This blog is primarily aimed at those who preach and teach, also for those who prepare for Sunday by pondering the upcoming readings

May 5, 2011

This blog is primarily aimed at those who preach and teach. “The Gospels are the outcome of long and complicated editorial work … [S]ome references hostile to the Jews have their historical context in conflicts between the nascent Church and the Jewish community. Certain controversies reflect Christian-Jewish relations long after the time of Jesus. To establish this is of capital importance if we wish to bring out the meaning of certain Gospel texts for Christians today.” Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. “Notes,” IV, 21, A. 

Sociological studies of Christian prejudice strongly suggest that Christians learn anti-Jewish bigotry in church. Ap­parently pleas to “love the neighbor” fail to outweigh the incessant drum­’ beat of negative images of the neighbor proclaimed as the Word of God. Charles Y. Glock and Rodney Stark, Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism (New York: Harper & Row, 1966); Rodney Stark, Bruce D. Foster, Charles Y. Glock, and Harold E. Quinley, Wayward Shepherds: Prejudice & the Protestant Clergy (New York: Harper & Row, 1971).

Even those who trained for ministry quite recently are likely not to have been asked to consider the potential anti-Judaism lurking in New Testament texts because Christian-Jewish relations are absent from the syllabus of most seminaries. (CCJ conducts workshops at Theological Colleges and includes sessions looking at Christian antisemitism in liturgies and hymns. One student responded “(I learned)… that antisemitism, real and perceived is much more of an issue than I realised: the possibility that some CofE liturgy could still be interpreted as antisemitic!”

It would also be useful for study groups such as those who meet to study the forthcoming Sunday’s readings and for Christians and Jews studying texts together; indeed this book originated in a mixed group of the Council of Christians and Jews in Bristol, UK, led by me over three years, spanning the lectionary cycle. I am most grateful to the whole group, but especially to the Rev’d Dr. Paul Spilsbury, who offered many insights from a conservative perspective and challenged my occasionally sloppy thinking.

Barbara Brown Taylor, one of the most famous and gifted preachers in the US, wrote: ‘a man in my congregation married a Jewish woman who sometimes came with him to church. When she did, I heard the slurs in familiar passages. I tasted the razor blades in beloved hymns. Before long, she had changed my sermons even when she was not there. If what I said did not sound like good news to her, I decided, then it was not the gospel of Jesus Christ.’ quoted in Preaching without Contempt: Overcoming Unintended Anti-Judaism – M. Salmon (Fortress 2006) p. 158

‘In an essay on Mel Gibson’s movie, Rabbi Michael Lerner observed that “if Christians have not confronted anti-Judaism as effectively as they have tackled other ‘isms,’ then that is because doing so requires them to question the historical truth of their own scriptures.”’ quoted in Preaching without Contempt: Overcoming Unintended Anti-Judaism – M. Salmon (Fortress 2006) p. 132

“Repentance of the misdeeds of the past is not by itself sufficient to enable us to come to terms with our different histories. Knowledge instead of ignorance of our common origins is the essential preliminary to greater mutual understanding.” Christian origins – C. Rowland (SPCK 1985) p. 5

I have been involved with interfaith work for forty years and am an Anglican lay Reader (aka licensed lay minister). I am keen that preachers and teachers avoid unintentional anti-Judaism.

If you do not use the lectionary but want to know how to find a comment on a particular passage, this table could act as a guide:  http://www.satucket.com/lectionary/When_Will_It_Be_Read.htm

Matthew 26:36-27:66 Palm Sunday Year A

February 17, 2017

59Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, 60but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61and said, ‘This fellow said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.” ’ 62The high priest stood up and said, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ 63But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, ‘I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’ 64Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ 65Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66What is your verdict?’ They answered, ‘He deserves death.’ 67Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, 68saying, ‘Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?

“like the Dead Sea Scroll community and the Hasidim before him, Jesus seems to have been aware of and extremely critical of the Temple: “I will destroy this tem­ple that is made with hands, and in three days, I will build an­other, not made with hands” (Mark 14:58).

