Thursday, January 25, 2007

Oldest Semitic Text

Oldest Semitic Text

By LAURIE COPANS, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jan 23, 6:42 PM ET

JERUSALEM - A magic spell to keep snakes away from the tombs of Egyptian kings, adopted from the Canaanites almost 5,000 years ago, could be the oldest Semitic text yet discovered, experts said Tuesday.


Wikipedia on the Canaanites.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Music from DNA and Protein Sequences

Music from DNA and Protein Sequences.

The code of life is based on four chemical residues abbreviated as A, T, G, and C. They appear in a long spaghetti string of a molecule know as DNA. Proteins which are the cinder blocks of life have 20 residues that students of biochemistry are required to memorize as a rite of passage. Surprisingly, when these residues are rendered to musical notes, we don't hear random noise as one might expect but a melody. The algorithms in which the authors used to create music from DNA and protein sequences is described in Link 3.

Link 1 Link 2 Link 3 Link 4

from Link 2:

  • Prof. Susumu Ohno (of Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope, who died on January 13, 2000, at the age of 71) proposed years ago that the repetition process governs both the musical composition and the DNA sequence construction . see this paper by Ohno in Immunogenetics (1986) titled: "The all pervasive principle of repetitious recurrence governs not only coding sequence construction but also human endeavor in musical composition".

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Jesus in the Talmud

In my amateurish examination of the Talmud for references to “any cause/reason/matter” divorces of Matthew 19:3, I couldn’t help but notice that there were instances of a Yeshu. Was Jesus mentioned in the Talmud? Yeshu or Yeshua is the accepted equivalent to the Hellenized name Jesus. Indeed there are several instances of a Yeshu in the Talmud. However, keep in mind that Yeshu is a common Hebrew name.

Wikipedia has an interesting article on this topic:

In the end the author casts doubt on the Talmud Yeshu as Jesus.

At this author has more to say

  • According to the Talmud, Yeshu was the son of a Jewish woman named Miriam who was betrothed to a carpenter. "Betrothed" means she was legally married to him, but she was not yet living with him or having sexual relations with him. The story says that Miriam was either raped by or voluntarily slept with Pandeira, a Greek or Roman soldier. Miriam than gave birth to Yeshu, who was considered a "mamzer" (bastard), a product of an adulterous relationship. The Talmud describes Yeshu as a heretic who dabbled in sorcery and lead the people astray. Later, the Sanhedrin (the Jewish "Supreme Court") ordered Yeshu stoned to death and his dead body was hung from a tree until nightfall after his death, in accordance with the ancient Jewish punishment for heretics.

    While some believe there is no connection between the Talmudic Yeshu and the Christian Jesus, others believe there is a connection. The main inconsistency between the Talmudic and Christian story is that during the time that Jesus was killed, the Romans ruled and the Sanhedrin did not have the power to impose the death penalty. Thus, some Jews believe that today's popular Christian ideas about Jesus are based on a melding of the Talmudic story of Yeshu and the historian Josephus' writing about Jesus, which included his execution by the Romans.

A mother named Miriam (Mary) betrothed to a carpenter, who supposed practiced sorcery and tried to lead Israel astray has too many coincidences with our Lord to ignore.

A contributor to a message board at Stanford University accepts that the Yeshu mentioned in the Talmud is Jesus of Nazareth. I can’t vouch for the scholarship of this contributor. A few highlights:

  • Quoting now from another Talmud passage about Jesus, Sanhedrin 43A: “On Passover Eve they hanged Jesus of Nazareth. He practiced sorcery, incited and led Israel astray…Was Jesus of Nazareth deserving of a search for an argument in his favor? He was an enticer and the Torah says, ‘You shall not spare, nor shall you conceal him!”
  • Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 107b declares that Jesus bowed down to a brick and worshipped it and that he practiced magic, and from Sanhedrin 43a, which says that it was right to kill Jesus and that he got what he deserved.
  • The Talmud in Gittin 57a contains a filthy attack on Jesus Christ pertaining to a punishment Jesus supposedly underwent after his death. “He (the rabbi) then went and raised by incantations (of) the sinners of Israel.

