Letters from James, John, Peter, and Jude

Then the LORD appeared at the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the cloud stood over the entrance to the tent.

And the LORD said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering.

They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed.

Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?’ And I will certainly hide my face in that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.
Deuteronomy 31:15-18

It can’t end like this. The anointed leader and his mother. The corruption of the Church.

The Anti-Christ, the Anti-Madonna
The Anti-Christ, the Anti-Madonna

When the Holy Spirit begins speaking in code, you know things are getting bad…

The Elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth — and not only I but also all those who know the truth.
2 John 1:1

Once, Paul could use courtroom cleverness

When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three.)
Acts 23:6-8

Now, the system isn’t so patient.

For the Lord’s sake be subject to every human institution, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority or to governors sent by the Emperor to punish wrongdoers and praise those who do what’s right, for it’s God’s will that by doing good you’ll silence the ignorance of foolish people.
1 Peter 2:13-15

So many people have been lost, the old words themselves are hard to understand. Without the ability to as questions, what was he getting at, anyway…

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
2 Peter 3:15-16

Paul’s words, unclear… or we don’t want them clear…

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:27-28

They echo… but what they echo…

The LORD will vindicate his people
and relent concerning his servants
when he sees their strength is gone
and no one is left, slave or free.
Deuteronomy 32:36

During the persecution there’s even confusion of the old bible, the Hebrew Bible. Is it this hard to find scripture anymore?

What happened when Moses died?

Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”

And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is
Deuteronomy 34:4-6

Or was it something else?

Michael the Archangel, on the other hand, when we was disputing with the Devil over the body of Moses, didn’t take it upon himself to pronounce judgment on the Devil because of his blasphemies. Instead he said, “May the Lord rebuke you!”
Jude 1: 9

What do we know about Enoch?

When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. After he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Jared lived a total of 962 years, and then he died.

When Enoch had lived years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
Genesis 5:18-24

Or perhaps, there was something else…

It was about them that Enoch prophesied in the seventh generation after Adam when he said, “Behold, the Lord came with His myriads of angels to execute judgment upon all, to rebuke all the impious for all the ungodly acts they committed and for all the harsh words that unholy sinners have spoken against him.
Jude 1:14-15

And, if you can’t quite remember, whose words are these?

Or do you suppose that Scripture is nothing but empty words when it says, “The spirit dwelling with us is given to jealous desires”?
James 4:5

The persecution is cutting down the faith. Once Christ promised he would recognize the sheep and the goats.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world

Matthew 25:31-34

But His own flock is suffering more

But if you suffer for being a Christian, don’t be ashamed! Rather, glorify God in that name. For it’s time now for the judgment, starting with God’s own household, and if it beigns with us, what will be the fate of those who refuse to believe God’s good news?
1 Peter 4:16-17

The Roman system, of humilitaing cults by revealing them to be venal and corrupt, is working. Much of the leadership went along with the persecution for their own benefit.

My children, it’s the last hour. You’ve heard that Antichrist is coming and now many Antichrists have come, which is how we know that it’s the last hour. The came form us but they weren’t of us, for if they had been of us they would have remained with us.
1 John 2:18-19

The Church no longer even speaks well of itself

I wrote something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to assert his authority, doesn’t acknowledge us. Therefore, if I come I’ll bring up what he’s doing — making unjustified accusations against us!And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brethren and stops those who wish to welcome them and expels them from the church.
3 John 1:9-10

Worse, the movement that would mestastisize into Islam is already active, emphasizing the Father alone

Who is the liar, if not whoever denies that Jesus is the Messiah? This is the Antichrist — whoever denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father, but however acknowledges the Son has the Father as well.
1 John 2:22-23

For certain persons who were long ago marked down for condemnation have snuck in under false pretenses. These impious men distort and change the love of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Lord and master, Jesus Christ.
Jude 1:4

What’s needed is action. The survival of the faith depends on people doing what is is right, not just hearing, or reading, or speaking

This means a faith deeper than mere knowledge which can be forgotten.

Be doers of the word and not just hearers, who deceive themselves. For anyone who is a hearer of the word and not a doer is like a man observing his own face in a mirror, for he looks at himself, then turns away and at once forgets what he looked like. But the person who looks into the perfect law — the law of freedom – and sticks with it, who is not a forgetful hearer but a doer, he shall be blessed in his actions
James 1:22-25

These are dark times.

seraphim_by_cinemamind

Prepare for the Fire of Heaven

This is the message we heard from him and which we announce to you — God is light and there is no darkness in him. You rejoice in this, although for a short time you may have to suffer various trials so that your faith, more precious even than perishable gold which is tested with fire, may be tested and shown worthy of praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:5-7

The End of Everything is at Hand

Rejoice, you nations, with his people,
for he will avenge the blood of his servants;
he will take vengeance on his enemies
and make atonement for his land and people.
Deuteronomy 31:43

Impressions of “The Many Faces of Christ,” by Phillip Jenkins, and “The Emergence of Islam,” by Gabriel Said Reynolds

I recently read two books, both of which revolve around the diversity of the Christian church in the middle ages. One of the currents in Christianity, which had proponents in Archbishop Nestorius and the middle east, was that God would never sully himself by actually inhabiting human flesh, having a mother, or a son. Perhaps the best remembered proponent of that belief was the Arab, Muhammad ibn Abudllah.

chi-rho-islamic-coin

Early Islamic coin, prominently featuring the “Chi-Rho” sign still found in Christian churches

Our knowledge of early Islam is weak.  The Qu’ran itself is vague — one might say nearly timeless — and most of “early Islamic history” comes from hadiths written centuries after.

Here is a rare, contemporary account of the rise of Islam:

In that period a certain one of them, a man of the sons of Ishmael named Mahmed, became prominent. A sermon about the Way of Truth, supposedly at God’s command, was revealed to them, and Mahmed taught them to recognize the God of Abraham, especially since he was informed and knowledgeable about Mosaic history. Because the command had come from on High, he ordered them all to assemble together and to unite in faith. Abandoning the reverence of vain things, they turned toward the living God, who had appeared to their father–Abraham. Mahmed legislated that they were not to eat carrion, not to drink wine, not to speak falsehoods, and not to commit adultery. He said: “God promised that country to Abraham and to his son after him, for eternity. And what had been promised was fulfilled during that time when God loved Israel. Now, however, you are the sons of Abraham, and God shall fulfill the promise made to Abraham and his son on you. Only love the God of Abraham, and go and take the country which God gave to your father Abraham. No one can successfully resist you in war, since God is with you.”
Bishop Sebeos The Armenian History

Chi-Rho, the first two letters of christ, surrounded by Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet
Chi-Rho, the first two letters of christ, surrounded by Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet

A large fraction of the world’s population believe a book is all you need. Muslims believe that the Qu’ran is eternal, the first born of all creation, existing with God in heaven before the beginning of time. Many Protestants believe in Sola Scriptura, “the book alone,” that the traditions and councils and history of the church are at best irrelevant and at worst harmful, because the Bible has all the answers.

