the Incarnation and will be completed with the glorification of the body, yet because the Word pre-existed creation and was in the planning, and was operative from creation on, the Incarnate Word recapitulates all things. He summarizes in Himself all creation and unites all people and angels too to Himself as under one head, and in so doing He duplicates, or resumes, the acts of Adam either by similarity or by opposition” (7/185-186). As can be seen God’s plan of reconciliation precedes creation and works its way through to the end times. Through this term then, Man is not seen as an afterthought, but he is at the heart of what God will for his

creation.

Irenaeus’ important point is that Christ as the second Adam went through all the same sequences of human life such as birth, even including death. Each stage of human life then was being made holy. In doing this Christ reversed Adam’s sin at each stage of human development and thus brought about a new redeemed humanity. An important point to remember is that when Adam sinned so did the whole of the human race. The whole of the human race that was yet to be born was, as it were, locked up in Adam. Christ as the second Adam, in his ‘mystical body’ again brought about deathlessness and undid what the first Adam had done. For example, as the first Adam was disobedient the second Adam was obedient and so on (3/173).

The question that we have to ask ourselves at this juncture is,” If the Christian God is such a good God, why did he allow evil to exist in it? Concerning this major question, it has to be linked to the understanding of free will (8/66-76). Whatever the case, Minns makes his argument around AH 4/37-38. In AH 4/37.6 Irenaeus implies that if God should have created his creatures only for the good then freedom would in some way be hindered. Though Irenaeus’ argument is not full proof, it is a groundwork for an optimistic view of the Fall. Whatever the case may be, Irenaeus does have a concept of being and becoming. That is to say that God ‘is’ and that his creation is constantly growing and increasing (8/70). For Augustine and Athanasius however the free will of Adam and Eve was central for the outcome of the whole of creation. This situation could only be reversed, if God himself became incarnate (8/69).

In opposition to the Valentinian system, God was directly responsible for the creation of this world. Irenaeus directly contributed in the explanation of the Trinity through the notion of the ‘two hands of God’. The two hands were Jesus and the Holy Spirit, they were co-working with the Father in creation (Word and Wisdom 10/345). This allows Irenaeus to say that the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father. The point is that creation is to be seen as the product of love. This also takes away any platonic philosophical basis that creation is evil. There are some writers that try to intimate implicitly that the Son before creation had a creature 1 likeness about him. Ochagavia writes, ” Since the Son was not created out of nothing, as creatures were, we can infer that, before he was established, He existed in God in an unstable state, namely, without a determinate form and circumscription” (11/110). This mind is reading too far into the writings of Irenaeus. There is language in Irenaeus that explicitly rejects such a notion; ” For the Creator of the world is truly the Word of God” (6/105).

Concerning the doctrine of Man, he was created as a child with the view to grow into the image and likeness of God. Instead he did the opposite by disobeying God. If the Fall had not happened man would still have grown into communion with God and would have reached the status of manhood. Wingren goes on to say that it is this very communion that man had with God that has been broken due to disobedience (4/51-52 ) . Though man disobeyed God all in the end would work out for the good of man, ” …The Lord restored us to friendship through his incarnation, becoming the ‘mediator between God and man’. He propitiated on our behalf the Father, against whom we had sinned and cancelled our disobedience by his obedience, restoring us to fellowship with our Maker and submission to him (9/80//AH5/17/1). Man was made in the image (tselem) and likeness (demot) of God (Genesis 1/26). Irenaeus sometimes when he uses the term ‘image’, he sometimes refers to the creation of man and at other times he refers to Christ, depending on context. The original image of God is the Son and it is in his image that man was created. Man is different to the rest of creation because of this. It must be noted however that man has not yet reached his destiny, because he needs to grow up from childhood to adult hood, and this is what he is predestined for. Though man has been created in the image of God he still remains a created creature while the Son still remains the Creator. Man though, he was created with the view to reach maturity, but he yielded and was taken captive by the Devil (4/21).

Because Christ was a real man, he was able to defeat the Devil who had gained power over mankind due to the Fall. The previous sentence implies that the Incarnation itself effected the redemption; this is not entirely correct. This is the line that a commentator in the CDH takes concerning Irenaeus. Irenaeus when talking in terms of redemption is explicit that it is affected through or by the blood of Christ. The concept of the Devil owning the rights of humanity is present in the thoughts of Irenaeus. This thought though is not exhaustive to the theology of Irenaeus. Kelly writes,”…the essence of Adam’s sin was disobedience, the obedience of Christ was indispensable; it is obedience that God requires, and in which man’ s glory consists” (3/174). Concerning reconciliation Wingren summarising says that we need to recognize that there is a general move in the NT of God’s 1 love (because God is love) towards man. Thus, Irenaeus strives to bring this out in his writings.

