14 July 2010

Jul 14

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today in Chronicles, we get to see what happens when history is written hundreds of years after the fact by people whose goal is to communicate a theological message, not what actually happened.
They sacrificed the regular burnt offerings to the Lord each morning and evening on the altar set aside for that purpose, obeying everything written in the Law of the Lord, as he had commanded Israel.
That sounds well and good until you remember the Law of the Lord referred to was, at best, nothing more than an oral tradition at this point. According to Wikipedia (and in agreement with Harris's Understanding the Bible):
Traditionally seen as recording the words of God given to Moses, modern scholarship dates the book to the late 7th century BC, a product of the religious reforms carried out under king Josiah, with later additions from the period after the fall of Judah to the Babylonian empire in 586 BC.
Next, we reread the story of David wanting to build a temple for the Ark, asking Nathan the prophet about it, and having Nathan first say yes and then say no to the request. We also read about God's covenant with David and his descendants.
Furthermore, I declare that the Lord will build a house for you—a dynasty of kings! For when you die and join your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, one of your sons, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for me. And I will secure his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my favor from him as I took it from the one who ruled before you. I will confirm him as king over my house and my kingdom for all time, and his throne will be secure forever.
Given that the books of Chronicles were written after the people of Judah were exiled to Babylon, this is a very interesting passage. By the time this book was written, the line of David had already ended forever, but the writers of the book still held hope that the Davidic throne would be reestablished. I.e., God's eternal promise failed to be eternal. (And before anyone chimes in, yes, yes, I know that Christians think Jesus fulfilled the promise.)

David prays a prayer of thanks to God and, in the process, makes an interesting comment on prayer. Remember that in the Old Testament world only special individuals, such as priests and prophets, were the only ones able to communicate with God. In that light, consider this comment from David,
O my God, I have been bold enough to pray to you because you have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him—a dynasty of kings!
Now, perhaps this comment is rhetorical, but even if it is, it shows that, in some sense, prayer was a bold move. How different this is from modern attitudes toward prayer which, coming from some people, treat it more like requests to a genie in a bottle.

Today's reading ends with a listing of military victories.

New Testament

Paul, oh Paul. This is going to be tough, isn't it? We just don't have compatible world views. You see the world in black and white. I see it in gloriously ambiguous color. You see disagreement as a sign of evil. I see it as a sometimes frustrating but inevitable effect of different view points. You see humans as inherently depraved and sinful. I see them as subject to cognitive biases, evolutionary pressures, and circumstance. You think that some other being is going to eventually dispense judgment. I realize that if we want justice, we are going to have to dispense it ourselves.

I guess we'll just have to put up with each other for awhile, but I think it's going to be an exercise in frustration.

Psalms and Proverbs
To acquire wisdom is to love oneself;
people who cherish understanding will prosper.