There are two problems with “the book itself.” First, few Christians understand the definition or construction of their book. Second,few Muslims rely on their book alone, because of the incorporation of the hadiths into Islamic jurisprudence.

many faces of christ philip jenkins

The Many Faces of Christ, by Phillip Jenkins, is a story of the writing and editing of the New Testament. Because the New Testament we are familiar with is fixed — Four Gospels, one Acts, several letters to specific churches, and so on — there’s a sense of that’s how naturally it should be. And indeed, virtually every Christian group uses the same four gospels — those according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as their base. But there differences begin. Is Acts of the Apostles properly part of the Bible itself (almost all groups: yes), or is it a work of hagiography (writing about holy lives), or is it simply false? What about the Protoevangelium of James, which focuses on the childhood of Mary? Martin Luther tried to remove the Letter to the Hebrews from the Bible… but perhaps the problem is Paul’s letters (like the Gnostics and the Muslims believe).

The mass destruction of these “alternative” books began, not during the reign of Constantine, but during the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church’s prohibition against vernacular copies of the bible — but rarely those of “alternative” books (which were not holy and, therefore, simply works of fiction)such as the Cave of Treasures or the Gospel of James — meant those were widespread before the emergence of common-language Bibles. But “Sola Scriptura” meant that such sayings and legends no longer had a place in Protestant Christendom.

The process of creating the Protestant Bible — of perfecting Luther’s “Sola Scriptura” — finished some time after Martin Luther, around 1800. After that year the Old Testament books Luther opposed rarely were included in Protestant Bibles, but the New Testament books Luther opposed were always included in Protestant Bibles.

An example of such extra-Biblical works was the Protevangelium, best seen as Joseph/Mary fan fiction. In this passage, Mary is being raised by the Temple in Jerusalem, and is of marriageable age (12), so the Temple holds a lottery to marry her off:

And when she was twelve years of age, the priests met in a council, and said, Behold, Mary is twelve years of age, what shall we do with her, for fear lest the holy place of the Lord our God should be defiled?

Then replied the priests to Zacharias the high-priest, Do you stand at the altar of the Lord, and enter into the holy place, and make petitions concerning her, and whatsoever the Lord shall manifest unto you, that do.

Then the high-priest entered into the Holy of Holies, and taking away with him the breast-plate of judgment made prayers concerning her;

And behold the angel of the Lord came to him, and said, Zacharias, Zacharias, Go forth and call together all the widowers among the people, and let every one of them bring his rod, and he by whom the Lord shall shew a sign shall be the husband of Mary.

And the criers went out through all Judaea, and the trumpet of the Lord sounded, and all the people ran and met together.

Joseph also throwing away his hatchet, went out to meet them; and when they were met, they went to the high-priest; taking every man his rod.

After the high-priest had received their rods, he went into the temple to pray;

And when he had finished his prayer, he took the rods, and went forth and distributed them, and there was no miracle attended them.

The last rod was taken by Joseph, said behold a dove proceeded out of the rod, and flew upon the head of Joseph.

And the high-priest said, Joseph, Thou art the person chosen to take the Virgin of the Lord, to keep her for him:

But Joseph refused, saying, I am an old man, and have children, but she is young, and I fear lest I should appear ridiculous in Israel.

Then the high-priest replied, Joseph, Fear the Lord thy God, and remember how God dealt with Dathan, Korah, and Abiram, how the earth opened and swallowed them up, because of their contradiction.

Now therefore, Joseph, fear God lest the like things should happen in your family.

Joseph then being afraid, took her unto his house, and Joseph said unto Mary, Behold, I have taken thee from the temple of the Lord, and now I will leave thee in my house; I must go to mind my trade of building. The Lord be with thee.
The Protovangelium of James 8:9-16

The same nonsensical story, of the Temple lottery to determine who would mary Mary, occurs in the Qu’ran

Right graciously did her Lord accept her: He made her grow in purity and beauty: To the care of Zakariya was she assigned. Every time that he entered (Her) chamber to see her, He found her supplied with sustenance. He said: “O Mary! Whence (comes) this to you?” She said: “From Allah. for Allah Provides sustenance to whom He pleases without measure.”

There did Zakariya pray to his Lord, saying: “O my Lord! Grant unto me from Thee a progeny that is pure: for Thou art He that heareth prayer!

While he was standing in prayer in the chamber, the angels called unto him: “Doth give thee glad tidings of John, witnessing the truth of a Word from God, and  noble, chaste, and a prophet,- of the company of the righteous.”

He said: “O my lord! How shall I have a son seeing I am very old and my wife is barren?” “Thus” was the answer “doth God accomplish whatt He willeth.”

He said: “O my Lord! Give me a Sign!” “Thy Sign,” was the answer, “Shall be that thou shalt speak to no man for three days but with signals. Then celebrate the praises of thy Lord again and again, and glorify Him in the evening and in the morning.”

Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! God hath chosen thee and purified thee- chosen thee above the women of all nations.

“O Mary! worship Thy Lord devoutly: Prostrate thyself, and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down.”

This is part of the tidings of the things unseen, which We reveal unto thee by inspiration: Thou wast not with them when they cast lots with arrows, as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary: Nor wast thou with them when they disputed.

Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of those nearest to God.

“He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be of the righteous.”
Qu’ran 3:37-46

emergence of islam gabriel said reynolds

If The Many Faces of Christ is the process of hacking off “unworthy” texts from the Bible, The Emergence of Islam by Gabriel Said Reynolds is about the opposite process that occurred in the Muslim worlds: how the Qu’ran has been drowned out by the Hadiths in Muslim religious literature.

Hadiths are sayings of the prophet Muhammad.  A biblical analogy might be to King David.  David’s story was written down very quickly — the Book of Samuel seems to have been written during the time of King Solomon, and may have known King David.  But the “sayings of David,” the Psalms, were probably written hundreds of years later.

Interesting features of the Qu’ran include that iti never calls itself the Qu’ran (“Recitation”), though it repeatedly calls itself “The Book,” “The Book Manifest,” or “Th Reminder,” that the word Qu’ran itself appears to be Syrio-Aramiac and not Arabic, that the Qu’ran repeatedly emphasizes that it was written in Arabic, that the Qu’ran appears to use the Ethiopian version the Torah as a source, and that the Qu’ran, though it references many prophets, saints, the Virgin, and the Messiah, never names a known pagan idol or deity.

