30 October 2010

Oct 30

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today's reading starts by finishing the second poem from yesterday's reading. Before I mention the content, I want to say that it annoys me that the editors who chose the daily Bible divisions could not have kept the whole poem together; it would only have added three more verses to the previous reading. It's not as bad as that proverb which was divided in the middle of a sentence, but it smacks of a lack of intention when dividing up the books.

The poem from yesterday finishes with some rather disturbing imagery meant to convey the desperation of those in Jerusalem: mothers eating their own children, priests dying in the temple, the bodies of boys and girls killed by the sword lying in the street. This poem does not end on a note of hope. It seems to express the sorrow of one who feels completely betrayed by their protector.

The next poem, the middle one of the book, is much longer and much more hopeful. Like the first two poems, this poem expresses sorrow over the fallen fortunes of Judah. However, it is much more personal. The author talks mostly of his own hardship and sorrow rather than that of the people. The author's sorrow is tempered by hope that the Lord has not completely abandoned him. Because of the personal nature of the hardship described and the mix of sorrow and hope, the poem sounds a lot like many of the psalms attributed to David in his times of trouble.

New Testament

Yet another new book: Hebrews. Let's see what Harris has to say about it:
The work of an accomplished stylist who combines allegorical interpretation of the Hebrew Bible with elements of Greek philosophy, Hebrews argues that Jesus was both a kingly and priestly messiah. The final and complete revelation of God's purpose, Christ now serves in heaven as an eternal High Priest and mediator for humanity.
An old tradition that Paul wrote Hebrews, which was disputed even in the early church, is now generally discounted. ... most scholars now conclude that the work is anonymous.
... scholars are also unsure of its intended destination ... The date of composition is equally problematic, with estimates ranging from about 65 to 100 CE.
In short, we don't know when this was written, who it was written by, or who it was written to. However, from the content it can be inferred that
The Book of Hebrews was written by an anonymous Christian scholar who was equally well acquainted with Greek versions of the Hebrew Bible and with Greek philosophical concepts. ... the writer presents a dualistic view of the universe in which earthly events and human institutions are seen as reflections of invisible heavenly realities. Employing a popular form of Platonic thought, the writer assumes the existence of two parallel worlds: the eternal and perfect realm of the spirit above, and the inferior, constantly changing world below. 
In case you're not familiar with Platonic dualism, it's worth noting the dualism espoused by Plato was not simply that this world is imperfect and there is another perfect world. Rather, the idea is that everything in this world is an imperfect version of something in the eternal world of perfect forms. As Wikipedia puts it:
The objects that we see, according to Plato, are not real, but literally mimic the real Forms.
Thus, everything that is and happens in the here and now has, according to this view, a perfect counterpart in the realm of forms.

The bulk of today's reading quotes the Hebrew scriptures out of context to show that Jesus is better than the angels. It's really blatantly obvious in this instance of random use of scripture that the author is just combing the scriptures for statements that support his point and then assuming that they do, regardless of the original context.

Yes, I know this was a traditional way of working with the Hebrew scriptures, but I still find it annoying. If it is valid to use isolated quotations to build whatever case you want, then the Bible is as free of objective meaning as any other subjectivism.

Psalms and Proverbs

Proverbs against quarrels and gossip seem to be the current theme.