The burning question then because of this is,” How shall anyone be able to overcome this adversary of mankind unless he is different from the man who has suffered defeat”? (4/21). The answer to this question is that only the Son is stronger than the Devil. The Incarnation then becomes central for Irenaeus due to saving man from this bondage. A proviso needs to be mentioned at this juncture due to ‘bondage language’. It is true that Irenaeus writes in terms of a ‘rational transaction’, at the same time though he uses propitiation language. We cite for example AH5/1/1-2, ” The lord redeemed us by his blood and gave his life for our life, his flesh for our flesh, and poured out the Spirit of the Father to unite us and reconcile God and man, bringing God down to man through the Spirit, and raising man to God through his Incarnation, and by his coming truly and surely conferring on us immortality by means of our fellowship with God” (9/80).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1) THE ACTUALITY OF THE ATONEMENT/ BY COLIN GUNTON. 2) CUR DEUS HOMO?/ ANSELM.

3) EARLY CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES/ JND KELLY/ 5TH EDITION. 4) MAN AND THE INCARNATION/VINGREN

5) AGAINST HERESIES VOLUME 1/ANCIENT CHRISTIAN WRITERS/TRANSLATED HY DOMINIC J UNGER.

6) THE WRITINGS OF IRENAEUS HOOKS 1-4/ T AND T CLARK 1867. 7) IRENAEUS 2 HOOKS 4-5/ T AND T CLARK 1869.

8) IRENAEUS/ DENIS MINNS OP/OUTSTANDING CHRISTIAN THINKERS SERIES.

9) THE EARLY CHRISTIAN FATHERS/ TRANSLATED BY HENRY HETTENSON. 10) NEW DICTIONARY OF THEOLOGY/ IVP.

11) VISIBILE PATRIS FILIUS/JUAN OCHAGAVIA/ ORIENTALIA CHRISTIANA ANLECTA/171/1964.

12) THE GLORY OF THE LORD/ VOLUME II/HANS URS VON BALTHASAAR. 13) ANSELM AND A NEW GENERARION/ EVANS/ OXFORD PRESS. 14) NEW AMERICAN STANDARD HIHLE.

15) SAINT ANSELM/ SOUTHERN.

16) CHURCH DOGMATICS VOL IV,I BY KARL BARTH (THE DOCTRINE OF RECONCILIATION).

Ruth gets married. What does it all mean? Ruth chapter 4 final part

March 21, 2021
  I love this part of the story because it shows that people were haggling over rights thousands of years ago.  However, this was a divine haggling and the decision was from the Lord.    

So, this is how they did property rights in those days.  They had witnesses, 10 witnesses who were elders.  That means they were trustworthy men of the community.   The nearest kinsman was offered Naomi’s land to buy it at a bargain price.  The nearest relative seemed overjoyed.

  Boaz then goes into the detail of the purchase that Ruth the Moabitess was a part of the deal.  The man understood that he had a duty to Elimelech the deceased man his closest relative.    Near the end of the haggling we have.   “6 The closest relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, because I would jeopardize my own inheritance. Redeem it for yourself; you may have my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem it.””  

So, the closest relative takes his sandal off as a pledge, something physical and Boaz becomes the Redeemer.   We know the rest of the story.  God blessed this line.  King David the greatest King of Israel came to the throne.  The story is a lot deeper than that however and sometimes one needs to look deeper into the story and find other interesting things.    Rabbi Sacks draws on this story similarities between Tamar and Ruth.  They were both outcasts.  One was seen To be a prostitute (although she wasn’t) Ruth was A foreigner.

The giving of the leverate marriage that is non normative before the giving of the Torah   “Levirate marriage is a type of marriage in which the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry his brother’s widow. Levirate marriage has been practiced by societies with a strong clan structure in which exogamous marriage (i.e. marriage outside the clan) was forbidden. It has been known in many societies around the world.”   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levirate_marriage  

Tamar gets pregant by her father in Law Judah because he refused his last son ‘the closest’ to do his duty Naomi’s closest unknown relative refuses to Do his duty by marrying Ruth the deceased brother in law.    Both these ladies Tamar and Naomi are in David’s line. Tamar and Ruth were nobodies in that society, but God takes the worthless things and moves mountains.  Ruth and Tamar wanted to keep the line going determined to do this and it was God who chooses nobodies to do amazing things.   