A Rabbi from a Messianic Jewish denomination again accepts that the Yeshu in the Talmud is Jesus of Nazareth. His focus was of a Yeshua mentioned in Sanhedrin 43a of the Babylonian Talmud. A few highlights from this thoughtful analysis:

  • Our rabbis taught, Yeshua had five disciples: Mattay, Nakai, Nezer, Buni and Todah.

This Yeshua had 5 disciples as opposed to apostles. Only Mattay or Matthew would be recognizable to modern Christians. Each is sentenced to death. But the Rabbi has an interesting take on the meaning of the names of the 5 disciples.

  • I propose, not only in front of this group, but in academic circles as well, that what we have here is an ancient Jewish/Christian hymn, that did not talk about disciples, but spoke about teachings. A credo hymn, that talks about five points, that the early Church believed about Jesus. They are: mattay - when. When did the Messiah come? He came in the fullness of time. The second name is naki, which means clean, pure, innocent. He died innocently, without sin. The third name is netzer, from which we have the Hebrew name of Christians - Nazarine, and as you know in Acts chapter 24, verse 14. Paul is accused of being the head of the sect of Nazarines - Notzrim. This means that the New Testament is familiar with this Jewish appellation for early Christians, for the Jewish Christians, the Nazarine sect. Also, netzer has long been related to Isaiah 11, verse 1, as well as to other passages of Isaiah, from which we've gotten this idea of Nazareth, Nazarines, notzrim. In other words, he was the netzer or the scion of the house of Jessie, he was the seed of David. The fourth one - buni, which means my son. He is the Son of G-d. The fifth one - todah. He is the sacrifice of thanksgiving. I believe that what the original text of the hymn was, hamisha talmudim haia lo le Yeshu hanotzri. Five teachings Jesus the Nazarene had, about himself: 1) that he came in the fullness of time, 2) that he was innocent and sinless, pure, 3) that he was the Son of G-d, 4) that he was the seed of David, and 5) that he was the sacrifice of thanksgiving to G-d. And this hymn was taken by the rabbis, and used as a polemic, answering each line with a verse in it.

When his hypothesis is coupled with his other observations:

  • Joseph Klausner in his book Jesus of Nazareth, says that this section is a polemic fabrication during the Amoraic period, desiring to justify the alienation of the early church from its Jewish context.
  • The first way is to say that the whole thing is a fabrication in the Byzantine period by Babylonian rabbis that have a memory of some Baraita, that was a part of the polemics against Christianity in the second century, or in the early part of the third century. However, that does not explain the names used. It doesn't explain, where they get these names: Mattay, Naki, Nezer, Buni, and Todah. It's hard to believe that they simply fabricated those names. Like Herd said, it must be related to an actual occasion or to some event, or some text that was before them.

This adds credence that this Talmudic Sanhedrin passage was a polemic against a Jewish Christian hymm.

It’s interesting to note that in the Gospels there are verses indicating that Pharisaical scribes were recording Jesus.

In Matthew 12:22 Jesus heals a blind, deaf and possessed man. In turn the Pharisees accused Jesus of practicing sorcery in the name of Beelzebub the prince of demons in verse 24. So the Gospels seem to confirm the Talmudic view of Yeshu, who to me seems to be Jesus of Nazareth.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Wikipedia on the Hillel vs. Shammai Debate and Jesus

Wikipedia had a surprisingly good description involving the Pharisaical debate regarding divorce and how Jesus may have taken sides, the author indicates that Jesus may have upheld traditional Mosaic Law and thus the side of the Shammais:

Sunday, January 07, 2007

'Any Cause' Divorce in Philo and Jesus' "Adulterous Generation"

'Any Cause' Divorce in Philo and Jesus' "Adulterous Generation"

A book "The Septuagint, Sexuality, and the New Testament: Case Studies on the Impact of the LXX in Philo and the NT" by William Loader quotes Philo on divorce on page 79:

Philo Leg. 30-31:

  • If a woman after parting from her husband for any cause whatsoever marries another and then again becomes a widow, whether this second husband is alive or dead, she must not return to her first husband but ally herself with any other man rather than him, because she has broken with the rules that bound her in the past and cast them into oblivion when she chose new love-ties in preference to the old.
The author suggests that Philo meant "something shameful" when he said "for any cause whatsoever". The author seems to have missed the essence of the debate between the Hillel and Shammai Pharisees schools regarding divorce for 'any cause' vs. 'something shameful' or 'unseemly thing'.

