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INSIGHTS: From the Weekly Reading Assignments
« on: January 10, 2019, 10:27:59 am »
Thought it might be cool to have a place here where we can share insights for the readings we're all assigned throughout the year. They can be of any variety. Personal application, thematic, historical, etc.

I want to start with something that has really stood out to me - the personal and distinct nature of the point of view and audiences of the writers of the Gospels, and their approach to Jesus.

Mark, the oldest version (and used as a source by Matthew and Luke) begins his gospel with a matter of fact declaration of Jesus' sonship, and explained it only in terms of "God Declared It." I've found it cool the parallel between that declaration and the Psalm, "You are my son, today I have begotten thee", which is understood to be part of the ceremony where Kings of Israel had their coronation and were anointed. For Mark, the explanation is good enough. "He's God's Son, because God said so." Whether that sonship first began there at the waters of baptism or not isn't important to him. For him, at that moment, he was God's Son, and that's all that mattered going forward.

Matthew, speaking to a clearly Jewish audience added his prologue explaining Jesus' origin. Matthew very clearly starts out with damage control.

Of course there were rumors about Mary. Divine Parentage was not part of the general Jewish story and tradition, at least not in the way the Mary story would require. (There was a popular expanded myth of that time about rebel angels having had children with women, but that was a Bad Thing, and was the explanation for evils and demons in the world). Matthew begins his gospel essentially saying, "No matter what you believe about Mary's claim, it doesn't ultimately matter."

First, he emphasizes that Jesus is a Son of David, and then he includes the genealogy of Jesus' known legal adoptive father, descended through David, including key women who had a hard life, accomplished important things and were seen as righteous heroes, even though they were not the typical ideal in terms of the role of sex in their stories.

Rahab was the prostitute who assisted the Israelite spies in taking Jericho.
Tamar uses guile to sleep with Judah, who was not doing his levirite duty and to give her an heir.
Ruth, a Moabite, knew she needed Boaz, and forthrightly took her opportunity.
Bathsheba was raped by King David

Matthew concludes that Jesus is the rightful son of David by Adoption (Joseph), and the Dream Vision declared to Joseph that Mary is righteous and should be honored along with heroines of scriptural history, and that it is all compatible with scripture, that the child that has been conceived will be holy and is of God / the Holy Spirit.

And the Isaiah scripture he specifically uses he uses in a way that is clever. While the quoted greek uses parthenos (virgin), the underlying hebrew was 'alma', 'young women', and the verse was generally understood contemporarily as referring to the (non miraculous) birth of King Hezekiah. Matthew knew both of these things. He was being clever, for a wide audience. They could accept either understanding, and it didn't matter. Either way, Mary gave birth to someone who could be understood as the True Heir of David, and she was to be seen with honor. Matthew does not specifically go out of his way to advocate for the Virgin Birth narrative. Which leads us to understand he was aware of it, and either was not sure of its accuracy himself, or simply understood that many in his audience would not be sure. He does not reject it, but leaves room for both. This is fascinating, and makes Matthew, the author, much more of a real person in my mind.

Luke, a Gentile convert speaking to gentiles, on the other hand, didn't have any qualms. He and his audience would have been VERY familiar with stories of demigods, of Gods giving birth to children through human mothers. Many of the greek heroes had this Claim to Fame. This part of the story, difficult for a Jewish audience, would have been just a footnote, generally met with an, "Of course, that makes sense." - it's not couched in double meanings or plausible deniability. He has a named angel Gabriel make a direct unequivocal statement, and even has Mary herself making the claim that she has not had prior sexual contact. Luke reaffirms his Davidic ancestry through his legal adoptive father, but also suggest that, biologically, he, through Mary, was descended from the Aaronic Priestly line (Mary was said to be a relative to Elizabeth, explicitly said to be of a Priestly line). From his Legal Father, Jesus would have had a right to Kingship. Through his mother, he has a Priestly Lineage, and through God, he was Divine and could speak for God. Each parent, according to Luke, would justify his roles. Prophet. Priest. King.

John bypasses ALL of that. He doesn't affirm him becoming the Son of God at his Baptism. He doesn't affirm him becoming the Son of God at his Conception. For John, he's the Son of God, because at his core he's the co-eternal Light who's been there from the beginning of Time!