What did King David get from these women?

Rabbi Sacks shared the wording of Rameses and Moses. The Ra part of the Rameses points to Rameses being semi divine of the sun god.  Moses was just a child. Rabbi Sacks then said, ‘God does not look at outward appearances God looks at the heart’. He then moves on to the picking of David as King.  On the outward appearance David did not fit the picture he was just a shepherd boy.  The stereo typical hero is turned upside down in Judaism. 

If you have time, watch the video. Rabbi Sacks in his wisdom has something for everyone

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNg1Z5lijJ8&t=1360s        

You can also visit my other blog at we are looking at the 4. Natural Good and Moral Good part 4 by Herman Bavinck in his Reformed Ethics.
https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/

Ruth and Boaz, Preparing the contract: Ruth chapter 3

March 14, 2021

Before I look at chapter 3 of Ruth we need to look at some points of Jewish law.

“5 If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. 6 The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.

7 However, if a man does not want to marry his brother’s wife, she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to carry on his brother’s name in Israel. He will not fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to me.” 8 Then the elders of his town shall summon him and talk to him. If he persists in saying, “I do not want to marry her,” 9 his brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face and say, “This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line.” 10 That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled.” Deutronomy chapter 5. Verses 5-9

Remember that we said earlier that God cares for the widow, the weak and orphaned.  God will fight their cause.  If a brother dies childless and there is a widow, the closest relative is supposed to take up the cause of his brother so that his name is not blotted out.  This is a duty.

Verse 1 Naomi is helping Naomi to find some safety and life security when there wasn’t any.   Naomi knew that Boaz was a close family member and that he would be ideal for Ruth.  Ruth has been commanded to look her best. Anointing (looking fresh), washing (being clean), Putting the best clothes on.   So as not to embarrass Boaz but also to fulfil legal obligations she has to play a waiting game.  For some reason shoes are important for wheeling and dealing.  That is the way things were done in those days.    

Boaz was tired and he went to sleep.      She came secretly to him and uncovered his feet.  This was done as an intention of marriage. (legal obligation)   Boaz got scared and then realized it was Ruth.  She asks Boaz for marriage security. Uncovering his feet and covering Ruth were legal acts.   The contract continues.  Boaz is excited because she chose him instead of the other men, although legally the man holds all the cards. He could have said to Ruth; What do you think you are doing?   He didn’t do that.  He whole heartedly took up his obligations.  He calls her a woman of Excellence (proverbs 31:10 onwards if you care to read) Boaz knew there was a closer relative so he had to have first pickings.   Boaz explains the Law to Ruth about redemption.     She left before anybody could recognize her.  This was not only for Ruth but it would also protect the reputation of Boaz.      Boaz then gives barley to Ruth and Naomi as a symbol of his seriousness about this situation.  It was quite a lot of Barley but obviously she was able to carry it.      

You can find more at https://www.ancientpath.net/Bible/OT/08_ruth/Addendum/Addendum-5/08_ruth_Innuendo.htm

This chapter 3 is preparation for a marriage. There are legal obligations that need to be fulfilled.

How faithful is God to his people and the nobodies of this world? Ruth 2.8-23

March 6, 2021

Ruth Chapter 2. 8-23

I would encourage you to read the whole chapter of Ruth again before we start to look at the text.  God is with Naomi and Ruth.  God has not forgotten the faithfulness of this Ruth who was a foreigner. 

I think to understand everything that is happening to Ruth one should look at verse 12 and use that as a key to understand the whole chapter.

In verse 12 Boaz is speaking God’s mind.  Boaz reminds Ruth that she has stayed faithful to the God of Israel even through the death of loved ones.  She also did not turn her back on the old and frail (Naomi).  It is now time for the God of Israel to take Ruth under his wings for refuge.  The truth is God never let Ruth and Naomi go.  When they were walking back to Bethlehem Naomi and Ruth could not see what the future held.  With the natural eye they would see disaster.  I think we have all been there some time in our life.  This is not what happened. Naomi earlier said God caused this to happen, but she never gave up her faith in God.  Although she could not see beyond, something greater was happening in their world that would eventually to even influence us in the 21st Century through Christ. 