In previous posts the 'any cause' (also any matter, any reason) divorce was mentioned by Josephus. It is significant that these two Jewish philosophers/historians only mention 'any cause' divorces. This lends credence to Instone-Brewer's observation that Hillel divorces were the predominant ones.
  • In the matter of divorce the Shammaites must have been almost totally cut out of the legal process even before 70 C . E . because their position was so much stricter than the Hillelite one . Almost no one who was wanting a divorce would choose a Shammaite judge when he knew that a Hillelite judge would approve an " any matter " divorce without requiring any evidence . Shammaite judges would require evidence of neglect , unfaithfulness , or infertility . With a court made up of Hillelite judges one could ask for an " any matter " divorce and there would be no need to bring proof of any kind , and so there was no need to
David Instone-Brewer. Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context. (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002). Page 114.

Also from his book:

  • Unlike a Shammaite court , the Hillelites did not require any evidence of grounds for divorce ,
David Instone-Brewer. Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context. (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002). Page 113.

Later Instone-Brewer speculates that the Hillel 'any cause' divorce is what Jesus was against and his exception for 'porneia" is a backing of the Shammai school. Also, he suggests that this is what Jesus meant by this "adulterous generation"in Matthew and Mark. Also it is perhaps significant that in the Matthew verses Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees.

What would Jesus think of modern "no-fault" divorces? This form of modern divorce sounds very similar to the 'any matter' divorces or the Greco-Roman 'divorce-by-separation'.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

'Any Cause' Divorce

David Werner Amran's 1896 book "Jewish Law of Divorce" is the earliest modern text I am so far able to locate describing the Hillel 'any cause' divorce. It is available for a free download.
Chapter 3 starting on page 32 starts the discussion regarding the Talmudists and Jesus. Very interesting. This book very much adds to Instone-Brewer's thesis in his book "Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible".

It was written as an investigation into an Episcopal clergyman who remarried after being deserted by his first wife. As I said it is free. I have placed the link above and in the links side bar.

Instone-Brewer IV

I came across a blog "Eternal Perspectives" that discusses David Instone-Brewer's book "Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible." It offers an excellent summary of the book. It is covered in four parts (1, 2, 3, 4). In that final post he goes over the four predominant views of divorce and remarriage in Christian circles. Unfortunately he doesn't conclude with his own views.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Influence of Roman Law on Paul's Letters: 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

Influence of Roman Law on Paul's Letters

I have written before on the influence of Roman Law on Paul's 1 Corinthians 7. Namely the expectation to remarry, as part of Greco-Roman Law and Tradition. Divorcees were expected remarry within 18 months of divorce. While enforced only for the upper classes it laid down the expectation to remarry by the Greco-Roman Corinthians.

As another example of how Roman influenced Paul's epistles consider that there are dress codes for Christian men and women in 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, and 1 Timothy 2:9-16. There is an excellent article in the European Leadership Journal describing the goings-on of the 1st century AD Greco-Roman world. It seems that there was the evolutionary development of the 'new' woman:

The ‘new’ woman:

By contrast, see-through clothing had traditionally been the provocative attire of the high class prostitutes who entertained single and married men as dinner companions and later, in what was politely said to be ‘after dinners’, in that first-century unholy trinity of eating, drinking and sexual intercourse. She was what she wore, and deliberately so, given her profession.

