Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Geography of salvation

The theology of Second Temple Judaism was based on the land, the law and the temple. Pauline theology destroyed the tripod. Luke reveals his awareness of Pauline theology with Stephen's sermon.

The first point is developed by Stephen by reminding his audience that God personally related to Abraham “while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran.” (Acts 7:2). God directed Abraham to “Depart from your land and from your kindred” (7:3). Thus, Abraham was a foreigner in the Promised Land. But Stephen reminds the audience that even after the birth of Isaac, Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own” for 400 years (7:6).

The mention of circumcision served two purposes: 1) the covenant was being practiced before any land was owned by Abraham; 2) Stephen upholds the covenant of circumcision and recognizes its validity outside the land. Many Jewish speaking Greeks denied the validity of circumcision. Thus Stephen challenged the Hellenists even while undermining the tripod.

Stephen then skips to Joseph who was sold into slavery “in Egypt” (7:9). Joseph and Jacob both died in Egypt but their bodies were brought back to Palestine. According to Stephen, it was in the city of Shechem that they were buried. This makes perfect sense because the Samaritans assert that they are the descendants of Joseph. This burial site venerated by Jews and Samaritans and considered to be sacred space is located in the territory of the Samaritans.

The next mention of sacred space is when Moses fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner (7:29) where he saw the burning bush. God said to him somewhere near Sinai not Zion, “Take off you sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground” (7:33). Stephen reminds his audience and us that the location for the wonders of the work is in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert (7:36).

The story of the golden calf is probably another mention of sacred space because Stephen connects the making of idol with construction of a temple. The idolatry in both instances being the belief that God resides in sacred space created by man. Luke has Stephen bring out Aaron's responsibility for making the idol with the story of the calf demonstrating that high priests from the beginning have been 'wicked tenants.' The Samaritans had also asserted that not only was the temple in the wrong place but the temple in Jerusalem was made with human hands.

Stephen in asserting that the great events that he had recited occurred in sacred space outside the Promised Land and that the events that occurred in the Promised Land did not necessarily occur in sacred space. Ironically, the sermon about the inclusion of foreigners used a Samaritan argument about sacred space and place and cost its preacher his life provided the inspiration and source for the theology that replaced the land, law and temple.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2007


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