It may be that you have faith, but your world has turned upside down.  St Paul said somewhere that three things remain: Faith, Hope and Love.  Then he says that the greatest one of these is love.   When the end of times has completed its course there will be no need for hope as it is hope that has been realized.  Our believing our reliance on God will also be realized.  What will hold everything together then? The answer is simple, Love! Indeed, St Paul is right.   So, will faith be found in the land? Yes, Naomi and Ruth were faithful, and God made the impossible possible.  Therefore, let us keep on loving God and our neighbour leaving racism far away. 

I have left the verses of note for you to reflect on.  Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.

11 Boaz replied to her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. Ruth 2:11

12  May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” Ruth 2:12

20 Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed of the LORD who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead.” Again Naomi said to her, “The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.” Ruth 2:20

23 So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law. Ruth 2:23

A true love story with a divine twist; Boaz and Ruth. Chapter 2.1-7

February 27, 2021

“There are no accidents” said Master Oogway

Before we start let us talk about Boaz.  One commentary said that Boaz was probably a judge from Bethlehem.  Indicators for this could be that he owned land, he had lots of servants and he was a respected leader.  This story is not about wealth though, I think it is more to do with faith in God and duty to God and his close relatives.

Before we begin let us read Ruth chapter 2 first and then we can go into the text and start to interrogate it reverentially

1 Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favour.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”

Here we learn definitely who Boaz was; He was a kinsman of Naomi’s husband from Jerusalem and he was wealthy.   In verse 2 we have the opposite; Naomi and Ruth who have nothing and destitute.  Ruth would have known this, and she would have also known that Boaz’ field was the safest due to Naomi being a close relative.  Ruth shows complete obedience to Naomi her mother in law when she asked permission to go and glean so that they could have a meal.  Naomi gives her blessing for this enterprise, so she went to glean. 

We need to be careful when we read this story not to read into it the American dream.  It has nothing to do with the American dream and all to do with God’s love for those who are his.

3 So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. 4 Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the LORD be with you.” And they said to him, “May the LORD bless you.” 5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 The servant in charge of the reapers replied, “She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. 7 And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ Thus, she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while.”

Verse 3

Ruth did not know Boaz when she was gleaning at first.  It says she “happened to come” by chance on Boaz’ field.   This was part of the divine plan.  In the divine plan there are no accidents such as these. 

Verse 4-5

Boaz was not a selfish man and he was a God fearer.  We know this because he is fulfilling God’s law by allowing the poor and needy on to his property to glean and have some food as it says in the Torah

19 “When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. Deuteronomy 24:19

All three are represented in Ruth. Naomi was a widow and Ruth’s mother in law.  Ruth can be considered an orphan because she gave up her parents to follow the God of Israel and she was a foreigner.  Boaz acted on this commandment.  He was a righteous man and everything about him was righteous.  He had pure motives. 

Verse 5-7

Boaz wants inside knowledge of the people in his field.  He finds out that Ruth was gleaning and was the daughter in law of Naomi a close kinsman of Elimelech her dead husband.  He found out that not only did Ruth Glean but she gleaned for the whole day and was weary and tired.  Ruth was a hard worker who also had good manners.  She didn’t just come onto his property, but she asked the helpers if she could.   This is a beautiful romantic divine love story that shows God’s caring hand in it. 

Boaz and Ruth! Ancestors of King David.  We are now into the second chapter and already God is doing something wonderful.  God knows who are his own.  Although Ruth is a Moabitess, she has an eternal destiny and as long as this story is told of her she will always be remembered.

Boaz and Ruth are not only important for the Jewish faith but also for the Christian faith. 

5 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

32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, Luke 3:32

Matthew mentions the women as well who were in the genealogy whereas Luke only mentions the sons. 

We started with Kung Fu Panda and the quote that there are no accidents.  We can believe that in this story of love it was no accident. We can go further and say that if we love and trust God our lives are destined to go on that exciting journey to be with the Lord Jesus for eternity.

How loyal are you to loving God and your neighbour? Ruth shows true loyalty to God and her neighbour and she will not be forgotten by the passage of time. Ruth Chapter 1.14-22

February 20, 2021

Before we start; let us read this section of Ruth.