In the late Republican period and the early empire another type of married woman began to emerge, designated by some ancient historians as the ‘new’ woman. She differed from the ‘modest’ wife, indeed the latter was epitomized by that one cardinal virtue. Some of the ‘new’ married women began to wear provocative clothing similar to that of the hetairai and others felt the social pressure of their peers to adopt this latest trend in dress.

Wearing of veils as prescribed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 was part of Roman tradition of the respectable married woman:

The modest wife and young woman:

The dress of the first-century married woman consisted of a considerable amount of fabric falling in folds from the shoulder. This was made from a non-transparent material. A mantle was wrapped around it, part of which was draped on the top of her head as it had been for the first time on her wedding day. This was the marriage veil she subsequently always wore in public as a sign to others of her marital status. Modest dress was the hallmark of the respectable matron.

Paul wanted the Christian woman to blend into respectable Roman society. It would be much the same as some modern churches banning miniskirts during services. The Roman emperor Augustus tried banning the 'heterai"form of dress in legislation:

Augustus’ legal intervention:

A number of legal moves were made to counter what was seen in some circles as a new movement among married women. For the first time in Roman history, Augustus made adultery a criminal offence in two highly significant pieces of legislation. Convicted adulteresses were forbidden to dress like the modest wife but had to wear the toga which was the dress code of heterai.

Roman law, as recorded in The Digest, reflects the dictum that you were what you wore.

  • If anyone accosts…women [wives who] are dressed like prostitutes, and not as mothers of families…if a woman is not dressed as a matron [married woman] and some one calls out to her or entices away her attendant, he will not be liable to action for injury.

John Derbyshire and Steve Sailer on the Pessimistic Future of the American Republic

Two paleoconservatives have negative views on the survival of the American Republic. I am bit surprised by the negativity of all conservatives of late. When haven't we been in crisis? How did the Republic look in 1862, 1930, 1942 and 1980? Both assume a lack of adaptation by the citizens. I'd say the travails we are in now are minor compared to those dates in American history.

Both I believe are not religious but recognize the importance of Christianity in America. Tom Wolfe is in the same camp. I heard Wolfe say once in a C-span interview that he isn't a Christian but loved to see it in other people. A camp I was in until a few years ago.

Fragmented Future by Steve Sailer.

  • In a column headlined "Harvard study paints bleak picture of ethnic diversity," Lloyd summarized the results of the largest study ever of "civic engagement," a survey of 26,200 people in 40 American communities: "When the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, they showed that the more people of different races lived in the same community, the greater the loss of trust. 'They don't trust the local mayor, they don't trust the local paper, they don't trust other people and they don't trust institutions,' said Prof Putnam. 'The only thing there's more of is protest marches and TV watching.'"
Later he has this:
  • The problems caused by diversity can be partly ameliorated, but the handful of techniques that actually work generally appall liberal intellectuals, so we hear about them only when they come under attack. ...
  • Another untold story is the beneficial effect on race relations of the growth of Christian fundamentalism. Among soldiers and college football players, for instance, co-operation between the races is up due to an increased emphasis on a common transracial identity as Christians.
  • According to military correspondent Robert D. Kaplan of The Atlantic, "The rise of Christian evangelicalism had helped stop the indiscipline of the Vietnam-era Army." And that has helped build bridges among the races. Military sociologists Charles C. Moskos and John Sibley Butler wrote in All That We Can Be: Black Leadership and Racial Integration the Army Way, "Perhaps the most vivid example of the 'blackening' of enlisted culture is seen in religion. Black Pentecostal congregations have also begun to influence the style of worship in mainstream Protestant services in post chapels. Sunday worship in the Army finds both the congregation and the spirit of the service racially integrated."
  • Similarly, it's now common to see college football coaches leading their teams in prayer. Fisher DeBerry, the outstanding coach of the Air Force Academy, who has led players with no hope of making the NFL to a record of 169-108-1, hung a banner in the locker room bearing the Fellowship of Christian Athletes' Competitor's Creed, which begins, "I am a Christian first and last." When the administration found out, he was asked to take it down.

John Derbyshire an immigrant from the UK always has interesting observations about his adopted home country.

