Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Books!

Now for a more lighthearted post. My last two posts on the Year of the Lord's Favor and Herod the Great were pretty heavy in NT theology. But I thought I'd share with you some of the new books that have made their way into my library:

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy - by Eric Metaxas
A friend gave this book to me and I'm so excited to read it. I've heard many good things about this bio. It comes highly recommended.

40 Questions About The End Times - by Eckhard Schnabel (one of my profs)
I have only read a few chapters in this book so far, but it is very well done! It is a helpful study tool for anyone interested in learning more about eschatology (end times). It's not just for pastors or seminarians! Plus, Dr. Schnabel is brilliant and he is one of my favorite professors.

Shepherds After My Own Heart - by Timothy Laniak
I have not read this book in its entirety because of time constraints. I used it for a recent project at school, but I am looking forward to reading the rest soon. This book gives a biblical theology of leadership, and the author argues that the primary biblical metaphor for leaders is that of shepherd.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Typology of the "Year of the Lord's Favor"

I wrote a paper recently that traces the development of the "Year of the Lord's Favor" in the Bible. This process of study is called "typology." There are three components to typology: 1) Rooted in history, 2) Types are God-ordained, 3) Typology involves heightening or intensification. A "type" is an event, person, institution in the OT that reveals something about God’s purposes and plans, and points in some way to the full revelation of God’s purposes and plans in the person of Jesus Christ / Kingdom of God.

With this introduction, here is the abstract of my paper. Hopefully this will be a helpful study for you folks.

The New Testament passage under examination in this paper is Luke 4:14-21. In this account, Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth. He quotes from Isaiah 61:1-2a (and 58:6) and claims, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Prior to this passage, Luke’s record of Jesus’ life leans heavily on Isaiah themes: a virgin from Galilee will give birth (Is. 7:14; 9:1ff), John the Baptist’s prepares the way (Is. 40:3-5), Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit (Is. 11:2; 42:1; 61:1), and he comes from the Davidic line (Is. 16:5; 55:3). Therefore, Luke 4:14-21 builds Luke’s case for Jesus’ messiahship.

The concept of the year of the Lord’s favor is emphasized in Luke 4:18-20, and therefore is examined in greater detail in the Old Testament study of this paper. The typological trajectory of the year of the Lord’s favor can be summarized in three points: 1) The “type” of the year of the Lord’s favor is the Jubilee tradition of Leviticus 25, which upholds these principles: release, liberty, and restoration of inheritance. These principles of social justice were based on the prototypes of rest (Genesis 1:1-2:3) and the Sabbath laws (Exodus 20:8-11). Jubilee was intended to be a means for God’s creative provision for the Israelites and security of their inheritance. 2) The prophet Isaiah developed this basic framework of Jubilee into a prophecy concerning a Spirit-endowed individual who will bring about the reform needed to implement the restoration of the Israelites’ inheritance and favor with God (Is. 42:1-9; 61:1-2). 3) After the return from exile, the concept of the year of the Lord’s favor gained a marked eschatological emphasis. For example, the concept of Jubilee was eschatologized in the Dead Sea Scrolls. 11QMelch 2:1-9 is important in tying together Jubilee and Sabbath motifs through Leviticus 25; Deuteronomy 15:2; Isaiah 52:7; 61:1-2; and Psalm 7:8-9; 82:1-2. Furthermore, the use of Isaiah 61 in 4Q521 develops a distinctly messianic prophecy concerning an individual who will implement the year of the Lord’s favor. This development is the trajectory that Jesus stepped into in his Nazareth sermon.

Because of the development of the typology of the year of the Lord’s favor in the OT and the Second Temple period, the eschatological Jubilee is more than just social justice. Jesus came to usher in a whole new era of salvation where the Godly social values of Jubilee are present. God himself is again doing a creative work, much like his creative provision through the Sabbath and Jubilee laws, to graciously provide salvation and restoration for his people. Thus, Luke incorporated the typology of the year of the Lord’s favor in order to communicate the messianic, prophetic, and salvific nature of Jesus’ ministry.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Herod the Great: Comparing Josephus with Matthew 2

Here is a lengthy excerpt from a paper I wrote last week about Herod the Great. My thesis: Josephus' accounts of Herod confirm his actions in Matthew 2. He is just the type of guy who would murder all the boys in Bethlehem.

Herod’s governing policies show his selfish and even paranoid grip on the reins of power. The first major event that reveals information about Herod’s rule is the death of Antony. According to Josephus, Herod and Antony were good friends and they held a political alliance. But when Antony was defeated by Octavian at Actium, Herod recognized that his position as ruler over Judea was in jeopardy unless he show his allegiance to Octavian. So Herod immediately sailed to Rhodes to meet with him. He presented himself before Octavian without a crown and in the clothing of a commoner in order to show his deference. Herod could have well been killed immediately for his previous alliance with Antony. But instead, Octavian granted him his kingdom back and even extended Herod’s rule. This event shows that Herod was not shy to change his political allegiances when he was threatened or it served his best interest. We may infer that in Herod’s quest for power, he would ally himself with whoever would gain him the most advantageous position.

