Thoughts on 1 Macabees and Zeal for the Law

While reading Maccabees earlier today, I came across 1 Macc 2.42:

τότε συνήχθησαν πρὸς αὐτοὺς συναγωγὴ Ασιδαίων, ἰσχυροὶ δυνάμει ἀπὸ Ισραηλ, πᾶς ὁ ἑκουσιαζόμενος τῷ νόμῳ.

At that time a company of Hasideans, mighty warriors of Israel, united with them. They offered their lives willingly for the Law (CEB)

Stattler-MachabeuszeWhat struck me was the last part, “They offered their lives willingly for the law.” If you have never read Maccabees, it is a great place to go to get a look at the political landscape that was Palestine in the centuries leading up to the birth of the Messiah. I got to thinking, how does the zeal for the Law here in 1 Macc differ with the same zeal found in the NT, particularly in the Pharisees? This verse in 1 Macc does not seem to imply that the Jews in this time were trying to earn any favor with God. Rather, they were concerned with the purity of their Law, so much so that they would willing offer their lives for it (ὁ ἑκουσιαζόμενος τῷ νόμῳ).

A little further we read:

 Now the days drew near for Mattathias to die, and he spoke to his sons: “Arrogance and contempt are present everywhere. It is a time of ruin and raging anger. 50 Now, my children, demonstrate zeal for the Law, and give your lives for our ancestors’ covenant. 51 “Remember the deeds of the ancestors, which they did in their day, and you will inherit great honor and everlasting remembrance.

52 Wasn’t Abraham found faithful when he was tested, and it was considered righteousness
53 Joseph kept the commandment in the time of his distress, and he became ruler of Egypt.
54 Our ancestor Phinehas received the covenant of everlasting priesthood because he was deeply zealous.
55 Joshua became a judge in Israel because he fulfilled the command.
56 Caleb received an inheritance in the land because he testified in the assembly.
57 David inherited the throne of the kingdom forever because he was merciful.
58 Elijah was taken up into heaven because he had great zeal for the Law.
59 Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael believed, and were rescued from the flame.
60 Daniel was delivered from the lions’ mouths because of his innocence.

61 “So you see that from generation to generation, no one who continues to trust God will lack strength. 62 Don’t fear the words of sinners, for their glory will turn into dung and worms. 63 Today they may be exalted, but tomorrow they can’t be found, because they will have returned to the dust and their plans will have vanished. 64 My children, show courage and grow strong in the Law, because this will bring you honor.

Again, there is nothing that overtly indicates a desire to earn God’s favor by doing the Law. Yes, there are sayings like “demonstrate zeal for the Law” (2.50); “Joseph kept the commandments…” (2.53); Joshua “fulfilled the commandment” (2.55); Elijah was taken up because of his “great zeal for the Law” (2.58). But these by themselves are not a clear indication of an attempt to earn God’s favor through obedience to the Law. In fact, 1 Macc 2.52 is very similar to what we have recored in Jam 2.20-23:

20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22  You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23  and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God (cf. Rom 4.3; Gen 15.6).

The situation in Palestine during the Maccabean revolt was one that called for an strict allegiance to the Law. At a time when Gentile rulers were trying to force the Jews of Palestine to assimilate to Gentile customs, a radical obedience to the Law was the one thing that separated obedient Jews from the rest of the people, which included both Gentiles as well as nominal Jews.

Thinking Out Loud: Eph 1.1 and the inclusion/exclusion of ἐν Ἐφέσῳ

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[Note: This is a mind dump of some thought I wrote down earlier this evening.]

The text of Eph 1.1 is all jumbled up! The NA28, UBS4, WH etc. all read:

τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν [ἐν Ἐφέσῳ] καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ

א2 A P and other add πασιν before the τοῖς ἁγίοιςp46 in all of it’s splendor, in my opinion, seems to make this less convoluted:

τοις αγιοις ουσιν και πιστοις εν χ̅ρ̅ω̅ ι̅η̅υ̅

While ἐν Ἐφέσῳ is absent in some early mss., it is strangely present in the Inscriptio (as can be seen in the official NLM graphic above). While titles were most likely added after the fact.

Either ἐν Ἐφέσῳ was not originally present, thus giving us the reading of p46, or Paul somehow got all tongue tied or something trying to add a destination. When you look at Col and Phil, Paul seems to have a much better grasp on the syntax:

Phil: πᾶσιν τοῖς ἁγίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Φιλίπποις
Col: τοῖς ἐν Κολοσσαῖς ἁγίοις καὶ πιστοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ

It is interesting to note the parallel passage in Col. There, Paul seems to make it clear that there are not two separate groups being addressed: saints and faithful ones. In Eph, this is not as clear. Also, the addition of πασιν in Eph seems to be a scribes way of trying to harmonize Eph and Col.

