13 March 2010

Mar 13

Reference links:
Old Testament

We already learned that touching a dead body causes defilement for seven days. Apparently, that seven days was qualified. The seven days must be accompanied by purification on the third and seventh day. If the purification does not proceed in the required manner, the uncleanliness will not be removed and the unclean one shall be banished from the community. Although this logic applies to dead bodies, maybe similar reasoning can be used to reconcile the discrepancy I discussed earlier about what happens to those who have sex during a woman's period.

The water of purification, just so you know, is made by burning a perfect red heifer that has never been yoked, throwing some cedar, scarlet yarn, and hyssop into the fire, and then mixing the ashes of all that with water.

Miriam dies while the people are camping at Kadesh, and the people start complaining again. However, their complaint is pretty legitimate: they have no water. (And yes, this story should sound familiar). God tells Moses to talk to the rock, and it will pour out its water. Instead, Moses strikes the rock like he did last time and takes credit for it (maybe, that requires some reading into the text). This, not surprisingly, annoyed God.
But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” This place was known as the waters of Meribah (which means “arguing”) because there the people of Israel argued with the Lord, and there he demonstrated his holiness among them.
Notice how this place was called Meribah, just like in the similar version of this story in Exodus? Two events or two versions of one legend?

The kingdom of Edom refuses to let the Israelites pass through their land, forcing the Israelites to turn around. I would not let a group with 600,000 men of fighting age pass through my land on nothing but their good word either.

Finally, Aaron dies and Eleazar, his son, is made high priest.

New Testament

Today we start the Gospel of Luke. According to Wikipedia, the general consensus attributes authorship to Luke, a physician and companion of Paul. For once, this agrees with traditional beliefs. Based on textual claims and stylistic similarity, the author of Luke is believed to be the author of Acts. Acts suggests that that author is a companion of Paul. Although there is no firm evidence that that companion had to be Luke, Luke was a known companion of Paul, so it seems reasonable to accept the traditional attribution. Note that although the general consensus is only accepted by about half of scholars, there is no other strongly supported authorship claim.

Because it is believed to be based on the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Luke is often dated to between 80-90 AD. Obviously, accepting a later or earlier date for Mark would change that estimate. The latest date for the composition of Luke is in the mid-2nd century; at that point, we start to see surviving contemporary references to Luke. Some scholars believe that Luke may have been composed as early ad 37 AD.

Thematically, Wikipedia describes the Gospel of Luke as such:
The author, commonly understood to be writing from a Gentile perspective, is characteristically concerned with social ethics, the poor, women, and other oppressed groups. Certain popular stories on these themes, such as the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, are found only in this gospel. This gospel also has a special emphasis on prayer, the activity of the Holy Spirit, and joyfulness.
 Also of note is the following comment,
Luke, however, was a superior storyteller and sometimes rearranged events in Mark to improve the story. For example, Mark has Jesus recruit his first disciples before he has performed any miracles, and Luke moves the recruitment scene to a point after Jesus' first miracles.
Thus, we should not expect the chronology of the gospels to be consistent. (I will probably do a supplementary post on attempts to reconcile the timelines of the gospels later.)

On to today's reading! In today's reading we find a short  introduction which explains that Luke compiled this record from what he considered the most reliable sources.

This is followed by the birth story of John the Baptist, which is unique to this gospel. Zechariah, a priest, and his wife Elizabeth, also descended from Aaron, followed all of the Lord's regulations, but could not conceive a child. One day, while performing his duties, Zechariah is visited by the angel Gabriel. The angel tells Zechariah that his wife will conceive a son.
Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.
Zechariah expresses some doubt, so he loses his ability to speak until after the birth of the child. Shortly thereafter, Elizabeth conceives.

Psalms and Proverbs

Today's proverb is one that is laughably wrong.
The godly are rescued from trouble,
and it falls on the wicked instead.
In this worldly world, we often see that godliness no protection against trouble and wickedness is no guarantee of it.