Why it has these features is unknown, or at least not described in Reynolds book. Rather, Reynolds spends most of it attacking the historicity of the Hadiths, which he argues were written to explain the Qu’ran to a later, and much different, imperial community.

An example of this can be found in the tale of Jonah, which is described in familiar terms in the Qu’ran

And Jonah was surely of those sent.
When he fled to the laden ship,
So he shared with others but was of those cast away.
So the fish took him into its mouth while he was blamable.
But had he not been of those who glorify (Us),
He would have tarried in its belly till the day when they are raised.
Then We cast him on the naked shore, while he was sick.
And We caused a gourd to grow up for him.
And We sent him to a hundred thousand or more.
And they believed, so We gave them provision till a time.
Qu’ran 27:139-148

This is a clear description of the biblical Book of Jonah, and even matches step by step of the veggie tales movie version of it. But later Islamic scholars, writing around the time of the composition of the hadiths, were confused where and when Jonah “fled.” The answer is explicit, indeed ridiculously so, in the opening of the Biblical book – no less than three city names occur in the first three verses

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
Jonah 1:1-3

The Qu’ran was written in a plce and time where everyone knew much of the Bible and quasi-biblical literature (the Cave of Wonders, the Torah, the Book of Samuel, the Psalms, the Protoevangelium, the Gospels, and the Letters of Paul all seem to be familiar to the author of the Qu’ran), but by the time the Hadiths were written this knowledge had been lost, and the cultural difference between Muslims, Jews, and Christians had become to vast that using the Book of Jonah as a reference was now out of the question.

A consequence of this view — that the Qu’ran is an ancient text but that the hadiths were written long after to explain to the Qu’ran — is that we now very little of the emergence of Islam. Almost Muhammad’s entire biography may be incorrect, as it is based on hadiths written hundreds of years after his life.

It also means that some odd aspects of the Qu’ran, such as using pronouns without previously identifying the noun, become even more vexing

For instance, in this passage (which begins the book, “The Israelites,” in this passage), who is “His servant,: and what are the “Mosques”

In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

Glory to Him Who carried His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Remote Mosque, whose precincts We blessed, that We might show him of Our signs! Surely He is the Hearing, the Seeing.

And We gave Moses the Book and made it a guidance to the Children of Israel (saying): Take no guardian beside Me —

The offspring of those whom We bore with Noah. Surely he was a grateful servant.
Qu’ran 17:1-3

In the hadiths, the answer is clear: the references are to Muhammad, Mecca, and Jerusalem.

But Said suggests, the answer can just as plausibly be Elijah, Jerusalem, and Mt. Sinai.

Another example is the “Satanic verses,” where Muhammad approves prayers to three….   somethings…

Have ye thought upon Al-Lat and Al-‘Uzzá
and Manat, the third, the other?
These are the exalted “Gharaniq” whose intercession is hoped for.

The names Al-lat, Al-Uzza, Manat, and the word, “Gharaniq” are words unknown before hte publication of the qu’ran. What is interceding?
Most texts will say these are goddesses, but no other pagan gods or goddesses are mentioned in the Qu’ran.  Numerous prophets, angels, and saints, though, are mentioned.  Perhaps Al-lat, Al-Uzza, and Manat are the names of prophets, angels, or saints?

Perhaps they as silent to history as St. Kilda.

Perhaps they are guardian angels?

We don’t know. There is so much we don’t know.

mary mother of jesus in quran

I’m glad I read The Many Faces of Christ before The Emergence of Islam, because the Qu’ran’s scattershot approach to the Bible makes more sense in light of how the Bible was assembled. When the Patriarch of Constantinople denied God had a mother, though venerated the Virgin, the Qu’rans denial and veneration of the same is less surprising. Likewise, the Quran’s inclusion of apocryphal works (such as the Cave of Wonders or the Protoevangelium) but apparent ignorance of the Wisdom Books, also makes sense when one considers the state of the flux the biblical cannon was then in.

Letter to the Hebrews

If you see the Father, you will die

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
John 1:18

The Son is the way we can see that which would kill us to see

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
Colossians 1:15

We cannot bear the Father, not even His love.  And we wati for the Son to come again.  But until then, the Father, in the Name of the Son, sent the Holy Spirit to us

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:26-27

The Father

The Sigil of the Fire
The Sigil of the Fire of Fires

God, that ancient of days El, spoke the stars into existence.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Genesis 1:3

These fusion reactors are his warriors.

From the heavens, the stars fought
From their stations, they fought with Sisera
Judges 5:20

when_galaxies_collide_by_richmerk-d3k4lwo

Such a being – who created the hottest fires in the world, and uses them as his warriors — keeps even the sea monsters for fishing

“Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook
or press down his tongue with a cord?
Can you put a rope in his nose
or pierce his jaw with a hook?
Will he make many pleas to you?
Job 41:1-3

While not fishing for monsters, He uses monstrous creatures of fire — the Seraphim — as his throne

seraphim_by_cinemamind

He lives, seated on bio-mechanical living beings

I looked, and I saw beside the cherubim four wheels, one beside each of the cherubim; the wheels sparkled like topaz. As for their appearance, the four of them looked alike; each was like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the cherubim faced; the wheels did not turn about[b] as the cherubim went. The cherubim went in whatever direction the head faced, without turning as they went. Their entire bodies, including their backs, their hands and their wings, were completely full of eyes, as were their four wheels. I heard the wheels being called “the whirling wheels.” Each of the cherubim had four faces: One face was that of a cherub, the second the face of a human being, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.
Ezekial 10:9-14

And guarded — attended — sung to — by transdimensional monsters

cherubim_full_color_by_aremke-d30l7kj

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the LORD, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying…

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
Isaiah 6:1-2,4

What else can be said of it?

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.

And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
Genesis 28:12-13

The Son

The Technician Ascends to the Fire of Fires
The Technician Ascends to the Fire of Fires

But there seems to be another person who is also God. Instead of the terrible, effortless cosmic war to create the universe, there is work with hands

Then the LORD God formed a man[c] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.
Genesis 2:7-8

This LORD surrounds himself not with terrible monsters, but with humans. Humans he calls family

And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
Luke 8:20-21

Humans he calls friends

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:12-15

The Righteous King of Peace, and Friends
The Righteous King of Peace, and Friends

 

The Holy Spirit

The Singularity, To Which All Things React
No man has seen a naked singularity. We can detect its presence, but who can pass the Event Horizon and return?