Also, an argument against the reading in p46 is that in Phil οὖσιν is specifically followed by a location; in Col, οὖσιν may be implied.

At any rate, I leave this open for your thoughts and further observations. There are more qualified text-critics among us, and it would be great to hear them weigh in and educate us on such matters like this.

The Beginning of the End: The Resurrection of Christ and the Eschaton

I wrote this post last Easter and repost it here again.

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For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body (Rom 8:19-23).

Today is the day we gather and celebrate the resurrection of the Son of God. He who went willingly to Calvary for the sin of His elect, “for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame”, this one rose from the grave, because God “would not allow his Holy One to see decay [οὐ δώσεις τὸν ὅσιόν σου ἰδεῖν διαφθοράν] (Acts 13:35; cf. 2:27). There is no greater hope for the follower of Christ than in the resurrection of his Lord.

While we often think of the resurrection as bringing a future hope—the hope of heaven, eternity with Christ, etc.—we must not forgot what the resurrection brought to our world. What do I mean by this? Well, we live in tension, the tension between the already and the not yet. On the one hand the kingdom of heaven is here now. Eternity resurrection life is ours presently as followers of Christ. When Christ came out of that tomb he brought with him enteral life and a foretaste of what this will look like at the end of time. For example, Paul states: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Cor 5:17). This is not wishful thinking, this is reality! Because of the resurrection of Christ, the new life—resurrection life—has invaded our world of sin, death, and decay. What we long for, what we yearn for—”the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23)—began at our regeneration. Paul makes this point when he proclaims:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:4-7).

All of this to say, the resurrection is more than heaven. It is more than the sweet by-and-by. It is the story of God redeeming his creation and making all things new! So, as we think about the resurrection of Christ, remember that you have been raised with Christ now! The same God who raised Jesus from the grave as also raised us from the grave, and one day we will see the completion of this amazing truth in all its glory and splendor. One day, the not yet become the now, and the already will long for will be here! So we cry out “μαράνα θά!”

Antichrist(s) in First John 2:18-19

antichrist18 Παιδία, ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστίν, καὶ καθὼς ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἀντίχριστος ἔρχεται, καὶ νῦν ἀντίχριστοι πολλοὶ γεγόνασιν, ὅθεν γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστίν. 19 ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξῆλθαν ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἦσαν ἐξ ἡμῶν· εἰ γὰρ ἐξ ἡμῶν ἦσαν, μεμενήκεισαν ἂν μεθʼ ἡμῶν· ἀλλʼ ἵνα φανερωθῶσιν ὅτι οὐκ εἰσὶν πάντες ἐξ ἡμῶν.
1 John 2:18-19

 

I have read these verses more times that I can remember. In particular, I have heard 2:19 used in connection with those who have fallen away from the faith in a number of sermons. But it seems that what John is saying of these who went out from us (ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξῆλθαν) is much stronger than what I initially thought or heard from the pulpit.

First, John gives warning that it is the last hour (ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστίν). He next reminds the readers that what they heard regarding the coming antichrist (καθὼς ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἀντίχριστος ἔρχεται) is now taking place in the appearing of many antichrists (καὶ νῦν ἀντίχριστοι πολλοὶ γεγόνασιν). It is the coming of these antichrists that gives John and the readers assurance that this is indeed the last hour (ὅθεν γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστίν).

Okay, that is all clear and obvious. It is how this relates to 2:19 that is quite revealing. In 2:19 John speaks of those who go and abandon their previously held position among the community. He says, “they went out from us (ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξῆλθαν), but they were not of us (ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἦσαν ἐξ ἡμῶν); for if they were of us, they would have remained with us (εἰ γὰρ ἐξ ἡμῶν ἦσαν, μεμενήκεισαν ἂν μεθʼ ἡμῶν); but so that it may be manifested that they all are not of us, they went out from us (ἀλλʼ ἵνα φανερωθῶσιν ὅτι οὐκ εἰσὶν πάντες ἐξ ἡμῶν).

Again, 2:19 is pretty straight forward it what it is saying. But what is not so straight forward is the identity of those who leave the community. While I am familiar with the explanation that these are not true believers, how about this: they are the antichrists mentioned in 2:18. These are not just unbelievers who have jettisoned their former confession and fellowship with the community of believers. These are antichrists! A few verse later John tells us that these antichrists are ones who deny that Jesus is the Christ. Their denial leads to their departure, which manifests them as antichrists, which is an indication that we are in the last days.

Now, I am not going to go around calling people who leave their confession of faith antichrists. I will still pray that God would grant them repentance and lead them to a true confession in Christ, one that will lead to eternal life. But John does not mence words when it comes to these people who forsake the community of believers.

Just my thoughts on these passages.

