28 September 2010

Sep 28

Reference links:
Old Testament

We transition from Second Isaiah to third Isaiah today. I noticed a transition, but I actually put it nearly a chapter later than it appears I should have. It's also worth noting the the transition in author was not nearly as noticeable as the transition between Isaiah and Second Isaiah (although the transition in tone most certainly was); I don't know if I would have noticed it if I hadn't known it was coming.

What does Understanding The Bible have to say about Third Isaiah:
But it fell to another anonymous prophet, Third Isaiah, to cope with the grim realities that returning exiles actually encountered. Instead of a gloriously renewed homeland, repatriated Judeans found only a war-devastated "wilderness" and the holy city "a desolation". Assuming Second Isaiah's role as prophetic comforter, this postexilic prophet offered both reassurance of Yahweh's future plans for the covenant people and criticism for their failure to share limited resources with the poor.
Second Isaiah ends on a positive note. He tells of the restored glory of Jerusalem and of the profoundness of God.

Isaiah 56 changes tone a little, but there is a continuity in so far as both chapters 55 and 56 touch upon the relationship of the restored Israel to other nations. One thing that was interesting in the first part of chapter 56 is the introduction of the possibility for non-Israelites to be saved if they commit themselves to the Lord. It seems to me as if the Biblical authors are starting to realize that advocating true monotheism without advocating the possibility of salvation for all puts them into a situation where their God shows irrational favoritism. Instead, Second or Third Isaiah, whichever it is, seems to be leaning towards the solution that is often favored by people these days: God chose to give some people a special role, but he did not reserve his blessings for those people.

The place I noticed the transition was Isaiah 56:9:
Come, wild animals of the field!
Come, wild animals of the forest!
Come and devour my people!
All of a sudden we go from "Everything's great! everyone will be welcomed by the Lord if they commit themselves to him" to "Kill my people!". The rest of today's reading continues the negative tone: the leaders of the people are lazy drunkards and the people worship idols. In contrast to earlier views of history where the good prospered and the evil suffered, today's reading presents a view that is more extreme than anything we have yet seen when it comes to the suffering of good people:
Good people pass away;
the godly often die before their time.
But no one seems to care or wonder why.
No one seems to understand
that God is protecting them from the evil to come.
For those who follow godly paths
will rest in peace when they die.
Good people die, or at least did in the time of Third Isaiah, to be spared the suffering of upcoming evil.

New Testament

We finish Ephesians today. Children should honor their parents and fathers should treat their children well. After that, we get a couple interesting passages.

First is the infamous passage where the author of Ephesians tells slaves that they should submit to their masters and masters that they should treat their slaves well. What earns this passage scorn is the lack of condemnation for slavery.

This is problematic for the obvious reason (slavery is bad), but it is also problematic because for those who accept that slavery is bad, it opens up the doors to the idea that parts of the Bible, even in the New Testament, should be read as only applying to the culture they were penned in. If these instructions about slavery were only given because slavery was an inescapable fact of the author's culture, perhaps the same applies to other passages. Maybe it applies to the passage on marriage from yesterday. Maybe it applies to condemnations against homosexuality.

Now, for those people who already believe that the Bible is the product of the culture it was written in and adjust their understandings accordingly, this is not a problem. However, for those people who like to quote isolated verses or passages in support of particular beliefs or condemnations, opening those doors is problematic indeed.

After that, we have a passage about putting on the armor of God. Obviously, it's a metaphor, but it's a rather funny one.
Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
That said, I do know that some people take the idea against evil spirits and creatures of the unseen world literally, and it scares me.

Psalms and Proverbs

Nothing of particular note.