And then there is this… other…. thing… We may call it a “person,” and “God,” because it is identified with God and is not the other two — yet —

Here, the LORD promises his “Presence”

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.
Exodus 33:13-15

By “Presence,” Moses seems to mean the Holy Spirit of God, a presence of God that is itself God

Yet they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit.
So he turned and became their enemy
and he himself fought against them.
Then his people recalled the days of old,
the days of Moses and his people—
where is he who brought them through the sea,
with the shepherd of his flock?
Where is he who set
his Holy Spirit among them,
who sent his glorious arm of power
to be at Moses’ right hand,
who divided the waters before them,
Isaiah 63:10-12

And here, the “Angel of the LORD” is the LORD Himself. Proceeding from that which He is:

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring[b] all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
Genesis 22:15-18

And here, the “Name of the LORD” seems not to simply mean the Tetragrammaton, but a being of its own will — a being of fire

See, the Name of the LORD comes from afar,
with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke;
His lips are full of wrath,
and His tongue is a consuming fire.
Isaiah 30:27

This Presense, this Angel of the LORD, this Name of the LORD, He is the Father’s Ambassador, but from the Son too. We can have the Holy Spirit, because we could not withstand the Father.

The Holy Spirit, Wings of Fire Reaching to the Rims of the Wheel
The Holy Spirit, Wings of Fire Reaching to the Rims of the Wheel

The Presence of the LORD, the Holy Spirit of God, the Angel of the LORD, the Name of the LORD are ways of describing the indescribable — that God that proceeds from God the Father, and Our Lord the Son, who we can approach, without being consumed in fire.

Preparing the Blood of the Sacrifice

The Priests Prepare to the Sacrifice, for the Blood of the Covenant
The Priests Prepare to the Sacrifice, for the Blood of the Covenant

The Letter to the Hebrews is unique in that it takes hand of both ends of the Torah — the ancient worship of El and The LORD Genesis, the priestly devotions of Deuteronomy — and shows they are necessarily both of the same religion. The religion of Abraham. The religion of Christ.

Like many have before, the author of Hebrews notes that blood is a moral detergent, and that “the blood of the covenant” was re-presented by the High Priest in the Temple… a contemporary occurrence in the author’s time

When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance
Hebrews 9:6-7

Blood is used as a moral detergent throughout the Torah. Moses bound the young Bull for sacrifice, and

Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
Exodus 24:5-8

But in the intellectual and Pharisaical tradition, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews asks — why is blood a moral detergent? Why must it be present for a command to be valid?

Because as Moses said, the blood of the Bull is the blood of the Law.

In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood.
Hebrews 9:16-18

But there is an imperfection. Not only was a bull sacrificed to the Bull El, goats were sacrificed…

He [Jesus] did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean
Hebrews 9:12-13

The Sigil of Azazel
The Sigil of Azazel

.. sacrificed to AZAZEL

“[High Priest] Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.
Leviticus 16:6-10

Thus the Law is an imperfect sacrifice — from a mortal High Priest, mediated against through creatures like the Burning Bush and Azazel. The dead cattle and dead goats are not what God is after

For I desire steadfast love[a] and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6

The imperfect blood of a dead, imperfect law, mediated by imperfect creatures.

The Lord did not want sacrifice, and it is not even clear if the Aaronic priesthood was ever valid.

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless
Hebrews 7:18

In the regulations concerning priests, the Torah reads:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron, saying, ‘No man of your offspring throughout their generations who has a defect shall approach to offer the food of his God
Leviticus 21:16-17

What man is without defect? The modern eye is probably drawn to the first or last entry in this, one of many lists of defect

or a hunchback or a dwarf, or one who has a defect in his eye or eczema or scabs or crushed testicles.”
Leviticus 21:20

Hebrews’ hammers at the imperfection everywhere in the imperfect sacrifice, mediated by Azazel and the Burning Bush.

But the Gospel According to St. Matthew, the most Hebrew of the gospels, seems to dwell on the middle peace. A defect as small as one in the eye prevents mediation between God and man

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
Matthew 7:3-6

Would a Perfect Priest walk the Earth?

The Lamb in the Center of the Wheel, the First Born of All Creation
The Lamb in the Center of the Wheel, the First Born of All Creation

Bread and Wine

If there was a Perfect Mediator, He could He could bless both God and man.

After his [Abram’s] return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Genesis 14:17-20

Hebrews gives an explanation to this passage

This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.
Hebrews 7:1-3

Melchizedek_Abraham

The Perfect Priest, the Perfect Sacrifice

The LORD, begotten by the Father, was made perfect, on Earth, in His suffering.

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 5:7-10

This allows a Priesthood to be strong and worthwhile, a perfect priest, forever

For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
Hebrews 7:28

God does not wish sacrifice, and with the perfect priest, it is no longer needed, for God Himself will not remember those sins

As the Prophet Jeremiah wrote,

No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
Jeremiah 31:34

Call Upon the Name of the LORD

Except, not really..  As the letter to the Hebrews says,

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”

then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Hebrews 10:16-17

The Prophecies of Jeremiah were voiced by jeremiah, but they were by the Holy Spirit.

And again

Today, if only you would hear his voice,
“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,

Psalms 95:8

But really

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,”

Hebrews 3:7-8

The Father is a Fire, good in the sense a Bull can be good, visible in the sense a black hole is visible, incomprehensible to human minds and unseen to human eyes.

The Son has walked the Earth, but in his human nature comes to this place, or that, in this time, or that, and so much of what He has to say we cannot bear right now.

But in He, Sent by the Father in the Name of the LORD,

The TORAH

To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the Name of the LORD
Genesis 4:26

The WRITINGS

And everyone who calls
on the Name of the LORD will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
there will be deliverance,
as the Lord has said,
even among the survivors
whom the Lord calls
Joel 2:23

The LETTERS

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.  For “everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:12-13

The Good Bull

Is the Bull Good?

tdaxp’s note: This is a speculative piece, like The Fire of the Angels. My reaction to Paul’s letters to the Colossians and Mullen’s The Assembly of the Gods may be useful for context.

God who brings him out of Egypt,
is like the horns of a wild ox for him;
he shall devour the nations that are his foes
and break their bones.
He shall strike with his arrows.
Numbers 24:8

Then take all the fat on the internal organs, the long lobe of the liver, and both kidneys with the fat on them, and burn them on the altar. But burn the bull’s flesh and its hide and its intestines outside the camp. It is a sin offering
Exodus 29:13-14

Sitting in the cab of the F-100 pickup truck, watching my grandpa with the whip, the phrase “The Bull is Good” did not occur to me.

Cruiser the bull

But if it had, here would have been my evaluation of it.

