08 December 2010

Dec 8

Reference links:
Old Testament

We finish Hosea today. Tomorrow, we'll start zooming through the rest of the minor prophets.

The bulk of today's reading rehashes the sin of Israel and the punishment that they will receive. If you ever need to show someone an example of an undeniably straightforward example of God's violent tendencies, moodiness, and hatred, I recommend Hosea. Hosea's God is quite adamant about making sure that the reader knows that it is God who is destroying his chosen people for their sins.  A choice example from today's reading is:
Like a bear whose cubs have been taken away,
I will tear out your heart.
I will devour you like a hungry lioness
and mangle you like a wild animal.
Shortly after the above verses, violent death is linked with difficult birth. Although this relatively positive image of birth is swiftly followed by further declarations of death and violence, it ties into the following stanzas on Israel's repentance and redemption. The book ends on that positive note.

New Testament

We have reached our last epistle, Jude. According to Understanding The Bible
Defending orthodoxy, Jude warns of impending judgment on false teachers.
The brevity is fitting for a book that's only 25 verses long. Further description gives these additional details:
Although the author identifies himself as Jude (Judas), "servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James" --- and presumably also a kinsman of Jesus --- the text implies that the time of the apostles is long past and that their predictions are now coming true. Scholars generally agree that Jude is a pseudonymous work composed about 125 CE, perhaps in Rome.
We also get this bit of description which makes me think I am not going to be particularly fond of this letter,
In literary style, Jude represents a kind of rhetoric known as invective -- an argument characterized by verbal abuse and insult. Rather than specify his opponents' doctrinal errors or logically refute their arguments, the author merely calls them names.
There's a way to convince people you are right: ignore their arguments and insult them! As should be obvious, invective has not lost its popularity. Jude also cites a number of Biblical sources along with scripture, leading to the implication that the author took them as authoritative.

The letter starts by warning the recipients against the ungodly people who have snuck into their churches. These people teach things the author believes to be false.

The author then goes on to "remind" people that Jesus rescued the Jews from Jesus. Thus, 5 verses in, the author of this epistle manages to show a tendency I find terribly annoying and more than a little bit insulting to Jewish believers: he equates God with Jesus in the context of the Old Testament. Such an approach ignores the original intention of the text as well as the rich history of the Jewish people. At least the author of Jude didn't say that the Jews who were saved were those who believed in Jesus (as was said in one sermon that I was unfortunate enough to attend).

We then hear, for the first time that I can remember, that God has chained up the angels who defied him in prisons of darkness. That is followed by the more familiar example of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The author then goes on to declare that those who are spreading heretical teachings live immoral lives. In the midst of this attack we see an odd story about Michael and the devil arguing about Moses' body. That's another thing that doesn't quite seem canon. In any case, as was promised by the introduction, the author of Jude skips engaging with the beliefs of the heretics and just attacks them as bad people. It reminds me of the attacks modern day Christians often make against their own unrealistic stereotype of atheists.

That rant takes up a good portion of this short epistle. It is followed by a reminder that these believers of ~1900 years ago were living in the last times. The believers must build each other up and show mercy to others. This is followed by a short prayer, and then we are done.

The best I can say about that letter is that at least it was short.

Psalms and Proverbs

Two proverbs praising the disciplining of children and yet another proverb pointing out the problematic nature of wicked leaders.