“Opposition to the Temple is not unprecedented in Judaism. Nor is it innocent of political ramifications, considering that the Temple was the center of native government for Judea. On the contrary, this kind of action demonstrates the apocalyptic character of the message that Jesus taught. Because the earthly Temple is impure, Jesus and the apocalypticists maintained, only the reign of God would put events right again. However, this view does not necessarily imply that Jesus intended a po­litical revolution.”  Rebecca’s Children: Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World – Alan Segal (Harvard 1986)  p. 80

The Gospel writers depict Jewish leaders as planning Jesus’ death: “And the scribes and chief priests … sought how they might destroy him” (Mark 11:18). Indeed, all the Gospels implicate the leaders in His death.

Mt 26.47 “sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people”

Are all the priests responsible?
What proportion of Jews is represented by those Jewish rulers?
So the New Testament implicates some Jews in Jesus’ death. But whom does Jesus Himself implicate?
Matthew 20: 18‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; 19then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.’ 15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ 18For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19While he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.’ 20Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21The governor again said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas.’ 22Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ 23Then he asked, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’

Why might the story of the release of Barabbas be regarded as an anti-Jewish element of the Gospel?
Some scholars think that the Barabbas incident is made up. What grounds might there be for this?

If not used of God, by whom might the title be used? Matthew 23: “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.
What grounds might there be for arguing that the Barabbas incident is NOT made up?
Was there ever a custom of releasing prisoners on Passover or any Jewish holiday?

Are all the priests responsible?

The ‘rulers’ involved with distinct from the ‘priests’. It looks like an intra-Jewish struggle.  Jesus is portrayed as one in the succession of Jewish prophets. All were rebuffed in their attempts to call the Jewish nation back to their Creator.

 What proportion of Jews is represented by those Jewish rulers?

The Judean/Jerusalem LEADERSHIP who were part of the Jewish-Roman condemnation/crucifixion process were a very small sub-set of the Jewish community.  This would exclude all the Jewish leadership which was NOT supportive of the crucifixion (e.g., Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, etc), the common Jewish people of Jerusalem, ALL the other Jewish people in Judea/Galilee, thousands of Levitical priests, and ALL the dispersed Jews. None of these groups had ANYTHING TO DO with the crucifixion.

 So the New Testament implicates some Jews in Jesus’ death. But whom does Jesus Himself implicate?

The Gentiles – not Jews – will mock, scourge, and crucify Him. Though some scribes and chief priests were involved, the people who directly killed Jesus – according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – were Gentile Romans. If the New Testament is anti-Jewish because it implicates Jews, then it must be anti-Roman or anti-Gentile as well, because Gentile Romans were also involved.

 Why might the story of the release of Barabbas be regarded as an anti-Jewish element of the Gospel?

 The Jewish crowds are politically manipulated by their Jewish leaders, so that they call for the release of ‘Jesus Barabbas’

 Some scholars think that the Barabbas incident is made up. What grounds might there be for this?

“Barabbas”; is Aramaic for “Son of God,”; a title thought to be Jesus’s
“Barabbas” means “son of the father” (or “son of Abba”–a term NOT used of God by Jewry of the day!–it was part of the ‘scandal’ of Jesus that He used the term

 If not used of God, by whom might the title be used?

It was common in Jewish surnames (esp. rabbinical families) of the day, and ‘father’ for them was often a title for a leading teacher. If he was from a rabbinical family, this would certainly make sense of the crowd’s request for his release and for his ‘notoriety’

7 What grounds might there be for arguing that the Barabbas incident is NOT made up?

Origen (“Commentary on Matthew”) noted a reading “Jesus Barabbas” in Matthew 27:16,17 and called it an ancient reading. It appears in the 9th cent. Codex Theta and in some Syrian sources. This would make it a patronymic name (cf. Simon Barjonah). If his personal name was “Jesus”, in itself not improbable, it made Pilate’s offer more pungent–“Jesus Barabbas or Jesus of Nazareth.” This reading has been accepted by some scholars, but its authenticity must remain dubious.