“The Bull” clearly exists. The definition of a bull — what a bull is — is an adult male Bos taurus. The white charolais standing on the gravel might be wished away through some metaphysical definition of “is” — but the act of bull that had led us to that road, led my grandpa to the whip and me to the horn — was unarguable except by the obstinate.

Likewise, the Bull clearly had the capacity to be good, of having a right or desirable quality, at least in the context of himself. The pride, strength, and anger of his design – the protectiveness and the adventure of it — was unmistakable. The bull’s actions weren’t random. There was a design.

Nor was the question if the unhuman way in which the bull was “good” – the alien conception of motivation and drive that led the french to crash before him – the human conception of good. The bull stood naked, with no shelter or work or history – and was unconcerned with these. “Is the bull good in a human way?” might even be a meaningless question, for it is not certain if a bull could even be human.

Rather, the question is “is the bull good in an inhuman way?” Is the manner in which he crafts the clay under his feet into a path and speaks the the fear into my heart through his nostrils inhuman? He — if not this white charolais, one indistinguishable to it to the seven year old in that pickup — had crippled others like my grandfather. Perhaps he would take away the one I love now.

But I’d seen the calves that were his offspring. I’d seen the way — at a distance, but with the design clear – he had watched as he entered my grandparents (his??) pasture. He was a good cowherd. At least, to his own bullish morality.

Now, what if the Bull’s Calf had come to me, and, like Balaam’s donkey, opened its mouth?

What if the Calf had said, “Love one another, as I have loved you“?

What if He then said, “I have more to say, but you cannot bear it now.

What if the Bull told the Calf to walk down a garden path. But at the end of the path was not flowers but a dead tree. Not a feedlot but a slaughterhouse.

What if Calf then said, ‘My Bull, my Bull, why have You abandoned Me?”

white charlais calf

What if then he was taken to a kosher butcher who followed the law, pierced His slides while the blood drained out, propped Him onto a meat hook, and prepared the Calf into Veal?

What if, after three days, the Veal had once more become the Calf. True Bos taurus from true bos taurus. And the Calf said, “Did not the one on which cooking oil was poured have to suffer these things, to enter into His glory?”

(I don’t know. Why did He?)
(Because the Bull willed it.)

Is the Bull good?

Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon

Jethro, priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, was concerned.

jethro-and-moses-as-in-exodus-18-1900.jpg!Large

The LORD had humiliated the Egyptian gods. He was greater than Ashtarte and Ba’al, Yamm and Mott. Greater than the other gods, The LORD must be El (God) Himself.

He said, “Praise be to the Lord, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians.”
Exodus 18:10-11

But this was not concern. His son-in-law, this man Moses, was blessed by the LORD. The LORD, God of Gods, would become the new family god. Jacob, the grandson of their common ancestor Abraham, was an ancient whose prayers must still be answered.

Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.”
Exodus 18:11-12

No, the concern was more organizational. The corporate structure that Jethro’s son-in-law had chosen was complete unsustainable. Indeed, it had led to the idling of a disturbing number of his own followers, because the greatest blocking issue had become Moses’s time

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”
Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”
Exodus 18:15-16

Jehtro chose his words carefully. In some respects he was Moses’s superior — his father-in-law after all, and his former employer. But these were Moses’s men who were idled, not Jethro’s, and Jehtro’s goal was that of program manager’s everywhere: influence without forc

Jehtro opened with a three-point outline: the current organizational structure needed to change, it decreased the efficiency of Moses’s corporate organizatoin, and was impossible to maintain

Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.”
Exodus 18:17-18

What followed next was a reorganization of the Israelite judicial, legal, and religious systems, one that would survive for centuries until the last Judge, Samuel

Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.
Exodus 18:19-26

A Once Holy Man

Tissot_The_Death_of_Aaron

Jehtro was dead.

Aaron, his brother, was dead.

And what is the Holy Spirit trying to tell us?

In more blessed times, when the LORD still spoke to Moses face-to-face, the Holy Spiriture makes it clear when it is the LORD speaking

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 18:1,19:18

But whose words are this curse?

These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan—that is, in the Arabah—opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab
Then the Lord said to me,
you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.
Deuteronomy 1:1, 2:2, 21:23

Moses, who survived the Massacere of the Innocents on the Nile, had ordered the Massacre of the Innocents at Midian.

Now he cursed the the LORD who once spoke to him face-to-face, like a friend.

Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt.

He once interceded with God on their behalf

Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them…

In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”

The LORD replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked.
Numbers 14:13, 19-20

But now, he cursed the house for God that Israel himself had built

and do not erect a sacred stone, for these the LORD your God hates.
Deteronomy 16:22

Israel, Israel! Does the LORD truly hate His own house?

Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the LORD will be my God
Genesis 28:18-21

Does He hate the icons of the beloved and sleeping?

So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.
Genesis 35:19-20

More on Judges

muzzled_oxen

Moses was introduced with a question: a question which implied his nationalist character and his own power

The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”
Exodus 2:13

Paul’s first recorded words also form a question. But one more in keep with the character of Job, perhaps than Moses

He asked, “Who are you, Lord?
Acts 9:5

Its interesting to keep this in mind, as Paul’s reorganization has lasted around five times longer than Moses’s.

Moses succeeded in creating a cult of personality. We know relatively little about his functionaries, jus that they were “capable” and “trusthworthy,” and the organizatoin tree. Moses — ostensibly quoting the LORD — adds that they must “follow justice”

Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.
Deuteronomy 16:18-20

And, later, another passage, with an odd addendum

Suppose two persons have a dispute and enter into litigation, and the judges decide between them, declaring one to be in the right and the other to be in the wrong. If the one in the wrong deserves to be flogged, the judge shall make that person lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of lashes proportionate to the offense. Forty lashes may be given but not more; if more lashes than these are given, your neighbor will be degraded in your sight.

You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.
Deuteronomy 25:1-4

Blessed is He, who is hung on a tree

Jacob's_Vow_at__Bethel_1178

The LORD was hung on a pole.

It had a crossbar.

Nails were used.

But the curse on those hung from frees was not the only mistake of Moses’s that Paul needed to correct. The disasterous Judge system had to the discrediting of the prophet institutions of Israel, and military-military contact between Heaven and Israel led to a short-lived (if spectacularly effective) military dictatorship

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Joshua 5:13-15

The Judges betwen Moses and the Kingdom were unable to safeguard Isreal militarily or religious. In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. And the last judge inagurated Saul as king.

Paul was aware of the parrlels, and even mischeviously quotes Moses’s odd oxen line in the context of judging

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves to be paid.”
1 Timothy 5:17-18

Ironically, Paul’s success had little to do with his actual advise. Many of Paul’s explicitly organizational recommendations are ignored

Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way— 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?
1 Timothy 3:2-5

What the core of Paul’s approach though was empathy, translating love of one another into understanding one another. We see that in how he talks to individuals based on their capacities, as well as the advise they give.

