Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Source of Prayer Inspiration

The Gospel of Luke is often called the gospel of prayer, a theme Luke emphasized more so than the other gospel writers. Luke tells us that Jesus prayed before making any major decision and before any major event. In the past year, I have covered many aspects of Luke’s interest in prayer. But what inspired Luke to emphasized prayer?

Copyrighted 2006

Friday, August 25, 2006

Early Christian Artwork

Andrew Criddle, posting at Hypotyposeis, noted that the earliest Christian artwork was not the depiction of a suffering Christ on the cross but a Christ victorious on the cross. Criddle, writing at another site, wrote: “Early representations of the crucifixion are generally of the Christus Victor type with little indication of suffering and death and with Christ almost 'reigning from the cross'. Later the Christus Patiens type becomes prominent with the suffering and death of the crucified savior made more prominent. This later develops particularly in the Western tradition after 1000 CE into images emphasizing the pathos of the crucifixion and designed to encourage meditation on Christ's suffering.”

Is this artwork evidence that the victory motif was the earliest?

Copyrighted 2006

Monday, August 21, 2006

Is Marketing Salvation Cynical?

This past week I have been discussing a possible explanation of the rapid growth of Christianity in its early years. On August 19th, a book review by Frank Matera became available, I and others having been alerted to this and other reviews by Mark Goodacre. I mention this because for a brief moment I wondered if I was being cynical in suggesting that the early Christians marketed salvation.

The first sentence of the Matera’s review says: “The remarkable growth of early Christianity was due in no small measure to the salvation it promised . . . .” The promise of salvation is the brand marketing of Christianity. Matera then says: “What is surprising is how little attention New Testament scholarship has devoted to this topic.” Matera is referring to salvation and I to marketing.

Salvation in the New Testament: Perspectives on Soteriology, edited by Jan G. van der Watt, is a must read book to be borrowed from the library to avoid sticker shock.

Copyrighted 2006

Thursday, August 17, 2006

5 Ways of Marketing Salvation

Is there any correlation between the economy of salvation being marketed and the growth rate of the Christian communities at a particular time and place?

There are at least five different economies of salvation that were marketed in the first millennium. In the second millennium, we would include Pope Leo X's, also known as Giovanni de Medici, sale of indulgences and the Puritans’ scaring the hell out of people models.

The church that prays together stays together and all of its communing members go to heaven [Cyprian]. Cyprian believed that those who partake of the sacrament became part of the body of Christ.

All of God’s creatures, including the cynical attorney, will go to heaven [Gregory of Nyssa].

Only members in good standing of my church will go to heaven [Augustine].

Only God knows who will go to heaven.

Within these four models there are a number of Patristic variations that either explain the works of Christ such as the victory, atonement, revelation and eschatological judgment motifs or provide guidance to obtain salvation such as the exemplar motif.

Thus Jesus the exemplar can be considered a fifth way of marketing salvation. Jesus as exemplar points the way to virtue by his own exemplary way of life and by his teachings, which became commands to his followers.

These conclusions should be considered preliminary. I plan to read some books on historical theology and marketing and then create my marketing plan.

Copyrighted 2006

Marketing Hell

Carlton Pearson built a church that would be the envy of any clergyman. Six thousand people in attendance every Sunday and $60,000 in the weekly offering plate. Then one day Carlton Pearson had a revelation from God and from that day forward he no longer preached his “fire and brimstone awaiting everyone in hell” sermons. Instead, he preached his gospel of inclusion which said everyone had been saved and everyone was going to heaven. What happened? You would think that the pews would be overflowing and they be turning away people at the doors. Instead, the congregation dwindled to a few hundred and they could no longer make their mortgage payments.

The message of fire and brimstone with a visible depiction of the Hell that waits sinners filled the church because it is a message that in effect says we who belong are better and are going to be saved and that all those horrible people who are not in attendance in our church are going to Hell. Carlton Pearson is correct in saying that up until the time of Augustine, everyone was saved. Then Augustine said only those who believe and belong to the one true church are saved.

The idea that marketing the brand is important to filling the pews is tough one for me to understand. I do understand that if everyone has been saved without need to do or believe, then there is no need to attend church on Sunday.