If there is nothing unusual about this individual’s name we don’t need to believe he or the narrative was a fabrication.

 Was there ever a custom of releasing prisoners on Passover or any Jewish holiday?

We have no (other) record of such a custom.

However, it is not out of line with what we know about the political climate of the day. We know, for example, that political prisoners (like Barabbas) WERE released for various reasons (Jos. Antiq. XX, ix.3; Livy, V.13; cf. Deismann, “Light from the Ancient East”, p 267), that Roman officials seem to have granted mass amnesty at some other regular feasts (outside of Palestine) and to have occasionally acquitted prisoners in responses to crowds (BBC, p. 309).

Plus, this ‘custom’ (and its exercise on Barabbas) is one of the few gospel events referred to in an independent manner by Luke, Mark-Matthew, and John (judging by the presence/absence of details/structures in the narrative), as well as the early reference in Act 3:14 as part of the sermon of Peter. Their individual accounts argue for independent streams of information, suggesting a stronger basis in history (since they all WITNESS TO the ‘basics’ of the event).

Pilate Hands Jesus over to Be Crucified

24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’ 25Then the people as a whole answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ 26So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

What do you think of Matthew’s portrayal of Pilate?
What do you make of the so-called ‘blood libel’?
Do you think the words were ever said?
What view of the chief priests is presented here?

What do you think of Matthew’s portrayal of Pilate?

He seems powerless in face of the crowd. This seems to be absurdly out of place from the bloodthirsty monster about whom Philo wrote t the Emperor Augustus.

Philo, in the strongest passage describing Pilate’s cruelty, also displays the EXACT characteristics of Pilate that would have generated his trial-behaviour. Earlier in his career as procurator of Judea, Pilate had set up some votive shields in Herod’s palace, highly offending the Jewish people. After numerous appeals to him failed, the Jews sent a message to his ‘boss’ (two levels up!)–Tiberius–who responded with an extreme rebuke to Pilate and orders to capitulate. Philo’s account illuminates the political force Herod and the Jews were able to generate against him in this matter of the shields (cited in Kee, “The Origins of Christianity”, 1973, p.50f):

But when the Jews at large learnt of his action [putting up the shields], which was indeed already widely known, they chose as their spokesman the king’s four sons, who enjoyed rank and prestige equal to that of kings, his other descendants, and their own officials, and besought Pilate to undo his innovation in the shape of the shields, and not to violate their native customs, which had hitherto been invariably preserved inviolate by kings and emperors alike. When Pilate, who was a man of inflexible, stubborn, and cruel disposition, obstinately refused, they shouted, “Do not cause a revolt! Do not cause a war! Do not break the peace! Disrespect done to our ancient laws brings no honour to the emperor. Do not make Tiberius an excuse for insulting our nation. He does not want any of our traditions done away with. If you say that he does, show us some decree or letter or something of the sort, so that we may cease troubling you and appeal to our master by means of an embassy.” This last remark exasperated Pilate most of all, for he was afraid that if they really sent an embassy, they would bring accusations against the rest of his administration as well, specifying in detail his venality, his violence, his thefts, his assaults, his abusive behaviour, his frequent executions of untried prisoners, and his endless savage ferocity…When the Jewish officials…realized that Pilate was regretting what he had done, although he did not wish to show it, they wrote a letter to Tiberius, pleading their cause as forcibly as they could. What words, what threats Tiberius uttered against Pilate when he read it! It would be superfluous to describe his anger, since his reaction speaks for itself. For immediately, without even waiting for the next day, he wrote to Pilate, reproaching and rebuking him a thousand times for his new-fangled audacity and telling him to remove the shields at once and have them taken from the capital…”