Thoughts on Scripture: Jesus in the book of Hebrews

Jesus

I have often thought that while the Gospels give us a historical picture of life of Jesus—his miracles, his teachings, his passion, etc.—the book of Hebrews gives us the theological why for all of these things. What do I mean by this? In my opinion, no other NT writing gives us such insight into the person of Christ like Hebrews does. In fact, the author strives to show how Jesus is superior to everything: superior than angels, Moses, Aaron and the whole Levitical system, Melchizedek, etc. Tucked away in Hebrews we find such passages as:

3 ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ, φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, καθαρισμὸν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ποιησάμενος ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς, 4 τοσούτῳ κρείττων γενόμενος τῶν ἀγγέλων ὅσῳ διαφορώτερον παρʼ αὐτοὺς κεκληρονόμηκεν ὄνομα. Τίνι γὰρ εἶπέν ποτε τῶν ἀγγέλων (Heb 1:3–4)

10 τὸν δὲ βραχύ τι παρʼ ἀγγέλους ἠλαττωμένον βλέπομεν Ἰησοῦν διὰ τὸ πάθημα τοῦ θανάτου δόξῃ καὶ τιμῇ ἐστεφανωμένον, ὅπως χάριτι θεοῦ ὑπὲρ παντὸς γεύσηται θανάτου. 10 Ἔπρεπεν γὰρ αὐτῷ, διʼ ὃν τὰ πάντα καὶ διʼ οὗ τὰ πάντα, πολλοὺς υἱοὺς εἰς δόξαν ἀγαγόντα τὸν ἀρχηγὸν τῆς σωτηρίας αὐτῶν διὰ παθημάτων τελειῶσαι. 11 ὅ τε γὰρ ἁγιάζων καὶ οἱ ἁγιαζόμενοι ἐξ ἑνὸς πάντες· διʼ ἣν αἰτίαν οὐκ ἐπαισχύνεται ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοὺς καλεῖν 12 λέγων·
ἀπαγγελῶ τὸ ὄνομά σου τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου,
ἐν μέσῳ ἐκκλησίας ὑμνήσω σε,
13 καὶ πάλιν·
ἐγὼ ἔσομαι πεποιθὼς ἐπʼ αὐτῷ,
καὶ πάλιν·
ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ καὶ τὰ παιδία ἅ μοι ἔδωκεν ὁ θεός.
14 Ἐπεὶ οὖν τὰ παιδία κεκοινώνηκεν αἵματος καὶ σαρκός, καὶ αὐτὸς παραπλησίως μετέσχεν τῶν αὐτῶν, ἵνα διὰ τοῦ θανάτου καταργήσῃ τὸν τὸ κράτος ἔχοντα τοῦ θανάτου, τοῦτʼ ἔστιν τὸν διάβολον, 15 καὶ ἀπαλλάξῃ τούτους, ὅσοι φόβῳ θανάτου διὰ παντὸς τοῦ ζῆν ἔνοχοι ἦσαν δουλείας. 16 οὐ γὰρ δήπου ἀγγέλων ἐπιλαμβάνεται ἀλλὰ σπέρματος Ἀβραὰμ ἐπιλαμβάνεται. 17 ὅθεν ὤφειλεν κατὰ πάντα τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ὁμοιωθῆναι, ἵνα ἐλεήμων γένηται καὶ πιστὸς ἀρχιερεὺς τὰ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν εἰς τὸ ἱλάσκεσθαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας τοῦ λαοῦ. 18 ἐν ᾧ γὰρ πέπονθεν αὐτὸς πειρασθείς, δύναται τοῖς πειραζομένοις βοηθῆσαι (2:10–18)

14 Ἔχοντες οὖν ἀρχιερέα μέγαν διεληλυθότα τοὺς οὐρανούς, Ἰησοῦν τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, κρατῶμεν τῆς ὁμολογίας. 15 οὐ γὰρ ἔχομεν ἀρχιερέα μὴ δυνάμενον συμπαθῆσαι ταῖς ἀσθενείαις ἡμῶν, πεπειρασμένον δὲ κατὰ πάντα καθʼ ὁμοιότητα χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας. 16 προσερχώμεθα οὖν μετὰ παρρησίας τῷ θρόνῳ τῆς χάριτος, ἵνα λάβωμεν ἔλεος καὶ χάριν εὕρωμεν εἰς εὔκαιρον βοήθειαν (4:14–16)

7 ὃς ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ δεήσεις τε καὶ ἱκετηρίας πρὸς τὸν δυνάμενον σῴζειν αὐτὸν ἐκ θανάτου μετὰ κραυγῆς ἰσχυρᾶς καὶ δακρύων προσενέγκας καὶ εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας, 8 καίπερ ὢν υἱός, ἔμαθεν ἀφʼ ὧν ἔπαθεν τὴν ὑπακοήν, 9 καὶ τελειωθεὶς ἐγένετο πᾶσιν τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ αἴτιος σωτηρίας αἰωνίου, 10 προσαγορευθεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀρχιερεὺς κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισέδεκ (Heb 5:7–10)