We see this within one person’s career, as 1 Timothy is addressed to a much younger person, if the same person, as 2 Timothy

The Letter to Titus is addressed to a more trusted lieutenant yet, who acted as a messenger of Paul and would have been responsible for adressing questions about meaning and intention

The First Letter to Timothy begins with a “mission-type order” that includes an objective, the goal of the objective, and a descriptio nof the adversaries that will be encountered

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
1 Timothy 1:3-7

Shortly after Paul combines flattery with an explicit analogy to war to emphasize that young Timothy is the Luke Skywalker of a celestial drama — and that his role, now is to obey

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well,
1 Timothy 1:18

An explicit view of the Church as a substitute family is prsented. The focus is on giving young Timothy clear and direct models for his interactions with others

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
1 Timothy 5:1-2

The Second Letter to Timothy, written to the same man years later, shows a closer relationship. The communication is more personal and evocative. Timothy has now been trusted with greater freedom of movement, including setting his own day-to-day objectives. Paul, likewise, drops the orders and moves onto memories of the good old days. Anyone who has seen the same upper manager talk, in one moment, to a lower subordinate and, to the other, to a colleague in another deparmtnet has seen this same shift

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
2 Timothy 1:5

Another way to see the transition is how these letters end. First Timothy, written to a junior subordinate, includes a gentle nudge to get a life and a concern about the long-term viability of zeal.

Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
1 Timothy 5:23

The Second Letter to Timothy, written to an older and more trusted man, forms intimacy in another way: through frank descriptions of trouble, both personal and judicial. Unlike in the first letter there is no order — but an honest description of the situation and implicit trust that Timothy knows when, and where, to proceed

Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.

Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.
2 Timothy 4:9-15

The letter to Titus is another rung up the pole, addressed personally to a comrade from the journies, sent to a hostile environment with the power to annoint bishops himself. The qualifications echo Jethro’s instructions to Moses:

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.
Titus 1:5-9

Amusingly for us, Paul also tells Titus how to write the sort of letters we saw in 1 Timothy!

Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.
Titus 2:6-8

The last of these letters, and the shortest, is written to a different character altogethere: a whale. An individual who contributes a disproportionate share of revenue to the organization, and thus is worthy of special concern to the organization.

The Prophet and the Apostle

Paul and Moses were once similar men. Both are fundamentally outsiders — Moses’s first language was Egyptian, and Paul — alone among the protagonists of the Bible — went to school. Both were critical in leading Israel – Moses led the Hebrews out of Israel, and Paul lead the evangelists to the gentiles.

Both also were organizational men, who set up the levels of authority that would long outlast them. Unlike Moses, who died bitter and alone, a murderer and angry with God, Paul was aware he would be emulated, and he ran the race to the end. Paul provided an example for thousands of years: his words to men of all levels, his ability to persuade without power, is something Moses could not match.

Moses left the dead in his wake. Only the men who would wrest power from him survived him.

Paul left behind friends. Those who already had lives. Those who would be changed by him, his words, and the Spirit

Moses’s staff has been destroyed. His laws recognized as a tool for diagnoses, not treatment. But the cross the law was nailed to still stands.

8326233021_3372fdbcc0_z

He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)
2 Kings 18:4-5

Happy Easter

David_Lion_lamb

Lord, Your father David, loving lambs but cold to men, decreed death on a man who stole even a lamb.

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
2 Samuel 12:5-6

But Your name is Mercy. You not only gave us life — You gave Your Life to make up all other sins too. You became a lamb, that that men might live

May we find You, so that we can thank you. Lord, stay with us.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
Luke 24:28-31

He is Risen

emmaus
http://www.heqiart.com/store/p176/44_The-Road-to-Emmaus_Limited_Edition.html

Letters to the Thessalonians

Let’s go. To the time of the end.

Blake_ancient_of_days

They focused on the ending. Him, the beginning.

The poor Thessalonians were convinced it was all coming to an end. While the Romans needed to be reminded to love, and the Corinthians to stop drinking during mass, the Thessalonians needed to be still.

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone
1 Thessalonians 5:12-14

The reason for this is that the Thessalonians were expecting the LORD of Hosts.

And the Army in the Sky is terrifying.

Jacob was afraid

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.

And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
Genesis 28:16-17

Mary was afraid

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God
Luke 1:28-30

Israel Himself, and the Mother of Israel’s salvation, had the same reaction to the heavenly host: fear.

So who can be scorn the Thessalonians for fear and trembling?

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-2

But Paul says, do not be afraid

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Paul’s words echo the Book of Daniel, a book about the end of the world written a century or two before .

Then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, “O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!”

So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”
Daniel 10:18-19

The Book of Daniel is apocalyptic. It is about the end of the world. And to Paul, half of its message is this: FEAR NOT! THE ONE HAVING THE LIKENESS OF A MAN IS WITH YOU!

1_6-1_ruth_ruth_and_naomi_gleaning_in_the_fields

Let’s go. To the time of work.

Paul is aware he is writing apocalyptic literature. To the Thessalonians he borrows the Book of Daniel’s rhetoric style, which is cryptic with meaning just out of reach.

In the Book of Daniel, the angel angel is delayed by the “Prince of Persia”

Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.
Daniel 10:12-13

And paralleling this, Paul was delayed by Satan

For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
1 Thessalonians 2:18-20

Paul writes this to emphasize the words of the Book of Daniel, Fear not! Peace be to you! The response to the nervous street side preacher is not scorn or condensation, but joy. Yes, all these wonderful things will happen, but not don’t be afraid, there is work to do.

The Thessalonians were most open to the visions of the end, to the mysterious and cryptic. So that is how Paul wrote, speaking of a “Restrainer” as mysterious as Daniel’s “Prince of Persia”

And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming
2 Thessalonians 2:6-8

priest-covered-in-blood

Let’s go. To the time of death.

Whatever happens at the end of all of this, odds are we will see the end of this particular this first. Christ may have conquered death, but in this world, the Angel of Death still takes us.

Our work continues through death.

There’s something heartbreaking about the Thessalonians. Paul’s words do not mean grieve for the dead — that would be inhuman and ungodly.

The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
1 Thessalonians 1:8-10

Don’t worry, Paul reassures. You’ll be there to guide them too.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 Thesalonnians 4:13-18

The dead learn from the living, and the living from the dead.

St_John_the_Divine

Let’s go. To the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets, wrote through the evangelists, and proceeded from the Father and the Son to give us the truth. But our ears aren’t much for hearing, and our eyes aren’t much for reading.