Another major event that we find chronicled in Josephus’ writing is Herod’s program to rebuild the Jewish Temple, and the build the Antonia Fortress and the Caesareum and Agrippeum palaces in Jerusalem. Josephus writes,

"Thus, in the fifteenth year of his reign, [Herod] restored the Temple and, by erecting new foundation-walls, enlarged the surrounding area to double its former extent. The expenditure devoted to this work was incalculable, its magnificence never surpassed…the fortress he restored at a lavish cost in a style no way inferior to that of a palace, and called it Antonia in honor of Antony. His own palace, which he erected in the upper city, comprised two most spacious and beautiful buildings, with which the Temple itself bore no comparison; these he named after his friends, the one Caesareum, the other Agrippeum." (Josephus, War i. 401ff, 408, 417, 422)

When one combines this information from Josephus with archeological evidence of other cites such as Caesarea Maritima, one begins to wonder what Herod’s motives were for undergoing such ambition building programs. As already noted, Herod seems to be type of politician who carefully calculates his allegiances and works hard to secure his position of power. It is becoming clear that Herod’s rebuilding of the Temple likely is an attempt to buy favor with the Jews who do not approve of him. Furthermore, Herod seems to enjoy naming massive building projects after his friends and political allies. Naming his palace buildings Caesareum and Agrippeum are perfect examples. We are beginning to get a picture of a man who will go to great lengths to gain friends or appease his subjects. The root of Herod’s motivations is selfishness.

A last event that we find recorded in Josephus tells of Herod’s growing paranoia regarding the security of his throne. We learn from Josephus,

"For, on ascending the throne, [Herod] had dismissed his wife whom he had taken when he was still a commoner, a native of Jerusalem named Doris, and married Mariamme, daughter of Alexander, the son of Aristobulus…in the interest of his children by Mariamme, [Herod] banished from the capital the son whom he had had by Doris…Next he put to death, on suspicion of conspiracy, Hycranus, Mariamme’s grandfather, who had come back from Parthia to Herod’s court." (Josephus, War i. 429-33)

In this account, we see that even Herod’s family relations come down to calculated political decision. He changes wives to secure a political alliance, going so far as banishing his own son from the capital. Herod then murders his new wife’s grandfather on suspicion of conspiracy. These actions give a window into Herod’s selfish and even paranoid method of ruling. This evidence from Josephus also shows first-hand that Herod is not beyond murder in order to secure his own seat of power.

The implications for understanding Matthew 2:1-18 must be investigated. In these verses, we see the background material from Josephus vividly illuminate the actions of Herod. In this account, Magi from the East come to Palestine to find a new king who has been born. They arrive in Jerusalem and ask Herod, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matt 2:2, NIV). The text says, “When Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matt 2:3). After consulting with the chief priests and the teachers of the law, Herod “send them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him’” (Matt 2:8). But the Magi were warned in a dream not to return to Herod. “When Herod realized that he has been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under” (Matt 2:16a). When one compares this passage with the material from Josephus, it seems that Herod is simply acting in line with what we already know about his personality and political policies. He clearly is afraid of any threat to his throne, and he first attempts to snuff out the threat of the baby Jesus by trickery. When that doesn’t work, he simply murders every child in the Bethlehem area. From what we know about Herod’s selfishness, paranoia, and fear of political opponents, this action should not be surprising.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Recent Trips...and other things

After a long time away from the old blog (pretty much my entire time here in seminary), I have decided to resume occasionally posting. To kick it off, here are a few pictures from my recent trips:

Boston - Oct 2011
Fenway Park

Israel Study Tour - May 2011
Dome of the Rock

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The King Beetle...(more mewithoutYou discussion)

It's what the people want..........more mewithoutYou discussions (you know who you two are)

While spending 6-8 hours a day studying for my summer Biblical Greek class, I had plenty of time to listen to music. Of course, I listened to the new mewithoutYou album about 20 times. The song "The King Beetle on the Coconut Estate" has repeatedly caught my ear. Not only is it a great song musically, but the story is incredible. Here's a couple thoughts:

1. The whole scenario of a beetle colony seeking to figure out this "great light" is amazing. It's like we (the listener) are viewing the whole situation from a divine perspective. Us listeners know what the "great light" is. It's fire of course. We understand it and know what it is like. If the fire is a metaphor for God, then this story must be portrayed through the lens of the divine.

2. The first beetle who attempts to figure out what the "great light" is gives us a glimpse into what happens when we try to quantify God in finite, mathematical, or otherwise human terms. This professor tries to understand God through academia, but ends up with "neither a light nor a heat in his words". In his studying and quantifying, he lost his passion.

3. The militant beetle who tries next to figure out the "great light" has an equally difficult time. He attempts to conquer the fire with bravery and violence. But this is obviously not how we come to know the "great light".

4. The climax of the song comes when the Beetle King is "utterly changed into fire". He explains that our true father is "the life within all that you see." He is the provider, sustainer, and in order to know him, we must fly "headlong into the blazing unknown."