This illustration is evidence that we need to understand how ideas influence people and their behavior to understand the rise of Christianity. It is not enough to use a sociological model to explain the rapid growth of Christianity. We also need to understand the message being marketed. In the early years, the followers of Jesus marketed the brand by preaching the victory motif. They may have even used artwork depicting a Christ victorious on the cross as part of their marketing.

Copyrighted 2006

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Marketing the brand

In the economy of salvation, marketing the brand is important. This is as true today as it was in the first century of Christianity. We know that the victory model of salvation was widely used successfully in early Christianity. This is probably because both Jews and Greeks knew a world dominated by hostile powers. The resurrection is the trophy of victory in this theme. It is an integral part of the defeat of death. Salvation by divine victory over the adversary is a Lucan theme with deep scriptural roots.

Soteriological themes are linked with Christological terms. This soteriological idea of victory would work best with the savior who is God in person, but the firm monotheism of the first followers of Jesus would find such a figure impossible to incorporate into the theme. The paradigm shift did not take place overnight. Initially the followers of Jesus presented the idea in a typically Jewish fashion. In discussing the “finger of God” it was noted that Luke engaged a pesher “This is that” argument before a Jewish audience. Such an audience would have regarded God as the true author of miracle (Acts 2:22), in a typical Jewish fashion. Luke, in the same fashion, stated that “God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

Marketing the victory motif is a theme to which I intend to return as I attempt to understand the significance of Luke having no theology of the cross.

Copyrighted 2006

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Victory Motif in Luke’s Writings

The testing in the wilderness was the first confrontation with Satan. Only Luke emphasized that it is simultaneously a confrontation between the Holy Spirit and Satan. Luke alone mentions that Jesus returned to Galilee “in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Luke also records a number of incidents involving the healing and the casting out of demons. In Luke 11:20, Jesus uses the phrase, “the finger of God.” Woods explains the Jewish meaning of “the finger of God” in these words: “Behind the Beelzebub periscope, (Lk. 11:14-26), remains the issue of whether Jesus is a ‘true or false prophet.’ The true test is found at Deut. 13:1-5. It is not an issue of ‘signs or wonders’ being performed, for Jesus’ exorcisms were not denied. The true test was a theological one. It related to the revelation of God at the Exodus. Against this background, Jesus’ reference to the ‘finger of God’ because it also answered the charge of Deut. 13:1-5 by stating that his exorcisms were performed by none other than the God of the Exodus. This established him as the true prophet like Moses (Acts 3:22), mighty in word and deed (Lk. 24:19; Acts 7:22). At this point Luke engages a pesher ‘This is that’ argument before a Jewish audience. Such an audience would have regarded God as the true author of miracle (Acts 2:22), in a typical Jewish fashion."

The remark of the Lucan Jesus that he saw Satan “fall like lightning from the sky” is another example of the victory motif wherein Satan is thrown down from his position of control. This appears to be an allusion to Isaiah 14:1-27 that tells the story of fall of the mighty king of Babylon and the defeat of Assyria that precedes the restoration of Israel. In his second book, Luke demonstrated that the disciples could defeat Simon Magnus, Bar Jesus and the Seven Sons of Sceva, all further examples of the victory motif.

In reading the Passion as recorded in the synoptic gospels, one can not help but notice that Satan has disappeared from Matthew and Mark. Luke tells us: “Then Satan entered into Judas” and then Judas met with the chief priests and agreed to betray Jesus. Satan is the chief instigator in Luke but has no role in Matthew and Mark. Satan is also mentioned in the Lucan scene where Peter’s denial is predicted. The last mention of Satan in Matthew and Mark is the Confession at Caesarea Philippi. Not only is Satan missing in the Lucan version, so is the name of the location of the place where Peter makes his confession.

What is the role of Satan in Luke and why is Satan more prominent in Luke than Matthew and Mark? Perhaps, Luke makes Satan more prominent so that the Demise of the Devil is more significant.