14 And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” 18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

19 So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

22 So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. Ruth 1:14-22

Commentary

So we saw that Naomi was dedicated to the Lord.  Although her future seemed completely destroyed God was active and at work on her behalf and Ruth’s behalf as she had great faith in the face of adversity.   So Orpah cried, kissed her mother in law and left back to her people.   Ruth clung onto Naomi and it is in the perfect form.   As Orpah was leaving Ruth was clinging and it is in the cal perfect 3rd person singular.  Ruth was already determined to stay with Naomi even before Naomi tried to discourage her from going to Bethlehem with her.  Still Naomi was trying to persuade Ruth to go back to the old life.  Naomi said look your sister in law has gone back (cal perfect).  Orpah is gone and she is not coming back, that’s what the cal perfect means here.   but Ruth did not, on the contrary what did she say?

16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus, may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” 18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

This is packed with information about the determination of Ruth. Ruth is clinging and this clinging is a symbol of staying around way into the future.   Then when Ruth speaks it is in the imperfect with will.  The imperfect carries the idea that it is not a completed state but rather takes Naomi into a future relationship.  She hasn’t left like Orpah this is a continual state and into the future and Ruth will die as a true Jew worshipping the Lord.  The story continues in the imperfect into verse 19 when the villagers ask if this is Naomi.  They were excited.  Naomi was really sad and she says a few things in the perfect as if this was the end of the situation;

20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” NASB

From Naomi’s point of view there was disaster from the Lord and the destiny of Elimelech’s name was going to be cut off.  She is thinking in the perfect.  The men died (Perfect); Orpah left her (perfect). The Lord has acted bitterly towards her (Perfect).  Naomi’s personal world had collapsed and in her soul, she was a broken woman (on the surface of things.)

Verse 22. 

The return was a real thing and these verbs are in the perfect.  It looks like Naomi and Ruth’s situation is now going to start to change for the better.    The reason I say this is because Deuteronomy tells us about the widow, orphan and foreigner. God will fight their case.  Rabbi Sacks made this point in a you tube video where he talks about Ruth and Naomi.

Deuteronomy 10:18 says,” 18 He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the stranger by giving him food and clothing.”

These are indicators from the Torah.  Naomi is a true widow.  Ruth is a true foreigner.  God says that they will not be abandoned. Ruth also has no family as her family is Naomi.  Naomi has also come to a place of the first beatitude “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.  God will step in, there is no question about tha

The Dire Situation of Naomi; Ruth 1;6-13

February 14, 2021
Photo by Haley Black on Pexels.com

Let us begin by reading verses 6 through to 13

What can we learn from verses 6-13

6 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

In Chess a knight might move back to make progress.  Life can be like that.  A family went out and the vestiges of a family returned.  Naomi and Ruth.  The future looks quite bleak.

Naomi heard that the famine in Judah had finished and that there was food.  The bread winners for the family were dead in Moab.  Even when Naomi returns who says they will have any security?

Verse 7

Naomi being the head of the house released the two daughters in law to return to the families they came from so that they could find new husbands.  Naomi would return then to face her shame of failing to get an heir for her husband.

Verse 8.

If this was a worldly situation there would be no hope because on the face of things Elimelech’s name would soon be forgotten.  But something amazing is happening; Naomi is trusting God. She is not trusting herself. May the Lord deal kindly and May the Lord grant…  Most verbs in this chapter are in the Hebrew the active form. The imperfect is not a completed action the story keeps on moving forward.  Here in verse 8;

 h6213a. עָשָׂה asah; a prim. root; do, make:– 

(From Olive tree Bible software.)

This root verb here in the story takes on the perfect form. In other words a completed action.

The women had kept to their duty to the dead and Naomi.  There duty was ‘complete’.  They were now released from their obligations and were free to go back to Moab and find new husbands.  This is a very serious situation in Judaism; the cutting off of a line of a Jewish family.  Naomi would have to live with this until she died and then she also would be forgotten in the annals of time.  However, Naomi never spoke against the Lord.  She was completely faithful and devoted.

Verses 9-13 goes back into the active story mode. She tries to put her daughters off from following her.

Even though things have gone against her and she is suffering with these two ladies, it looks like a hopeless situation.  At the end of verse 13 she says, “the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me.” 

She is stating fact about her situation, but she is not blaming God.  The Lord in the Old Testament is moving and living.  Brueggemann shows this in his writings and how the verbs are used.

When things go against you; How do you as a believer deal with the situation? Naomi is sad and upset about the situation, but she has not lost her faith.  Her faith is being tried out as if in a furnace.  She is a tough lady of faith and will accept whatever the future throws at her alone before her Lord. 