So, in the gospel accounts of the Trial, we see Pilate playing politics versus justice. He finds nothing wrong with Jesus and tries to let him go (maybe even to irritate the Jews), but as soon as the not-so-veiled threat of ‘telling on him’ is raised (cf. John 19.12: the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”). So Tenney: The phrase “friend of Caesar” was more than a casual allusion to Roman patriotism. It usually denoted a supporter or associate of the emperor, a member of the important inner circle. The cry was a veiled threat: if Pilate exonerated Jesus, the high priest would report to Rome that Pilate had refused to bring a rival pretender to justice and was perhaps plotting to establish a new political alliance of his own. Tiberius, the reigning emperor, was notoriously bitter and suspicious of rivals. If such a report were sent to him, he would instantly end Pilate’s political career and probably his life also. Pilate also had the problem of a much larger than normal crowd–Jerusalem would have been swollen with people for the Feast. A riot or uprising (on the heels of the recent one–cf. Luke 23.19) would have also been a major concern of Pilate.

Pilate does NOT appear ‘sympathetic’ at all–he DOES appear ‘confused’ as to what is the most politically expedient path. If he appears conciliatory to the crowd (in the crucifixion) or to Antipas (in sending Jesus to him first), it is perfectly in keeping with his character/experiences for us to see political motives rather than noble ones.

From National Conference of (RC) Bishops: The Role of Pilate.  Certain of the gospels, especially the two latest ones, Matthew and John, seem on the surface to portray Pilate as a vacillating administrator who himself found “no fault” with Jesus and sought, though in a weak way, to free him. Other data from the gospels and secular sources contemporary with the events portray Pilate as a ruthless tyrant. We know from these latter sources that Pilate ordered crucified hundreds of Jews without proper trial under Roman law, and that in the year 36 Pilate was recalled to Rome to give an account.  Luke, similarly, mentions “the Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices” in the Temple (Lk 13:1-4), thus corroborating the contemporary secular accounts of the unusual cruelty of Pilate’s administration. John, as mentioned above, is at pains to show that Jesus’ arrest and trial were essentially at Roman hands. Finally, the gospels agree that Jesus’ “crime,” in Roman eyes, was that of political sedition – – crucifixion being the Roman form of punishment for such charges. The threat to Roman rule is implicit in the charge: “King of the Jews,” nailed to the cross at Pilate’s order (Mt 27:37; Mk 15:326; Lk 23:38; Jn 19:19). Matthew 27:38 and Mark 15:27 identify the “criminals” crucified with Jesus on that day as “insurgents.” There is, then, room for more than one dramatic style of portraying the character of Pilate while still being faithful to the biblical record. Again, it is suggested here that the hermeneutical insight of Nostra Aetate and the use of the best available biblical scholarship cannot be ignored in the creative process and provide the most prudent and secure criterion for contemporary dramatic reconstructions.

What do you make of the so-called ‘blood libel’?

Matthew 27:25 is assumed to be anti-Semitic, not to mention absurd, because it has the Jews voluntarily accepting the blame for Jesus’ death. Cf. someone commenting on a trial and saying, “I’ll be damned if he’s innocent.” Does the speaker really mean that they will accept eternal condemnation if they’re wrong about the guilt of the defendant?

Nostra Aetate “what happened in his passion cannot be blamed on all the Jews then living without distinction nor upon the Jews of today.” It goes on to say that Christians are more culpable because they know who Jesus is and Jews didn’t.

Luke tells us that a great crowd of people were weeping and lamenting and that afterwards the crowd went away beating their breasts.

 Do you think the words were ever said?

Harenberg continues: “It was Rudolf Bultmann who stated in 1921, with the help of the form critical method which he had developed, that this curse was never spoken” (c.f R. Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition, Harper, 1963, pg. 282).

The French historian Charles Guignebert wrote in 1935 about Matthew 27:25 directly, and of other passages of the same ilk in the New Testament, as follows: “Few of the sayings of the Gospels have done more harm than these, and yet they are only the invention of a redactor”. (C. Guignebert, Jesus, op. cit., pg. 470) Hitler used Jesus’ name quite glibly to justify his unspeakable crimes.

A million of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust were children.