In this post he speculates on the downfall of the USA by 2022. One of the many reasons is spiritual failure (see below). Derbyshire himself is an agnostic. He has good points but his pessimism is a bit overboard. The weaknesses in the Republic are there, but my guess is we will still be standing tall in 2022.

On the other hand, he has strong points on the lack of intellectual vibrancy in American higher education.
  • "There has, however, here as in other spheres, been a separating-out by class and IQ. It is this sorting, this separating-out, that is important for the future of our country. You read a lot about American exceptionalism in the matter of religion. Well, yes; but let me tell you, as a foreigner who came to this country as an adult and saw it with foreign eyes, there are two very striking things about religion in America. One is the number of intensely religious people; the other is the number of intensely, angrily irreligious people. American religiosity has generated its Hegelian opposite: a huge corps of fierce God-haters.
  • There was always some of that, of course. Mark Twain, born in 1835, was irreligious, but he was polite and careful about it, at least in public. H.L. Mencken, born 45 years later, was louder and ruder about his atheism, but he was still an oddity in the America of the 1920s. Now we have an entire class, wealthy and influential, who are Godless and proud of it, and are angry and contemptuous of believers. The old dispensation, in which most unbelievers maintained a polite respect for the believing majority, was a kind of unity. Now we are snarling at each other across a gulf of spiritual disjunction."

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Divorce and Mosaic Law in the OT and NT

As mentioned in my previous posts (1, 2, 3, 4) a cursory reading of Matthew 5:32, 19:9, Mark 10:11-12, and Luke 16:18 seems to indicate that Jesus abrogates all grounds for divorce except for adultery in Matthew.

I have numerous posts on David Instone-Brewer's exegesis that asserts that Jesus was condemning only the Hillel "any matter' divorce and not valid forms of divorce. The principles for these 'valid' divorces are outlined in Mosaic Law in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, and Exodus 21:10-11. Malachi 2:13-16 also forms part of Instone-Brewer's exegesis.

As part of his Sermon on the Mount Jesus seems to affirm Mosaic Law in Matthew 5:17-20.
  • Mt 5:17 (NAS) "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
This would add to Instone-Brewer's hypothesis that Mosaic Law at least parts in which Jesus is silent are still part of Christian principles. Part of the Jewish bedrock of Christianity.

However in John 8:1-11 Jesus prevents the stoning of an adulteress caught in the act by a group of Law-abiding Pharisees, see Deuteronomy 17:7 and 22:22. Clearly He interferes with the administration of Mosaic Law. In verse 11 Jesus does recognize the sin of the adulteress but:
  • John 8:11 She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more."
Jesus recognizes the sin, an affirmation of Mosaic Law, but tempers it with Christian forgiveness.

Divorce and Remarriage, The Views of John MacArthur

In previous posts I commented on 1 Corinthians 7 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12) and the various instruction regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage within it. John MacArthur offers his own exegesis here on the web.

