21 March 2010

Mar 21

Reference links:
Old Testament

Recap episode! The tribes of Reuben and Gad provide the frame for the recap. They think that the land that the Israelites have already conquered, Jazer and Gilead, perfectly fit their needs. They ask a favor of Moses,
The Lord has conquered this whole area for the community of Israel, and it is ideally suited for all our livestock. If we have found favor with you, please let us have this land as our property instead of giving us land across the Jordan River.
Moses assumes that they want to get out of the rest of the fighting and starts ranting about God's anger. This morphs into part one of the recap. Moses accuses the tribes of Reuben and Gad of being like the spies who, forty years earlier, had discouraged the Israelites from entering the promised land and bringing the time of wandering down upon the Israelites.

The tribes of Reuben and Gad reply that they do not intend to discourage the rest of the Israelites. They just want to settle in Jazer and Gilead because it fits their needs well. They promise they will help fight and conquer the rest of the promised land. Furthermore, they promise that they will not ask for that land, as long as they get this. Moses agrees to this. Oh, and somehow the half tribe of Manasseh also gets the same deal.

We then get a recap of the Israelites travels since they left Egypt up through Aaron's death on Mount Hor. We start with a reminder of the atrocities in Egypt,
The people of Israel left defiantly, in full view of all the Egyptians. Meanwhile, the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn sons, whom the Lord had killed the night before. The Lord had defeated the gods of Egypt that night with great acts of judgment!
Interesting wording choice, "The Lord had defeated the gods of Egypt". In particular, the context does not imply that the Egyptian gods were fake nor does it imply with certainty that they were considered real. The ambiguity is what is interesting.

This is followed by a long list of presumably all the campsites of the Israelites. A straight average of how long the Israelites stayed at each campsite gives a bit over a year to each. Obviously, cross correlating this with the rest of the travel accounts would allow us to get a better estimate of how long the Israelites stayed in each location. I am sure someone has done that.

Also, the list of place names would make an excellent source of inspiration for character names in a video game or something. For example: Moseroth, Alush, Jotbathah, and Rissah.

New Testament

Jesus performs a bunch of miracles in Capernaum. He heals many people and casts out demons. We also read the story of how Jesus heals Simon's mother-in-law. This time, however, it is not clear that this Simon is the same Simon that becomes Peter the disciple of Jesus. For reference, here are the Matthew and Mark versions of the story. In both those versions, Simon whose mother-in-law is healed is clearly identified as someone who is already a follower of Jesus. In Luke's version, that is far from clear. In fact, it seems somewhat unlikely. In order, we read these three passages:
4:38-39: After leaving the synagogue that day, Jesus went to Simon’s home, where he found Simon’s mother-in-law very sick with a high fever. “Please heal her,” everyone begged. Standing at her bedside, he rebuked the fever, and it left her. And she got up at once and prepared a meal for them.
4:42-44: Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them. But he replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.” So he continued to travel around, preaching in synagogues throughout Judea.
5:8-10: [After Jesus miraculously makes Simon's nets full of fish.] When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.
Why do I think these passages cast suspicion on the identification of the first Simon with the second Simon? After Simon's mother-in-law is healed, Jesus travels around. This provides a narrative break between the story of the healing and the next story, where Jesus miraculously helps some fishermen. The narrative break implies that the second Simon need not necessarily be the same as the first. Additionally, we see in the second miracle story that Simon was so impressed by the fish miracle that he fell to his knees in amazement. It seems suspicious to me that Simon would be so impressed by the fish but not have had such a strong reaction when his mother-in-law was healed.

Of course, we already know that Luke is the most blatant historical fiction writer of the three, so what story tell purpose would this change serve? One possibility is that Luke wanted to get rid of the implication that Simon Peter abandoned his wife or, perhaps, the implication that he ever had a wife at all.

Even if I am wrong (quite possible), and they are the same Simon, the stories are still inconsistent. In Matthew and Mark, Simon is described as a follower of Jesus before his mother-in-law is healed. In Luke, the mother-in-law healing comes before Simon becomes a follower of Jesus.

Psalms and Proverbs

Nothing particularly noteworthy today.