Dr. Paul Spilsbury suggests that this is perhaps ironic – Revelation 7:14 ‘washed in the blood of the lamb’

The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63and said, ‘Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, “After three days I will rise again.” 64Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, “He has been raised from the dead”, and the last deception would be worse than the first.’ 65Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.’ 66So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

What view of the chief priests is presented here?

The chief priest bribe the guards to lie about their actions

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Lent 4A Ephesians 5:1–2

February 17, 2017

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ

loved us, and gave himself up for us, a fragrant off ering and sacrifi ce for God.

Forgive one another as God forgave and live a life of love as Christ loves us.

Cf. Abba Saul said: “Resemble God! Just as God is gracious and merciful, so you

should be gracious and merciful” (Mechilta Shirata 3 on Ex. 15:2b)

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Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 Good Friday/Years A, B, and C

February 17, 2017

Wisdom 18:14-18 depicts God’s word as a warrior “carrying the sharp sword of [God’s] authentic command.” For Hebrews, God’s word “divides soul from spirit”; it can “judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (v. 12). Hebrews reflects a Jewish tradition of uncompromising honesty with God in prayer: we might as well be honest, because God knows our thoughts and intentions anyway.

Verse 13 continues the theme of verse 12. That everything is “laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must make account” was a theme well known in Israel; Jeremiah speaks of God as one who judges righteously, who tries “the heart and the mind” (Jer. 11:20). Delighting in word play, Hebrews speaks of the “account,” logos, we must render to God. Preaching the Letters without dismissing the Law – R. Allen & C. Williamson (Westminster John Knox Press 2006) p. 47

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1 Corinthians 11:23-26 Maundy Thursday/Years A, B, and C

February 17, 2017

Some members of the wealthy class became inebriated and were therefore unable to be fully responsible for living the covenantal life (11:21-22). In behaving this way, they violate a fundamental tenet of Jew­ish life: those who have food are to share with those who do not, so that no one will be hungry and all can experiefice blessing. Indeed, shortly after the time of the Second Testament, rabbis sometimes opened the door of the house and posted a flag in the street when a meal was being eaten so that the poor could enter and partake. Preaching the Letters without dismissing the Law – R. Allen & C. Williamson (Westminster John Knox Press 2006) p. 46

The Qumran community, whose views are preserved in the Dead Sea  Scrolls, believed, like the early Christians, that they had entered into a new covenant with God (e.g., CD 6.19; cf. Mark 14.24; Heb. 8.7ff.). Christian Origins – C. Rowland (SPCK 1985) p. 26

 Entry into the community was seen as the participation in a new covenant 1 QS I, 5, 6; CD 15f.). It was the conviction of the community of the Scrolls that they were the faithful remnant of Israel. God had revealed his wisdom to the Teacher of Righteousness and only he knew what was the true will of God. All those who entered the sect had to act in accordance with all that had been revealed of it to the sons of Zadok (I QS 5).

 The member of the sect saw himself as a child of light, specially chosen by I God (I QS 3). That is not to suggest that there was any unthinking feeling of superiority. Throughout the hymns there is a profound understanding of dependence on God’s mercy, which has many affinities with the Pauline I understanding of righteousness by faith alone (I QH 19.7; 1 QS 430

In their calendrical observances the sectaries conflicted with the majority practices in Judaism by their observance of a solar calendar. Inevitably this led to a significant disjunction between their own observance of festivals and sabbaths and that of other Jews.31 Ritual washing was practised in the community (CD ii). There also seems to have been some kind o 1 purificatory rite in connection with entry into the community (I QS 3, 5; cf. CD 3). There was a hostile attitude to those who managed the Temple in Jerusalem, because it was believed that it had been run by wicked priests. The sectaries were certainly not opposed to the Temple but wished to see the establishment of proper cultic worship, according to the appropriate /calendar (CD 6, u). In place of the regular cultic participation we find /same kind of spiritualizing of cultic language as is to be seen in the N (Rom. 12.1; 1 Cor. 3.16); for example, 1 QS 8f.32 As in other Jewish groups the meal seems to have played a most important part, and a close link seems to have existed between the common meal regularly celebrated and the ‘messianic banquet (I QSa). Christian origins – C. Rowland (SPCK 1985) P. 74

