30 July 2010

Jul 30

Reference links:
Old Testament

Mostly dull history.

Uzziah: Somewhat pleasing to God. Reigned 52 years. Seems to have been effective at building and improving defenses. Eventually tries to take on the role of the high priest which causes God to afflict him with leprosy.

Jotham: Pretty pleasing to God. Ruled 16 years. Conquered some people and extracted tribute out of them. Nothing else of note.

Ahaz: Evil, evil, evil. Ruled 16 years.  Followed foreign practices and sacrificed his own children. Turned to other Gods. Defeated in battle by Aram and then Israel. Shut up the temple.

New Testament

Paul makes a statement about obeying authorities and paying taxes. Of course, most people probably read this and try to figure out how it applies to their own attitude toward the government.

However, I am more interested in Paul in his historical context. It seems, from this passage and from what we read in Acts (such as Paul's appeals to the government authorities), that Paul and the early church very much did not want to be seen as troublesome by the Romans. Now, that doesn't mean they weren't seen as troublesome, but avoiding that impression seems to have been important.

That is consistent with what we read today. Paul's words implies that authorities and governments, even pagan governments such as that of the Romans, are legitimate and should be listened to. He even paints them as God's servants, despite not being part of the church community. Obviously, Paul wanted his communities to avoid trouble, at least when the trouble was not necessary.

As for the meaning of this passage with respect to modern life, I think it's pretty obvious that at least the simple reading of this must be wrong:
For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.
And I'm guessing Paul knew it too, and was really just trying to warn the church in Rome to not hunt down trouble.

Today's reading also hearkens back to some sayings of Jesus from the gospels. First, the above reminds one of the idea of giving to Caesar what is Caesar's. The next part discusses the idea that loving one's neighbor as oneself is fundamental to fulfilling God's law. The last part discusses the imminent coming of the time of salvation.

This is interesting because sayings of Jesus which also appear in Paul's letter lend strong support to the idea that these ideas were associated with the historical Jesus rather than developed by later communities. Because Paul's letters came before the gospels and because the gospel writers do not seem to use Paul's letters as a source, this double tradition vouches for these concepts.

Psalms and Proverbs

Nothing of particular note.