16 July 2010

Jul 16

Reference links:
Old Testament

Dude! I mean really, come on! David was not allowed to build a temple, so he just gathered all of the materials for it and had the workers start preparing them. What's up with that? First, how is that not violating the spirit, if not the letter, of God's command that David not build the temple? Second, why have we not heard about this before? There was not even the smallest hint of this in the books of Samuel or Kings, not even when we read about Solomon's building of the temple.

It's also worth noting that we seem to have heard nothing about David's instructions to Solomon about building the temple in the books of Kings. It seems that the chronicler has two modes of writing: nearly word for word quoting from the Deuteronomic History and complete fabrication.

The rest of today's reading is concerned with the genealogy and duty of the Levites. Chronicles claims that 24,000 Levites were required to supervise the work at the Temple. That seems rather excessive, in my opinion. 24,000 is a huge number of people. Even if there was a lot of work at the temple and supervision was needed 24/7, 24,000 people is a lot!

New Testament

Paul quotes a number of Old Testament verses to "prove" that all people are sinners. According to the footnotes, he is citing from the psalms (14:1-3/53:1-3, 5:9/140:3, 10:7, and 36:1) and Isaiah (59:7-8). The links I have provided are to the quoted verses in context.

First, note that Paul strings these all together as if they are a single continuous quotation from the scriptures. Obviously, they are not. Second, note that note that, as usual, the Greek Scriptures that are quoted differ dramatically from the Hebrew that our translation comes from. Third, note that everything Paul quotes from is poetry, which is generally known for hyperbole and other non-literal use of language. Fourth, note that three of the four quoted psalms are quite obviously referring to only the wicked or David's enemies, not all of humanity. The forth is arguably only referring to us fools who do not believe in God. (I can't say on the Isaiah passage since we have not got there yet.)

Put all this together and Paul's appeal to scripture is not only unconvincing; it almost seems as if Paul either must have been dishonest or ignorant of the scripture he was using to prove his point.

Paul then goes on to say why the Mosaic law is valuable:
its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
Let me rephrase that for you. Paul is saying that the purpose of the Mosaic law was to be impossible to keep to show the sin of humanity.

Let's unpack that a little. God, according to the Torah, entered into a covenant with the people of Israel. This covenant said that if the people upheld the law that God gave them, then God would bless them. If they did not, he would punish them.

Now Paul was claiming that God knew from the beginning that the law was impossible to keep. Furthermore, God made it impossible to keep on purpose.

This is like saying to someone, "If you can find me Shakespeare's original manuscript to Twelfth Night within a year, then I will pay you $50 billion. Otherwise, I will kill you." right after you secretly burned the manuscript you are asking someone else to find. It's a dishonest deal.

And yet Paul is claiming that that is the deal God made with the Israelites. God dishonestly made an impossible covenant just to prove a point. In addition to this painting a rather distasteful picture of Paul's God, it makes a mockery of the message of the Tanakh, the same scriptures Paul was just quoting to prove his point.

Oh, and the only way to get right with God is faith in Jesus. Apparently, God demanding the death of his own son somehow shows his righteousness and fairness. I guess if you repeat that enough, you'll eventually come to believe it is true.

Psalms and Proverbs

I have not been mentioning the psalms lately since we are on our second time through, but a bit from today's psalm seems appropriate given Paul's attitudes towards God's promises:
The Lord’s promises are pure,
like silver refined in a furnace,
purified seven times over.