Τοιγαροῦν καὶ ἡμεῖς τοσοῦτον ἔχοντες περικείμενον ἡμῖν νέφος μαρτύρων, ὄγκον ἀποθέμενοι πάντα καὶ τὴν εὐπερίστατον ἁμαρτίαν, διʼ ὑπομονῆς τρέχωμεν τὸν προκείμενον ἡμῖν ἀγῶνα 2 ἀφορῶντες εἰς τὸν τῆς πίστεως ἀρχηγὸν καὶ τελειωτὴν Ἰησοῦν, ὃς ἀντὶ τῆς προκειμένης αὐτῷ χαρᾶς ὑπέμεινεν σταυρὸν αἰσχύνης καταφρονήσας ἐν δεξιᾷ τε τοῦ θρόνου τοῦ θεοῦ κεκάθικεν. 3 ἀναλογίσασθε γὰρ τὸν τοιαύτην ὑπομεμενηκότα ὑπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν εἰς ἑαυτὸν ἀντιλογίαν, ἵνα μὴ κάμητε ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν ἐκλυόμενοι (Heb 12:1–3)

12 Διὸ καὶ Ἰησοῦς, ἵνα ἁγιάσῃ διὰ τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος τὸν λαόν, ἔξω τῆς πύλης ἔπαθεν. 13 τοίνυν ἐξερχώμεθα πρὸς αὐτὸν ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς τὸν ὀνειδισμὸν αὐτοῦ φέροντες (Heb 13:12–13)

Whereas the Gospels illustrate the suffering of Jesus and his horrific death at the hands of the Romans, Hebrews gives us a insight into the reasons for this death in a way the Gospels do not. I cannot help but feel encouraged by these verses. It portrays the humanity of Christ in a way that the Gospels do not, and for me these verses have been an anchor during some of the most horrific trials and storms I have yet to face. It does this soul good to dwell on the humanity of Christ and his sufferings, and these verses remind me that Jesus knew and experienced suffering like every human being that has walked this earth. For me, it is easy to remember that Jesus was and is God; it is a lot harder for me to remember that Jesus was also a man acquainted with sorrows, experienced disappointment, and knew what heartache was. That brings me great comfort.

The Coming of the Gentiles and the Final Hour (Jn 12:23)

John 12:20-23

῏Ησαν δὲ Ἕλληνές τινες ἐκ τῶν ἀναβαινόντων ἵνα προσκυνήσωσιν ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ· οὗτοι οὖν προσῆλθον Φιλίππῳ τῷ ἀπὸ Βηθσαϊδὰ τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ ἠρώτων αὐτὸν λέγοντες· κύριε, θέλομεν τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἰδεῖν. ἔρχεται ὁ Φίλιππος καὶ λέγει τῷ Ἀνδρέᾳ, ἔρχεται Ἀνδρέας καὶ Φίλιππος καὶ λέγουσιν τῷ Ἰησοῦ. ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἀποκρίνεται αὐτοῖς λέγων· ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα ἵνα δοξασθῇ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.

 
I have always been fascinated with the above account in John’s Gospel. Greek God-fearers who were coming to Jerusalem were seeking to see Jesus (θέλομεν τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἰδεῖν). The request of the Greek worshippers prompts Jesus to declare ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα ἵνα δοξασθῇ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. Prior to this, the references to hour as the refer to Jesus in John’s Gospel speak of a future hour, i.e. Jesus’ death. (2:24; 4:21; 5:25, 28; 7:30; 8:20). After this the references change. For example: ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι ἦλθεν αὐτοῦ ἡ ὥρα…” (13:1); “ἰδοὺ ἔρχεται ὥρα καὶ ἐλήλυθεν…” (16:32); “πάτερ, ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα…” (17:1).

Why the sudden change? It is the coming of the Gentiles that ushers in the hour of Jesus death. As Carson notes, :the approach of the Greeks is for Jesus a kind of trigger, a signal that the climactic hour has dawned (PNTC, 437). From this point forward in John’s Gospel, the focus shifts to Jesus’ final few days, and he begins to prepare his disciples for life without him by their side. Some pretty amazing things going on here.

No Matter How Hard I Try…

I just cannot get away from the Letter to the Hebrews! It is rich in theology, intertextuality, exhortations to endure in the faith, warnings to shake ones complacency, and most important of all: Jesus! Hebrews is the most Jesus rich of all the writing of the New Testament!