Reflection

As a teenager all those years ago, I heard a preacher talk about this in a prosperity mode.  Although blessing is involved, it is not the main point of this story.  This is about our devotion to God and for this Jewish family it is God’s covenant devotion to the family.  Even in dire situations God is acting for the good of his people.  We sometimes cannot see the good, but it is a relationship of quiet worship and trust.  The Lord Loves Naomi and what looks like on the surface a broken situation that can never be fixed.

This inner spiritual strength is not her doing but it will be found in the greatest king of Israel in the Old Testament; King David.

Is there a future after destruction?

February 11, 2021

Let us start by reading the first few verses from the book of Ruth

Naomi Widowed
1 Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. Now they entered the land of Moab and remained there. 3 Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. 4 They took for themselves Moabite women as wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. And they lived there about ten years. 5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband. Ruth 1:1-5 NASB

So, the story starts from this very old town in Bethlehem.  It was at the time of the Judges.  Joshua had defeated most that lived in that land in fair combat.  After the main wars a time of peace and prosperity must have entered the area.  Unfortunately, the text says that there was a famine in Bethlehem. 

As we found out in the book of Genesis God made Joseph second in command over the whole of Egypt to protect life and the lives of those who belonged to Jacob.

This man made the decision to leave the area and go to Moab.  Obviously, he took his wife and two sons.  The American dream forced on him and his family because of necessity. If we were in the same situation of Elimelech, we would certainly be tempted to move away from the small town of Bethlehem. 

The names of this family also have meanings.

“  The realistic nature of the story is established from the start through the names of the participants: the husband and father was Elimelech, meaning “My God is King”, and his wife was Naomi, “Pleasing”, but after the deaths of her sons Mahlon, “Sickness”, and Chilion, “Wasting”, she asked to be called Mara, “Bitter”.[4]

Taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Ruth

Elimelech and Naomi were G-d fearing.  ‘My God is king’ and ‘Pleasing’.  The father died and their boys married foreigners.  The father probably would not have liked these marriages to those outside of the faith.  Anyhow the boys died.  Naomi is left devastated.   This is a very serious situation for Naomi and her tradition.  Elimelech’s name seems to be getting blotted out.  Elimelech whose name means G-d is my king is going to be forgotten in Moab.  Naomi’s integrity seems to be thrown back in her face as the pleasing one has inherited a very displeasing situation.  These Ephraphites (fruitful) through the two sons of Sickness and Wasting  have become very unfruitful.   This is a dire situation:

How will God start to change this dire situation?

There are two interpretations for the name that I know of.

  • Bethlehem means house of Bread
  • Bethlehem means the house of Lahmu.
  • Beth-lahm  in Arabic means house of meat.

In the ancient Middle East visiting various ‘houses’ was not uncommon as these houses were usually temples.  So its original meaning for me would be the House of Lahmu but after the area passed into a monotheistic religion the name ended up as a place name that is easier to say for the local people. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lahmu

Reflection so far

Everyone faces a crisis situation sometime.  We have plans for the future, but something happens, and our future seems to be ruined.  How do we deal with this situation?

The socially rejected woman who can teach us a lesson or two about faith and how to live.

February 6, 2021

The book of Ruth is a jewel of a book after Judges and before Samuel.  No one has claimed to be the writer of this book.  My own opinion is that it was written during the time of King David or after king David had died.  My reasoning for this is that the Book itself shows that Ruth the Moabitess was in the genealogy of King David.  She was a great woman of faith.  

A friend of mine when I was 16, Edith Heaton gave me a tape with the following song on it.  It is a Lullaby, but it talks about the faith of Ruth.

This was sung by Nancy HoneyTree: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_Honeytree

When I think of this song I think of Edith.  She used to pray that God would allow her to walk again but she never did.  She had a deep evangelical faith from the AOG Pentecostal tradition.  She said to me that being in a wheelchair was a way to reach a lot of people with the Gospel, people who were also in her situation. 

The Gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ. Paul said;”If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your hear that God raised him from the dead, You will be saved!” (From memory) Added to this the word Gospel ‘euangelion’ has a history. When armies returned from a successful battle it was good news. This was from an Old commentary I read on the Gospel of Mark. (From Memory) Later on if I remember we can look at this.

Anyhow at the moment I am doing some background reading for this lovely book and next week we can start to look into it deeper.