For verse 8:
  • Those who are unmarried and widows, verse 8: "1 say therefore," that is, therefore meaning on the basis of the principle laid down, "I say therefore to the unmarried," and that is a general term including bachelors, maidens, divorcees, "I say to the unmarried and especially to the widows," because, of course, they had a unique situation, having been married and knowing all of the joys of marriage and having been separated not because they wish to be, like a divorcee, but because of death and the trauma that that brings, "I say then to the unmarried and especially to widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I." It’s good to be single. If you’re a bachelor, that’s good. If you’re a maiden whose never been married, that’s good. If you’re a widow or a widower, that’s good. There’s nothing wrong with that.but
  • ...verse9...."If they can’t have self-control, let them marry for it’s better to marry than to burn." If you can’t handle being single, get married.
For verses 10-11 he has this:
  • If you’re married, look at it, "I command, yet it isn’t really me doing this, the Lord has given us the word on this, Let not the wife depart from her husband." And here he’s simply saying - Jesus already had something to say Matthew 19:9 and Mark 10:11 and 12 all three about it ... Matthew 5:32, of those passages, our Lord Jesus Christ says stay married. Do not divorce. Notice, it says at the end of verse 10, "Let not the wife depart," the word depart is a technical term for divorce ... don’t divorce your partner. You say - Well, why would two Christians want to divorce? Well, in Corinth., you see, they were saying - Well, celibacy is the only way to go ... once you become a Christian you’ve got to drop all the physical part and you’ve got to devote yourself to Christ, we will not divorce and separate and give ourselves to Christ. He says - Forget it ... don’t do that ... don’t divorce. There is no divorce tolerated among Christians. God hates divorce, Malachi 2, "I hate putting away," God says, "I hate divorce." He condemned the Israelites, He says: "You have done treacherously against the wife of your youth," You’re divorcing one another.
  • Only two choices if Christians divorce. They either stay single all the rest of their life or they come together again ... to reconcile.
In terms of remarriage in verses 15-16 he has this to say:
  • You’ve got an unbelieving partner and he can’t stand your Christianity and he wants out. Verse 15: "But if the unbelieving depart, fight him." Is that what it says? Don’t let him go, who will give him the gospel? Is that what it says? It says ... what?..."Let him go."
  • You say - John! Don’t talk to me, call up heaven, you know. It’s right there. If the unbelieving depart - let him go. If he divorces, middle voice, middle voice means reflexive ... In other words, this is where the unbeliever initiates the divorce, let him go. Don’t fight the divorce, don’t go to court and fight the ... just let it go ... let hi...if he wants out, let him go. The word depart refers again to divorce. It is a technical term for divorce. The unbeliever divorced the believer and the believer is told let him go, don’t fight it. You say Don’t fight it but what happens to me when he’s gone, I’m stuck for life., There’s no adultery and I’m, I’m...I’m going ... I can’t handle that.
  • No, you’re not stuck for life. Look at verse 15. "If the unbelieving depart, let him depart, a brother or a sister is not under ... what? ... bondage in such cases." Do you know what? You are ... what?... free. Free from what? From bondage. The bondage of what? The only bondage that marriage has reference to, the bond of marriage, you’re free. Free to what? Free to remarry. That’s what he’s saying. You are free to remarry; you are no longer under bondage. And the word bondage is the word that’s used in Romans 7:2 when it talks about marriage being bound by the law to a husband. Marriage is bondage, in Paul’s vocabulary and here he s saying you are free from that marriage.
  • You say - Yes, but my, my, you certainly couldn’t remarry’. Why? It doesn’t say that. When God wants to say you can’t remarry, He says it. Verse 11, "If she departs out of a Christian marriage, she must remain...what? ... unmarried." But here, if the unbeliever departs and he gets the divorce, a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. So, the marriage is ended. You see, desertion is like adultery in its effect, it disrupts the tie. Don’t fight it, let him go.
  • Well, you say - Why let him go? "Cause God has called us to peace." You know, one of the benefits of being a Christian is to have a peaceful life ... the peace of God... the gracious life. And, you know, there’s nothing that God needs less than constant fighting, tension, frustration and turmoil in a home. A fighting, angry, quarreling home is not God’s objective, nor, people, is marriage primarily a foundation for evangelism. Well, I’m going to hang on to that guy until he gets saved. You know, you’ll just drive him right out. If he wants to go, let him go, let him leave rejecting Christianity not hating you.
  • But there’s going to be one objection because some conscientious Christian is going to say - Now listen to me, if I do that, if I let him go, I lose the opportunity to see him saved. If I let him go, whose going to bring him to Christ? I lose the opportunity to bring him to Christ and salvation.
  • So Paul deals with that in verse 16. He says this: "For what o you know, 0 wife, whether you’re going to save him? Or, how do you know, 0 man, whether you’re going to save your wife?" Don’t go on that premise, because you don’t know that. He’s not saying here Keep them so you can save them, -he’s saying - Let them go because you have no guarantee you will. And in the meantime you will destroy the peace that God intends to give. Let him go.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Hillel vs. Shammai The Debate as Described Outside the NT

In previous posts (link 2, 3, 4) the Hillel 'any cause', 'any matter', or 'any reason' divorce were mentioned as an intense debate between two 1st Century AD Jewish schools of thought. This debate may have been the subject of the questions presented to Jesus by the Pharisees as recorded in the Gospels.

