12 May 2010

May 12

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today's reading is rather confusing. It shows clearly that the 1 Samuel is made up of narratives from several sources. I noticed today that the Wikipedia article on Saul had a perspective on those interleavings that is a nice supplement to the article on the book.

Samuel gives his "goodbye" speech. Unlike Moses and Joshua's goodbye speeches, Samuel does not give his just before he dies. He only gives a little review of the past (hurrah!) and reminds the Israelites how terrible they were for wanting a king.

We also learn Saul's age and the length of his reign. The length of his reign is very significant:
Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty-two years.
We then read about Saul going to battle, but getting cursed because he did not wait for Samuel before asking for God's blessings; note that we have not heard about Samuel asking Saul to wait seven days for anything since he was anointed. However, that must have been a long time ago because in this story, Saul's son Jonathan was old enough to lead a battle. Given that Saul was only 30 when he became king, it seems that this episode must be years later.

Then again, the whole naught sacrifice bit is considered by some to be a redaction to explain why later traditions considered Saul to be a terrible king despite being God's chosen king: he did something to loose God's approval.

Actually, I find the "Classical Rabbinical Views" section of the Wikipedia article to be quite useful for understanding the confusing narrative flow in this book. It explains how the two hypothesized sources for Samuel, often called the republican and monarchical sources, have conflicting views of Saul and correspond to  two conflicting rabbinical traditions. The former tradition sees Saul as not worthy of the throne and guilty of sins against God. The other tradition sees him as basically good, almost too good, and that is what leads to his eventual downfall. Such conflicting opinions explain the frequent mood and narrative shifts in this book.

Christianity, as far as I can tell, generally seems to accept the "Saul sucked" interpretation. This is probably because Jesus is claimed to have descended from David, and interpretations that take blame away from Saul generally put more blame on David.

New Testament

Today Jesus lies. He tells his brothers that he is not going to the Festival of Shelters in Judea, and then he does go, emphasis mine:
Jesus replied, “Now is not the right time for me to go, but you can go anytime. The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil. You go on. I’m not going to this festival, because my time has not yet come.” 
After saying these things, Jesus remained in Galilee.But after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view.
Today's reading also contains an interesting perspective on the "Lord, Liar, Lunatic" false trilemma. For those who have not heard it, this bit of "reasoning" goes, "Jesus was either a liar, a madman, or who he said he was. He clearly was not a liar or a madman, therefore he must have been the Son of God."

This is a false trilemma because there is no reason to believe these are the only three options. For example, a more reasonable set of options is "Lord, Liar, Lunatic, Legend" (this expansion is a general favorite because it retains the alliteration =D ). However, today's reading makes it seem that the liar and lunatic options may not be as far fetched as people presenting the trilemma think they are. Obviously, the author of John thinks Jesus is the Son of God, but he writes about people who are claimed to have seen Jesus and thought he was a liar or a lunatic. In support of liar we read,

There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.”
In support of lunatic we read,
The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?”
Now, I personally lead toward the legend option, but today's reading shows us that lord is not the only feasible option out of lord, liar, and lunatic.

Psalms and Proverbs

Nothing of particular note.