The Lucan Paul explained that it was his mission to persuade Gentiles to "to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." Although Paul acknowledged the power and presence of Satan in Romans 16:20, 1 Cor. 5:5, 7:5; 2 Cor. 11, 11:14 and 12:7, and Luke has an extensive and thematic treatment of Satan in his writings, Matthew and Mark in their rewriting of the Passion story, wrote Satan out of the script. Neyrey states: “The conflict between Satan and Jesus, the apostles and the Church is of major importance for Christians, for it stresses the cosmic significance and radical importance of Jesus’ work.” Jesus proclaimed the ruin of Satan in these words unique to Luke: “I saw Satan fall like lightening.”

No wonder, the victory motif was held in high esteem in the early church.

In 1930, the Swedish theologian, Gustaf Aulen wrote Christus Victor wherein he noted the importance of a Divine conflict in which Christ “fights against and triumphs over evil powers of the world, the tyrants under which mankind is in bondage and suffering, and in Him God reconciles the world to Himself.” Aulen states that this emphasis on the victory over all enemies, Christ and ours, in death and resurrection, which he calls the classic theory of atonement, dominated the thinking of most early Christian writers. Leon Morris, writing in 1965, indicated that Aulen recently asserted that “The paying of penalty, the offering of sacrifice, and the rest (ransom) are discarded. Victory is all that matters.”

This is a theme to which I intend to return as I attempt to understand why the significance of Luke having no theology of the cross.

Copyrighted 2006

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Rewriting Jeremiah

The word “covenant” was one word that had special importance for the followers of Jesus. Josephus recognized that in this single word a people defined its relationship with God. Josephus saw how the followers of Jesus used the words of Jeremiah to define and legitimate a new covenant relationship with God.

In Rewriting Sacred Scripture, it was noted that Josephus rewrote sacred scripture removing all mention of God’s covenant relationship with Israel. In rewriting Jeremiah, Josephus told the story of the fall of Jerusalem during the reign of Zedekiah and what happened to Zedekiah in captivity. Josephus told about the apparent disagreement between Jeremiah and Ezekiel as recorded in Jer. 32:4; 34:3 and Ezek. 12:13.

Jeremiah twice prophesied that Zedekiah would be captured and delivered to the king of Babylon who he would see eye to eye. Ezekiel prophesied that Zedekiah would be captured and delivered alive to Babylon yet he shall not see it. Josephus recorded that Zedekiah was captured and blinded and then delivered to Babylon.

You will note what Jeremiah said in 31:31 shortly before his two separate prophecies concerning Zedekiah: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, . . . .” Josephus intentionally omitted Jer. 31:31-34 in his rewriting of sacred scripture. By focusing upon the apparent contradiction between the prophecy of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Josephus sought to undermine the prophet who spoke of a new covenant and distract his readers from his blatant omission the covenants between God and Israel. Josephus also omitted all references to a messiah.

I also noted that Josephus believed in the veracity of Daniel 7-12. In fact, Josephus considered Daniel to be one of the greatest of the prophets. In his Wars of the Jews, which furnishes a full account of the struggle from his perspective on the Roman side, Josephus sees the miseries of the city as the fulfillment of an ancient oracle, which Josephus, in his later work, Antiquities of the Jews, named Daniel as the source of this oracle. However, Josephus in his rewriting of Daniel conveniently omitted chapter 7 and the “son of man” phrase while including Daniel 1-6 and 8-9. Although Josephus claimed to be aware of the prophecy of Ezekiel concerning Zedekiah, he conveniently omitted the reference to “son of man” which appears at the beginning of the prophecy. Not only did Josephus omit the “son of man” phrase appearing in Daniel 7 and Ezekiel 12, he also omitted the 104 other occurrences of this exact phrase, appearing throughout the Sacred History (OT), which he rewrote.

I again suggest that all of this rewriting was an attempt by Josephus to answer the "New Covenant" of the NT. If there is no old covenant, as evidenced by the rewritten sacred scriptures, there can be no new covenant. Bamberger suggested that the decline of Jewish nationality with the loss of the Temple in 70 led to a reorientation toward a religious rather than a political definition. Josephus participated in the reorientation by lending his support to Jewish proselytism by undermining the theological premises, of the new covenant and a messiah, relied upon by the followers of Jesus. Therefore, we can conclude that Josephus, who “speaks as a committed Jew,” rewrote sacred history in support of the cause of Jewish proselytism.

Copyrighted 2006

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Do the Math

In Six Days of Creation, the age of universe was estimated to be 15 billion years. Schroeder includes a chart in his book, the Science of God, setting forth the duration in time of each day of creation.