Here are links to those extra-scriptural historical references:

Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Gittin


  • It has been taught: Beth Hillel said to Beth Shammai: Does not the text distinctly say 'thing'?7 Beth Shammai rejoined: And does it not distinctly say 'unseemliness'? Beth Hillel replied: Had it said only 'unseemliness' without 'thing', I should have concluded that she should be sent away on account of unseemliness, but not of any [lesser] 'thing'.
  • He that desires to be divorced from his wife for any cause (25) whatsoever, (and many such causes happen among men,) let him in writing give assurance that he will never use her as his wife any more; for by this means she may be at liberty to marry another husband, although before this bill of divorce be given
  • footnote (25) from above: These words of Josephus are very like those of the Pharisees to our Savior upon this very subject, Matthew 19:3, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?"
Note that in Josephus the freedom to remarry is given upon the divorce. This was discussed in a previous post on the expectation for the freedom for remarriage in the 1st century AD.

More on the Sermon on the Mount

In reference to my last post; as evidence that many portions of the Sermon on the Mount should be taken as ideals for the Christian note that Jesus expresses anger in Mark 3:5 and calls the Pharisees fools in Matthew 23:17.

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, what does it hold for us?

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is the subject of debate for Christians and non-Christians. It contains language that is severe if taken literally. For example see Matt 5: 28-30, 39-41, 6:19, 26.

Are we to dismember ourselves to avoid sin, not defend against evil, not save money, and not to plant crops? Several good exegesis are available on the web:
  • The Sermon on the Mount is for the most part Law as it sets a standard for all Christians. Since it is a standard that we cannot reach by our own efforts it condemns us while at the same time it reminds us of the kind of life a Christian should strive to lead. It is the mirror in which we see ourselves as we really are and yet it is a guide for us as we seek to live a life worthy of the calling to which we are called, that is, the life of a Christian.
Note added Jan. 4 - An explanation of how the LCMS views Law as opposed to Gospel:
  • The LCMS, along with certain other Lutheran Church Bodies, also teaches the doctrine of the distinction between God's "Law" and God's "Gospel." The Missouri Synod believes that the Holy Scriptures contain only two teachings – the Law and the Gospel. The Law is all those parts of the Bible that provide commands and instructions, which the LCMS believes are impossible to completely obey. Therefore, the Law is a statement of God's wrath, judgement, and damnation. The Gospel, on the other hand, is the portions of Scripture that promise free salvation from God, even to sinners. The law condemns, the Gospel saves. Both the Law and the Gospel are gifts from God; both are necessary. The function of the law is to show a person their sinful nature and drive them to the Gospel, where the forgiveness of sin is promised for the sake of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • it appears that the best approach is to take the sermon at face value (with some obvious exceptions such as Matthew 5:29-30) and to do our best to live the life Jesus outlined for us. When we fail while trying our best, we need not despair; God is a God of grace and forgiveness for all who confess and repent of their sins.

  • The Sermon tells us what our attitudes must become and admonishes us to be lights to the world. We must not lust or allow our anger to be uncontrolled or frivolous. We must turn the other cheek, agree with our adversary quickly, go the extra mile and love our enemy. It tells us how to pray, fast, do charitable deeds, lay up treasure in heaven, be single minded, exercise our faith in trusting God, seek Him before all other things in life, and much more. The point is clear. These are all things the converted must actively do to witness for God, glorify Him, and be in His Kingdom. They are not intended to be the limit but a summary of the attitudes, thoughts, and works of one striving for the Kingdom of God.
To me as I read the Sermon on the Mount much it forms the attitude of a Christian. Some of it is literal but some are ideals. Perhaps it is because of Jesus' teaching style which is in the form of parables. See Luke 8:9-10.

