16 October 2010

Oct 16

Reference links:
Old Testament

The saga of the yoke continues with a duel of the prophets. Hananiah prophecies peace and restoration of Jerusalem. Jeremiah points out that prophets generally prophecy bad things, so a prophet of peace should be doubted until his prophecies come true. I rather disagree with this assessment in so far as it implies that prophets of doom do not bear that burden. I think all prophets need to offer better assurance than their word.

Continuing on... Hananiah decides to take Jeremiah's approach of using objects to emphasize his point. He takes Jeremiah's wooden yoke and breaks it to indicate that the yoke of Babylon will be broken. Jeremiah declares that the yoke has just been broken with a yoke of iron and Hananiah will die soon. Two months later, he does. That bit would almost be impressive if we had any assurance that the prediction and its fulfillment were historical. (Much more impressive than predicting continued oppression by the Babylonians. Someone was bound to be predicting that.)

Next Jeremiah raises more ire by writing letters to various folks. These letters declare that the exile will be long and the people should settle down in the lands they have been taken to. This letter ends with a warning against listening to two particular false prophets.

Jeremiah then receives more threats (it is unclear to me whether or not this passage is related to the letter described above; it doesn't really matter since Jeremiah seems to have never been particularly loved). Shemaiah falsely declares in the name of the Lord that Jeremiah should be put in the stocks. Jeremiah responds that Shemaiah lies.

New Testament

The pastoral letters. Even when I was taking a class on Paul's letters in college, it seemed obvious to me that the pastoral letters were not genuinely Pauline. Since the evidence against the three pastoral letters is the same, I will let today's summary stand for 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus.

From Understanding The Bible:
The Pauline authorship of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, however, has been under critical attack since the eighteenth century. Besides the fact that they do not appear in early lists of Paul's letters, the pastoral epistles (or pastorals) seem to reflect conditions that prevailed long after Paul's day. Their views of ecclesiastical offices, "bishops," "elders," and "deacons," mirror the more tightly organized church of the second century CE, in which such offices had for more specialized functions than in Paul's time.
Lacking Paul's characteristic ideas about faith and the Spirit, the pastorals are also un-Pauline in their flat style and different vocabulary (containing 306 words not found in Paul's undisputed letters). Scholars belief that a single Pauline disciple -- who possessed little of his mentor's fire or originality -- wrote all three, between about 100 and 140 CE.
Earlier, Harris writes:
Following the Hellenistic-Jewish practice of pseudonymity (writing in the name of an honored religious authority of the past, such as Moses or one of the apostles), some Christian authors composed letters in Paul's name, using their understanding of the Pauline heritage to address problems of their own day. Whereas Paul's genuine letters invariably deal with specific problems besetting individual congregations (and presume a relatively informal church structure), pseudonymous letters such as 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (the pastoral epistles) typically deal with such issues as maintaining the doctrinal purity of apostolic traditions and presume a much more structured church administration. 
On to today's content! After the greeting, 1 Timothy contains warnings against getting caught up in pointless discussions. This is good advice regardless of who wrote the letter. The particular topic of these pointless discussions was the law. Here the author of the pastorals takes a distinctly un-Pauline tone when discussing the law.
We know that the law is good when used correctly.
This is way too calm and friendly to be any discussion of Paul about the law. The author's discussion of his conversion also lacks Paul's characteristic passion and assertion of the validity of his authority.

Given the generality of some of the statements the author makes to the recipient, it seems to me that Paul and Timothy are each supposed to represent a everyman. Any believer could repeat the author's words about being the worst of sinners and feel grateful about being saved. Any believer could take to heart the author's words that the recipient cling to his faith and keep his conscience clear. (This, perhaps, may contribute to the tenacity with which believers cling to the traditional authorship attributions and the authority that implies.)

Psalms and Proverbs

These days, a better proverb than this might be one exhorting us to visit our neighbors more.
Don’t visit your neighbors too often,
or you will wear out your welcome.