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Hebrews 9:11-15 Monday of Holy Week/Years A, B, and C

February 17, 2017

Hebrews does violence to the imagery of the First Testament that it uses. First, the Torah was always to be on the heart. Deuteronomy says of it: “The word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe” (30:14). Jeremiah spoke of a renewed covenant, not a brand-new covenant. Second, Jeremiah does not breathe a word about the older covenant being rendered obsolete. Hebrews does note, how­ever, that God made this renewed covenant “with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (8:8). We Gentiles are not mentioned here; that we are graciously included should prompt our gratitude and deter us from triumphalistic interpretations of the new offering and the new covenant.  Preaching the Letters without dismissing the Law – R. Allen & C. Williamson (Westminster John Knox Press 2006) p. 43

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Philippians 2:5-11 Palm Sunday

February 17, 2017

That Christ is such an agent is clear when we recognize that the term “form,” morphe, is sometimes synonymous with eikon, “image” (Gen. 1:26-27; Sib. Or 3:8 The same is he Who fixed the pattern of the human form). Paul describes Christ in this way in Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:22.

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Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 Second Sunday in Lent/Year A

February 17, 2017

Abraham functioned in postbiblical Jewish literature as the “first pros­elyte,” a Gentile who turned his back on idolatry in favor of worship of the one God (Jub. 11: 16-17

And he began to pray to the Creator of all things that He might save him from the errors of the children of men, and that his portion should not fall into error after uncleanness and vileness. And the seed time came for the sowing of seed upon the land, and they all went forth together to protect their seed against the ravens, and Abram went forth with those that went, and the child was a lad of fourteen years, Josephus, Ant. 1.154-57).

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Romans 5:12-19 First Sunday in Lent/Year A

February 17, 2017

In today’s pas­sage, Paul reflects a traditional Jewish view of Adam as the one through whom death came into human history (Sifi-a, 27a; Sifre Deuteronomy, 141a). This tradition is ultimately rooted in Genesis 3:19: By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust,

and to dust you shall return.

Second-temple Jewish literature notes, as in 4 Ezra 3:7, “You [God] laid upon him [Adam] one commandment of yours, but he transgressed it, and immediately you appointed death for him and for his descendants.” Jew­ish literature, however, does not interpret Adam’s transgression in the sense of original sin, which is a distinctively Christian teaching. Rather, God for­gave Adam: “When he sinned, the Lord pronounced sentence upon him, but when the Sabbath came the Lord set him free. . . . So the Lord made the attribute of mercy take precedence over the attribute of judgment.”  Preaching the Letters without dismissing the Law – R. Allen & C. Williamson (Westminster John Knox Press 2006) p. 33

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Ephesians 1:15-23 Ascension Day Years A, B, C

December 30, 2016

This passage is a berakah – Jewish blessing.

“I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers” (v. 16). Significantly, the thanksgiving follows the blessing of 1:3-14; the two were closely associated in Jewish worship, on which Eph­esians draws. Preaching the Letters without dismissing the Law – R. Allen & C. Williamson (Westminster John Knox Press 2006) p. 62

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Luke 24:13-35 Easter 3A

December 30, 2016

MacCulloch  suggests that Luke’s choice of Emmaus as the setting of this story is to show how one who had eclipsed the sufferings of  in order to redeem the new Israel’ A History of Christianity – D. MacCulloch  (Penguin 2010) p. 95

Now Gorgias took five thousand infantry and a thousand picked cavalry, and this division moved out by night to fall upon the camp of the Jews and attack them suddenly. Men from the citadel were his guides.  But Judas heard of it, and he and his mighty men moved out to attack the king’s force in Emmaus 1 Maccabees 4:1-3

Then all the Gentiles will know that there is one who redeems and saves Israel.” 1 Maccabees 4:11

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