I love all of this! I love seeing the early Church trying to grasp and struggle to understand who Jesus was, what He meant to them, and also finding out the best (and most important) ways to share this identity to the world. Jesus certainly didn't make his Origin Story part of his preaching ministry. He was always pointing to His Father, and making the point that he represented Him, and was there to reflect the Father back to them. He was there because God Sent Him. And he was sent to share the Gospel of God's Deliverance. And in the scheme of things, the circumstances of his birth were irrelevant to the acceptance of that message.

Whatever we may have learned more about Jesus through modern revelation, this insight into the earliest of Jesus' followers, and how they approached telling his story, resonates with me, and humbles me.

So I thought I'd share it. :)

What insights have you had?
« Last Edit: January 10, 2019, 01:22:25 pm by Taalcon »
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Re: INSIGHTS: From the Weekly Reading Assignments
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2019, 05:31:52 pm »
In Primary, after we sang the song "A Child's Prayer," I taught the children that our Heavenly Father always listens when we speak with Him, but that sometimes answers are not immediate. I smiled in scripture study this week when the "Come Follow Me" guide used Luke 1 as a reminder that God's blessings come in His own time. Someone in SLC did a good job with correlation across curriculum ;)

That Primary song is one of my favorites. Janice Kapp Perry's lyrics are simple and beautiful:

Heavenly Father, are you really there?
And do you hear and answer every child's prayer?
Some say that Heaven is far away,
But I feel it close around me as I pray.
Heavenly Father, I remember now
Something that Jesus told disciples long ago:
"Suffer the children to come to me."
Father, in prayer I'm coming now to thee.

We often sing the word "close" as an adjective /klos/. Sing it as a verb /kloz/ and the nuance changes from a sort of divine Q&A to one of companionship and comfort.

« Last Edit: January 11, 2019, 08:42:04 am by Roper »
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Re: INSIGHTS: From the Weekly Reading Assignments
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2019, 10:53:05 pm »
Taalcon, thank you for sharing your insights with us.  I shall have to re-read your post many times in order to gain a fuller understanding of these insights, but I'm thrilled to have this opportunity.
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Re: INSIGHTS: From the Weekly Reading Assignments
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2019, 09:57:10 am »
When John's birth is announced, it is said "he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias [Elijah] , to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

This made me think of the story of Elijah and Elisha, where Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah's spirit to be with him following Elijah's departure. This came upon him to make clear he was Elijah's legitimate successor. This, tied in with the quotation of Malachi, was used to let the early Christians understand John was Elijah's successor, and had appeared to usher in the Last Days appearance of the Lord.

Also, this message was delivered by Gabriel, who would make readers think of Gabriel's appearance in Daniel, talking about the coming of a Son Of Man figure to Wrap Things Up.

It's clear from the stories about John baptizing that he was teaching they were in the Last Days. As he taught and as it was then understood, he was immersing them with the sign of Water to protect them from the Lord's coming Immersion of the world in Fire, which would cleanse the earth.

And then keep in mind that at Jesus' baptism, folowing the declaration of his Divine Sonship (in ancient times, this was declared by the High Priest to the incoming King, as I mentioned above), Luke also points the Holy Ghost/Spirit Decended, as a dove on Jesus.

As Luke had previously identified John as Elijah's prophetic successor, heralded by an Angel, Luke now has God The Father identify Jesus as the King, followed by the Spirit decending on Jesus. This presents Jesus as taking up the prophetic mantle (Elijah's mantle) from John.

The story now follows Jesus' ministry.

This is also made explicit in the account of the Transfiguration, where Elijah makes an appearance (along with Moses) attending to Jesus. For those reading, it was hammered home a second time. Elijah has come. The Malachi Prophecy has been fulfilled in our day. The End is near.

In modern times, to re-instate our view of Our Time as being on the cusp of the End Times (a worldview the Church is to perpetually to live in, from the time of Jesus onward), the Malachi/Elijah prophecy was re-fulfilled in a more concrete way that would resonate with the far more materially (and literally) minded perspectives of Christ's followers in the 19th Century. Once again, just like the First Century Disciples, we can say, "Look, Elijah has come in our day, the prophecy has been fulfilled. This is showing us that The end is near. "

And as John the Baptist came as a forerunner to Jesus' anointing/ministry, the modern day visit of Elijah was to set in motion the spreading of this authority to all of the Children of Christ - for all of us to act as Forerunners to the Ultimate Reign of Jesus Christ. The modern day visit of Elijah was to make it so all of US would be like Elisha, or like John.

The role of Elijah, of John the Baptist,  of Forerunner has been passed to all of us.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2019, 10:14:17 am by Taalcon »
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