25 January 2010

Jan 25

Reference links:

Old Testament

End of Genesis and start of Exodus today. Joseph has Jacob embalmed. A great procession is formed and he is taken back to Canaan and buried with his ancestors. One slight oddity, Joseph asks Pharaoh's advisers to ask Pharaoh to let him leave to bury his father. If Joseph is second only to Pharaoh, why does he go through intermediaries?

Joseph dies too at age 110. Finally, someone who lived less than 120 years. Joseph,
lived to see three generations of his son Ephraim, and he lived to see the birth of the children of Manasseh's son Makir, whom he claimed as his own.
Joseph adopted his son's children as his own just like Jacob adopted Joseph's children as his own. Very confusing family relations there. Before he died, Joseph made his family promise to take his bones back with them when they finally left Egypt.

Now for Exodus. First thing to note, from the Wikipedia article,
More than a century of archaeological research has discovered nothing which could support the narrative elements of the book of Exodus - the four centuries sojourn in Egypt, the escape of well over a million Israelites from the Delta, or the three months journey through the wilderness to Sinai. The Egyptian records themselves have no mention of anything recorded in Exodus, the wilderness of the southern Sinai peninsula shows no traces of a mass-migration such as Exodus describes, and virtually all the place-names mentioned, including Goshen (the area within Egypt where the Israelites supposedly lived), the store-cities of Pithom and Rameses, the site of the crossing of the Red Sea, and even Mt Sinai itself, have resisted identification. The archaeology of Palestine has equally failed to substantiate the Bible's account of the invasion of Canaan by the Israelites arriving from Egypt some forty years later - of the 31 cities supposedly conquered by Joshua, only one (Bethel) shows a destruction level that equates to the Biblical narrative, and there is general agreement that the origins of Israel lie within Canaan itself. Even those scholars who hold the Exodus to represent historical truth concede that the most the evidence can suggest is plausibility.
Exodus starts off with an inconsistency (either in translation or in the source). Remember how a couple days ago we learned that Jacob's family came to 70 people, including himself. Today we read,
In all, Jacob had seventy descendants in Egypt, including Joseph, who was already there. [emphasis mine]
A new king comes to power in Egypt. He fears the strength of the people of Israel and so makes them his slaves. However, slavery did not stem the growth of the population, so Pharaoh gave an order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah,
When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.
If the number of people of Israel has really grown enough to be a threat to the people of Egypt, would they really only have two midwives? In any case, the midwives did not comply, so eventually Pharaoh made a law that all newborn Hebrew boys should be thrown into the Nile river. This is another unlikely command. The Nile was the life blood of Egypt. Would a Pharaoh with any sense really command that this river be contaminated with dead bodies?

In any case, one of the babies born is Moses. His mother puts him in a basket in the river and Pharaoh's daughter finds him. The princess sends baby Moses to nurse with his own mother. He is taken back to the princess when he is older.

New Testament

Jesus asks his disciples who he is. Simon Peter says he is the Messiah. Because of this answer, Jesus blesses him and says that he will be the foundation of Jesus' church. In addition, Jesus tells Peter
Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.
This is a very odd verse. One way to interpret this would be to say that Peter is being blessed with the ability to say what is right and wrong with a way that is consistent with the decrees of heaven. However, the use of future tense almost makes it sound like Peter, through his decrees, will be changing heaven.

Jesus predicts his death and that he will be raised from the dead. Peter reprimands him for saying such things, and Jesus calls him Satan and accuses him of "seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God's." Now, this should probably be interpreted as commentary on human knowledge and God's plans and what not. However, what I find interesting is that just after Jesus praises and blesses Peter, Jesus calls Peter Satan. I think that instead of interpreting the previous passage as Jesus giving Peter authority from God, we should interpret it as Jesus being fond of hyperbole when talking to his followers.

We also read a verse that supports the view that Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet. Jesus says,
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.
Jesus has not yet come with angels to judge all people. Everyone who was alive at the time of that statement is dead. Jesus was wrong.

Today we also read about how Jesus was transformed into a much shinier version of himself and was chatting with Moses and Elijah. And then,
a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him."
We had a somewhat similar event in Matthew 3,
After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy."
Did this happen twice? Or was the author of Matthew just including multiple versions of the same event?

Psalms and Proverbs

Another psalm about war, more images of an angry God. Today's reading from Proverbs is much more interesting. We are warned that
the lips of an immoral woman are as sweet as honey,
and her mouth is smoother than oil.
But in the end she is as bitter as poison,
as dangerous as a double-edge sword.
So remember, avoid those immoral women.