Day 1. . . . 24 hours. . . . 8 billion years

Day 2. . . . 24 hours. . . . 4 billion years

Day 3. . . . 24 hours. . . . 2 billion years

Day 4. . . . 24 hours. . . . 1 billion years

Day 5. . . . 24 hours. . . . one-half billion years

Day 6. . . . 24 hours. . . . one-quarter billion years

totaling for the first Six Days of Creation cosmic time equal to 15.75 billion years.

With the additional information provided by the chart and an elementary knowledge of the formulae of quantum physics you could do the math. I am sure you can appreciate the correlation between cosmic time and earth based time. You might even marvel “at how well the universe can be described mathematically” and might even agree with Sir James Jeans that “God is a mathematician.”

When Einstein said “Woe is me” he was expressing his profound regrets that his discoveries, encouragement and his initiative made possible Hiroshima. Yet on this anniversary, we ought to acknowledge that the insights of Einstein also made possible for us to understand the biblical account of the beginning of the universe as told during the first six days of creation in the Book of Genesis.

Copyrighted 2006

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Six Days of Creation

We amateurs, who are literal-minded, have a very difficult time understanding the meaning of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. We are asked to believe that “The six days of Genesis actually did contain the billions of years of the cosmos even while the days remained twenty four hour days.” Yet Psalm 90:4 tells us: “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” Many have written books attempting to explain the inexplicable. I am now reading a book that actually makes sense.

“Time as described in the Bible may not be the same as we know time today.” The Bible provides several clues in support of this statement made by Gerald Schroeder in the Science of God. In Genesis 2:4 we read: “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” Later in Genesis 5:1 we read: “This is the book of the generations of Adam.” Schroeder states that “In both verses, generations are juxtaposed to days of Genesis.”

As you might suspect Einstein provided the understanding of time that is not obvious to our literal-mindedness with his theory of relativity that states the rate at which time passes is not the same in all places. The time since Adam is earth based. The first six days can not be earth based time because the earth did not exist during the first two days recorded in Genesis.

To understand the concept of time in the first six days we need to recognize that there was a time when the universe was very small. In the 12th century, Nahmanides in his Commentary on the Torah discussed the first several verses of Genesis wherein he recognized this fact that “in the beginning” all of matter was a speck. Nahmanides translates the second verse: “And the earth was in a state of chaos but filled with the building blocks of matter.”

During a ten week period while in college, I studied how to calculate astronomical redshift observations. Years later, the standard textbook, Principles of Physical Cosmology, now includes this statement: “The standard interpretation of the redshift as an effect of expansion of the universe predicts that the same redshift factor applies to observed rates of occurrence of distant events.” I did not realize then nor did my professor discuss the possible significance that redshift calculations might have for our understanding of the Book of Genesis.

At the moment of creation, Schroeder states the universe was then approximately a million million times smaller and hotter than it is today. He further states the division of 15 billion years estimated age of the universe in earth years by a million million is six days! “The six days of Genesis actually did contain the billions of years of the cosmos even while the days remained twenty four hour days.”

Copyrighted 2006

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Two Strange Incidents

In the Greek text of Acts 1:26, Luke is perhaps saying that the election was not divinely sanctioned. He says of the election of Matthias that he was "voted down along with the eleven.” The base verb means to "vote down “i.e., defeat or, more,” to condemn". Since this translation seems inconsistent with the author’s attitude toward the Twelve, Stephen C. Carlson says we should inquire whether or not there are any other passages in Acts which implies the condemnation of the Twelve?

The second strange incident is demonstrated by the juxtaposition of two passages. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus advocates what has been called servant leadership. One who wants to be leader must first be willing to serve. “For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.” In Acts, we read that the Apostles “summoned the body of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.’” In the story of appointment of the deacons, the author has placed the Apostles in a bad light.

Thus the author in two separate appointment stories has criticized the Apostles. The criticism is rather subtle but perhaps the author was resentful that he was not been selected. Or is it possible that the author has used the person who was not selected as a source for these two stories? Is it possible that the source is the unknown disciple depicted in the pericope, “On the Road to Emmaus”?

Copyrighted 2006