Here's the full song lyrics:

As the Moon rose and the hour grew late, the day help on a Coconut estate raked up the dry leaves that fell dead from the Trees, which they burned in a pile by the lake.

The Beetle King summoned his men, and from the top of the Rhododendron stem: Calling all volunteers who can carry back here, the Great Mystery's been lit once again.

One Beetle emerged from the crowd in a fashionable abdomen shroud, said:
I'm a Professor, you see, that's no mystery to me...
I'll be back soon, successful and proud. But when the Beetle Professor returned he crawled on all six, as his wings had been burned, and described to the finest detail all he'd learned.
There was neither a light nor a heat in his words.

The deeply dissatisfied King climbed the same stem to announce the same thing, but in his second appeal sought to sweeten the deal with a silver Padparadscha ring.

The Lieutenant stepped out from the line as he lassoed his thorax with twine, thinking: I'm stronger and braver and I'll earn the King's favor.
One day all he has will be mine!
But for all the Lieutenant's conceit he, too, returned singed and admitting defeat: I had no choice, please believe, but retreat...
It was bright as the sun, but with ten times the heat!
And it cracked like the thunder and bloodshot my eyes, though smothered with sticks it advanced undeterred.
Carelessly cast an ash cloud to the sky, my Lord, like a flock of dark, vanishing birds.

The Beetle King slammed down his fist: Your flowery description's no better than his!
We sent for the Great Light and you bring us this?
We didn't ask what it seems like, we asked what it IS!

His Majesty's hour at last has drawn nigh!
The elegant Queen took her leave from his side, without understanding but without asking why, gathered their Kids to come bid their goodbyes.

And the father explained: You've been somewhat deceived...
We've all called me your dad, but your True Dad's not me.
I lay next to your mom and your forms were conceived, your Father is the Life within all that you see.
He fills up the ponds as He empties the clouds, holds without hands and He speaks without sounds, provides us with the Cow's waste and coconuts to eat, giving one that nice salt-taste and the other a sweet.
Sends the black carriage the day Death shows its face, thinning our numbers with Kindness and Grace.
And just as a Flower and its Fragrance are one so must each of you and your Father become.
Now distribute my scepter, my crown and my throne and all we've known as 'wealth' to the poor and alone...
Without further hesitation, without looking back home, the King flew headlong into the blazing unknown!

And as the Smoke King curled higher and higher, the troops, flying loops 'round the telephone wires, they said: Our Beloved's not dead, but His Highness instead has been utterly changed into Fire!!!

Why not be utterly changed into Fire?...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Oh Blog, It's Been A While

Well, I haven't posted anything on this blog for months. I have a good excuse: 1st, I wanted to leave my band's music video at the top of the page for a while so people would watch it. Now that I'm not in the band anymore, I feel ok pushing it down the page. 2nd, I have been preparing to move to Chicago. Now that I'm here, it's time to ramp up the blogging.

I've got a thought for those of you who love analyzing lyrics (you know who you are). I have been listening to mewithoutYou's new album It's All Crazy, It's All False, It's All A Dream, It's Alright and the closing line from the song "A Stick, A Carrot & String" really got me thinking. Here it goes: "The snake who held the world, a stick, a carrot, and a string, was crushed beneath the foot of your not wanting anything."

This line, in the context of the whole song, helps me understand how Jesus' actions defeated Satan's temptation to have earthly things. Jesus defeated evil by extending grace to us. I've got more thoughts on this, but it's time to sign off. Later!

Addition: 8/3/09

Here's the full lyrics for the song:

the horse's hay beneath his head
our Lord was born to a manger bed
that all whose wells run dry
could drink of his supply

to keep him warm, the sheep drew near
so grateful for His coming here
come with news of grace
come to take my place
the donkey whispered in his ear
"child, in 30-some-odd years
you'll ride someone who looks like me

the cardinals warbled a joyful song
he'll make right what man made wrong
bringing low the hills
that the valleys might be filled

then "child", asked the birds
"well, aren't they lovely words we sing?"
the tiny baby layed there
without saying anything

at a distance stood a mangy goat
with the crooked teeth and a matted coat
weary eyes and worn
chipped and twisted horns

thinking "maybe I'll make friends someday
with the cows and the hens in the rambouillet
but for now, I'll keep away
I've got nothing smart to say"

there's a sign on the barn
in the cabbage town
"when the rain picks up
and the sun goes down
sinners, come inside
with no money, come and buy

no clever talk, nor a gift to bring
requires our lowly, lovely king
come now empty handed, you don't need anything"

and the night was cool
and clear as glass
with the sneaking snake in the garden grass
deep cried out to deep
the disciples fast asleep

and the snake perked up
when he heard You ask
"if you're willing that
this cup might pass
we could find our way back home
maybe start a family all our own"

"but does not the Father guide the Son?
not my will, but yours be done.
what else here to do?
what else me, but You?"

and the snake who'd held the world
a stick, a carrot and a string
was crushed beneath the foot
of your not wanting anything