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?
2 Thesalonnians 2:5

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 13:34-35

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it… Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Deuteronomy 6:1,4-5

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 19:17-18

For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.
2 Thessalonians 3:7-9

Maybe after we get this right, we will learn what is next

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
John 16:12

Let’s go. Time to work.

St_Francis_394233c

Letter to the Colossians

The letter to the Colossians is a short book, only four chapters, but ties together not just the thoughts of the Paul of Tarsus and John the Evangelist, but of the Hebrew religion with later Christian developments like the Nicene Creed.

Because though he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born ofthe Virgin Mary, and suffered under Pontius Pilate, He died for the cenutrians as much as the women at the well.

centurian cross 1016longinius

Pau’s letter to the Colossians concerns the the LORD, the Human God, the incarnation and person of the Deity with arms and legs, with saliva and blood.

Christ is the Co-Creator with God

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Colossians 1:15-17

Being the LORD, Christ is not worshiped because of the Law — the Law is “the law” because it comes from Christ. He is the Sovereign LORD who dictated the Law’s terms. The Law is a shadow of the LORD, Jesus Christ is the LORD Himself

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17

This is important. The text is a messenger. An Angel is a Messenger. A Prophet is a messenger. All have their place and all have their honor. But worship is for God, not his creations.

Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.
Colossians 2:18-23

We worship Christ Himself, not His angels and not His prophets. And while distance forces a bodily seperation from each other, while the tyranny of distance gives us only spiritual proximity to each other:

I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
Colossians 2:2-5

Christ is physically with us.

If you are near anyone, you are near Christ

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Colossians 3:11

In any relationship, Christ is one of the related. He is loved when the other is loved. He is hatd when the other is hated. He is honored when the other is honored. He is enslaved when the other is enslaved. This is the easiest part of Christianity to say, and the hardest to live

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
colossians 3:18-4:1

In each murder He is in the murdered.

And in the murderer.

centurion-at-cross

He is in he who is nailed to the cross.

And in he who holds the hammer and drives the nail.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
Colossians 2:13-14

The Human God is nailed to a cross. God, in the human, in the one who nails to the cross.

bull in field

The Canaanites, who seem to have been visited by the Holy Spirit and knew so much, but through shadows, calle God “The Bull El.” The strength, the fury, the testicles must have impressed upon the Canaanites the sense of the Ruler of the World, but so must have been a Bull’s fearsome protection.

He has given offerings for the gods to eat
Obligations that the sons of Qudsu might drink!
Will you not bless him, O Bull El, my father,
Strengthen him, O Creator of created things?
Let there be a son in his house,
A scion in the midst of his palace
CTA 17.I.17-27

Garinpettingbull

The way one feeds God, of course, is to give the poor food (Matthew 25:42). And this prayer, for the virtuous man Danel, is incorporated by reference by the Holy Spirit, who spoke through the Prophet Ezekial, who reminded us that before there were Hebrews, God was still active in the world. (And how could He not be, when He is the firstborn of all creation?)

The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its people and their animals, even if these three men—Noah, Danel and Job—were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign LORD
Ezekial 14:12-14

No wonder the Hebrew Bible also describes God as a bull

God who brings him out of Egypt,
is like the horns of a wild ox for him;
he shall devour the nations that are his foes
and break their bones.
He shall strike with his arrows.
Numbers 24:8

No wonder the Bull demanded a sacrifice of a Bull. Because God Himself would be there — the priest, the victim, the altar, and even in the murderer – when God himself was sacrificed.

“Bring the bull to the front of the tent of meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. Slaughter it in the Lord’s presence at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Take some of the bull’s blood and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and pour out the rest of it at the base of the altar. Then take all the fat on the internal organs, the long lobe of the liver, and both kidneys with the fat on them, and burn them on the altar. But burn the bull’s flesh and its hide and its intestines outside the camp. It is a sin offering
Exodus 29:10-14

The bull. The sin offering. The slaughter. The blood.

bull fighting blood mouth s32_19640973

God, let the blood be on these people, and their children. It will wash away the sins of the world.

All of creation has fallen. But He is greater than it all, the source of it all, the Redeemer of it all.

He is the LORD

A God with internal organs, liver, kidney, and fat, with flesh and intestines.

A God in those who are burned. A God in those excluded.

Behold Him born in a manger! Behold the Image of the Invisible God! Behold the Firstborn of All Creation!

hereford bull calf

The Fire of the Angels

He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God
Daniel 3:25

You don’t want to meet angels.

annunciation1

Mary knew this.

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God
Luke 1:28-30

Generally, the less terrifying a being is, the less it needs ot tell you not to be afraid.

A disclaimer: the rest of this post is speculative on my part, trying to understand the role of fire in the Bible.  But whatever angels “looks like,” it seems fair they are bitter visualized as terrifying

cherubim

than as whatever this is supposed to be

victorian cherub

Angels are made of fire. They live in fire. They wield fire, and they disappear into fire.

When Paul mocks the followers of the Law as “angel worshipers” (Colossians 2:18), he is referring to the idea that the Burning Bush itself was an angel

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”
Exodus 3:1-4

Eastern Christians sometimes believe that the burning bush was perhaps another form of messenger, a Woman transformed, Woman clothed with the sun

www-St-Takla-org-Moses-Prophet-05-Burning-Bush-Coptic

Moses — after receiving the Commandments — is “radiant,” or better, “radiated” (marked with radiation burns)

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them.
Exodus 34:29-31

Mary herself is now clothed with the sun, crowned with suns, fusion reactors of imaginable flame

And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
Revelations 12:1

woman of the apocalypse and red dragon

Angels wield swords of fire

After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
Genesis 3:24

the-lost-paradise_1897_franz_stuck-12513zo

During the Annunciation to Samson’s mother, the Angel reveals himself as he is confused in a holocaust of fire

Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.”

The angel of the Lord replied, “Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the Lord.” (Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of the Lord.)

Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?”

He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.” Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the Lord. And the Lord did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched: As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord.
Judges 13:15-21

Anglo-Norman_woman_wearing_wimple_headdress

Even the poetic portions of the Hebrew Bible attest to this. From the Canaanites to the Muslims, all worshipers of El could agree that

The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.

Psalms 104:2-4

One way of viewing Christianity is that angels no longer separate us from the tree of life, but now their will see us through to eternal life

The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.
Catechism of the Catholic Church 1031

This purification, when it occurs after death, is known as purgatory. But St Paul speaks as if a similar (or same) process can happen during life too. He also uses the image of fire

If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
1 Corinthians 12:15

In both cases the source and nature of this fire seems to be the same: one is surrounded by angels.