  • 9 His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. 10 And He said, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that SEEING THEY MAY NOT SEE, AND HEARING THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Review of Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible IV

In his book "Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible" David Instone-Brewer states that Paul essentially reiterates the rights of a slave wife in Exodus 21:10-11 in 1 Corinthians 7. He also mentions that several other biblical scholars have noted that on page 194 of this text.
  • Exodus 21: 10-11 (NAS) 10 "If he takes to himself another woman, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. 11 "If he will not do these three things for her, then she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.
It is clear that Paul makes a statement for conjugal love in verses 2-5. Instone-Brewer thinks that verses 33-34 make the statement for material needs, i.e. food and clothing. He has a good case here.

Where things deviate between the OT and NT is that the Exodus passage was grounds for divorce in Jewish law, i.e. what is good for the slave wife is good for the free wife, hence good for the husband. Rabbis discouraged divorced by increasing the dowry for the offending husband or decreasing it for the offending wife until it was exhausted.

Instone-Brewer thinks that the Corinthians were familiar with this Jewish law based on verse 15.
  • 1 Co 7 (NAS) 15: Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. 16: For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?
Verse 15 could imply this as this apostasy was grounds for divorce in Jewish Law. From the Jewish Encyclopedia:

  • The following causes are recognized as entitling the wife to demand a bill of divorce from her husband: refusal of conjugal rights (Ket. v. 6); impotence (Ned. xi. 12); when the husband has some loathsome disease, or leprosy, or is engaged in some malodorous business (Ket. vii. 9); the husband's refusal to support her (Ket. 77a); cruel treatment anddeprivation of her lawful liberty of person (Ket. vii. 2-5, v. 5); wife-beating (Eben ha-'Ezer, 154, 3, gloss); the husband's apostasy (Maimonides, "Yad," Ishut, iv. 15)—in the last-named case the Jewish courts, having lost their authority over him, could appeal to the courts of the Gentiles to carry out their mandate ("Bet Joseph," 134); the husband's licentiousness (Eben ha-'Ezer, 154, 1, gloss).
Indeed Paul deviates from Jewish law by advising the Christian to stay with the non-believer in verses 12-14.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A Discussion Forum on Instone-Brewer's Interpretations on Divorce in the Gospels

The Jerusalem Perspective has a discussion forum on divorce and remarriage. The later posts involve Instone-Brewer’s ideas on biblical divorce and remarriage.

The Safe Christian

The Safe Christian

I’ve blogged for a month now on biblical divorce, and remarriage. In doing the research for this I’ve been taken aback by a sizable minority of pastors and congregations that call for no remarriage until after death of a (former) spouse. Even for the innocent spouse. A Google search will yield many congregations that hold this view.

If remarriage is adultery and if it is an unforgivable sin it is perhaps the safest position to assure that one stays in God’s grace. As someone brought up in this manner this is an old Catholic position. It is also one held by many conservative Christian congregations.

We can assure ourselves to be sinless if we avoid all conditions that offer us that temptation. One can trace this line of thought to the ascetics that appeared in the 1st century, to medieval monastics, to radical Anabaptists shunning all forms of modern inventions, and to modern day sects and cults. We can all be sinless if we lived on mountain tops scraping by a bare minimum of an existence.

However, it this was Jesus intended? Perhaps if we seek perfection of our souls in the ascetic life how much of our glorification of God will be lost? Does the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) kick in here?

What are we burying in ourselves to stay safe and sinless?

How important is it to God that a divorced Christian, whether righteously or un-righteously but repentant stay unmarried? Does He truly intend that the divorced Christian remain unavailable as a companion to another Christian and to possibly help raise children and step-children in a two parent household?

This analysis can be applied to all sorts of restrictions on modern life that many Christians will place upon themselves. Many of these restrictions are very much valid, e.g. viewing pornography online. Some are questionable, e.g. prohibitions against drinking, smoking, and watching movies. Some will cause the Christian bury the talents given to him by his Master.

In this blog I sound a bit cynical but I think it’s important to think about when resorting to asceticism when seeking spirituality.