When the day is easy, when we can see the blue sky and the warm sun, the LORD rides the clouds…

But may the righteous be glad
and rejoice before God;
may they be happy and joyful.
Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol Him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord
Psalms 68:4

But when it is dark, only fire will let us see with human eyes. When we can no longer see the LORD, His messengers will not be denied

By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
Exodus 13:21-22

What sort of person sees a pillar of flame, and says “Yes, let’s go that way!”

pillar-of-flame

Perhaps the sort of person who hear this, and thinks, “Whatever the Spirit of Truth has to say, it must be something I should hear!”

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
John 16:12-13

The Spirit comes with flames.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
Acts 2:1-3

TonguesofFirebyathyGrimm©2012
The LORD with His host of Angels.

As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear
Matthew 13:40-43

Letter to the Philippians

Philippi_Daumet_Direkler

My friend Steve Boint called it “the dumb semite theory”: the view of some people that the ancient Hebrews were so simple minded that their holy text is a line-by-line collection of various sources, almost randomly edited together. Many scholars, such as Robert Alert and E. Theodore Mullen have written on how ancient Hebrew and Canaanite writing works.

Without repeating all of that, it is worth describing doublets in Hebrew literature, escalating parallelism in Hebrew poetry, and how St. Paul combines both in two lines of the Letter to the Philippians.

Ancient Hebrew Literature

One of the bad consequences of the “dumb semite theory” is one of the greatest works of ancient literature, the Book of Samuel, is read only by academics who believe that complexity is a result of random editing.

For instance, the phrase “Is Saul, too, among the prophets” occurs twice in the Book of Samuel. There are actual scholars who believe this is because the ancient Hebrews were so illiterate they actually included the same incident twice, and later on had to change the details to cover their tracks.

Fools.

Saul Before Samuel and the Prophets

The first time, Samuel says that Saul will be seized by a spirit, “prophecy” (act like a mad man), and this is a proof of his kingship:

“After that you shall come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is. And it will happen, when you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with a stringed instrument, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp before them; and they will be prophesying. Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you.
1 Samuel 10:5-7

Sure enough, the spirit seizes Paul, he acts like a mad man, and he is the true king of Israel

When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. And it happened, when all who knew him formerly saw that he indeed prophesied among the prophets, that the people said to one another, “What is this that has come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” Then a man from there answered and said, “But who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” And when he had finished prophesying, he went to the high place.
1 Samuel 10:10-13

But later, we learn the truth. This is brought home as David’s war against Saul begins and Saul seeks a meeting with Samuel to perhaps end it

But he can’t keep his composure. He acts like a mad-man, tearing off his clothes, embarrassing himself and showing Samuel — the man who anointed him — the horror of that anointing. The same phrase — Is Saul, too, among the prophets — is used again. The reader remembers happier times and the heart breaks

Then he also went to Ramah, and came to the great well that is at Sechu. So he asked, and said, “Where are Samuel and David?”

And someone said, “Indeed they are at Naioth in Ramah.” So he went there to Naioth in Ramah. Then the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he also stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
1 Samuel 19:22-24

Samuel misread the signs. Saul was crazy from the beginning. Samuel anointed a Mad King.

Ancient Hebrew Poetry

The poetry of the Hebrew Bible is based on parallelism, where the first incident of a concept is in some way magnified by what comes after

Lamech and his Two Wives 1795 William Blake 1757-1827 Presented by W. Graham Robertson 1939 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05061

The form is used three times in perhaps the oldest poem in the entire bible, in inexplicable Song of Lamech – a story of killings further removed from Paul than Paul is from us

Lamech said to his wives,
“Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me.
If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times.”
Genesis 4:23-24

The is used in the Writings, such as Psalms

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Psalms 22:9-10

Verse 9 uses two concepts of a mother’s body, womb and breasts, and escalates, from the physical location of the infant before birth (the womb) to the plcae the child is loved, all of its life (the breast, or heart).

Verse 10 does the reverse, taking an abstract concept “from birth” and emphasizing its concrete reality (“from my mother’s breast”).

… and Job, with a parallel between lips and tongue, going further inward to emphasize the inwardness of the sufferer

my lips will not say anything wicked,
and my tongue will not utter lies.
Job 27:4

It is used in the Latter Prophets

Kings will be your foster fathers,
and their queens your nursing mothers.
They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground;
they will lick the dust at your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord;
those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”
Isaiah 49:23

They “bow” — but then they “lick the dust.” The same concept of submission is paralleled, but its manner is escalated

as it was in the Former Prophets..

The waves of death swirled about me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
2 Samuel 22:5-6

… from waves to torrents, from cords to snares.

Saul’s Reuse of Biblical Literature and Poetry

Saul — the other Saul, Saul of Tarsus — was a “a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees” (Acts 23:6). That is, unlike the Sadducees, he believed the entire Hebrew Bible, including the Prophets and the Writings. Thus he was more exposed to the use of ancient Hebrew literature and poetry than Sadduccees, and would have been more influenced by that tradition than even many other educated Jews.

Saul uses the same literary technique of escalating parallelism, combined with the ‘twist ending’ used in the Book of Samuel, in the Letter to the Philippians. The letter is short, and mostly retreads themes of letters presented earlier in the Bible.

In the first chapter of the Letter to the Philippians, there’s this odd line:

I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole praetorium and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ;
Philippians 1:12-13

That word “praetorium” is tricky. It might be a reference to the imperial jailers or guards (fitting, as Paul is under a sort of house arrest while during a long appeals process in Rome), or palace guard, or even imperial palace.

Perhaps Paul has attracted sympathizers with his jailers.

Praetoriumreal_syria

But in the second to last verse of the letter, the meaning is clarified.

All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.
Philippians 4:22

Paul literally has sympathizers in the headquarters of the military. And in the household of the Emperor himself.

The twist ending – Paul has access, not just to his jailers, but to those close of the head of government.

And he showed this through two lines of Hebrew poetry, wrote in Greek, which bookend his letter to the Philippians

It has become known throughout the whole praetorium
All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.

The Good News

What has become known, the greeting of the saints, is the Gospel, the good news. As Paul writes:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:6-8

The LORD has become Man!

The Creator has become a Creation!

He suffers with us, He dies with us, He lives with us.

With us He is hung on a tree. With us He weeps.

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With us – with Paul, with you, with me – He despairs

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
Philippians 1:21-24

With us He is not understood

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, “This man is calling for Elijah.”
Matthew 27:46-47

With us — even with Nero, the Caesar of Casear’s household — He has a mother

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With us He drinks milk!

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With us He drinks wine!

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With us, even when we don’t see Him!

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The tDAxp eXPerience