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Taalcon

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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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Roper

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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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Taalcon

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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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Taalcon

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Re: INSIGHTS: From the Weekly Reading Assignments
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2019, 11:39:39 am »
Some additional background, plus some thoughts that come from it:

Following the Persian rule, which was where the story of the Old Testament had ended, the Land of Israel was part of the land conquered by Alexander the Great, the Macedonian, and then divided into several kingdoms. Of most relevance are The Ptolemies and the Seleucids. Greek culture flooded Israel and the surrounding provinces.

A Seleucid Emperor, Antiochus Epiphanes declared the Israelites (among others) should worship him as God, and put a statue of himself, as Zeus, in the Temple.

Mattathias the Hasmonean, a Priest, fought back with his sons, including Judas “THE HAMMER” , or Judas Maccabee. The Hasmonean family succeeded, and the Temple was rededicated. This is the foundational story of Hanukkah.

In the aftermath of the this, members of the Hasmonean family were set up as the provincial rulers of Israel - taking the roles of both High Priest AND King.

While the common Jewish citizen seems to have been generally happy about the Hasmonean Dynasty, there began to develop different groups which formed who weren’t comfortable with the roles these Priest/Kings had taken.

Essenes - Their position was the Temple and Kingship was totally 100% corrupt. So they took their followers and went off into the Judean deserts and formed their own community, and developed their own literature. You know the Dead Sea Scrolls? It’s generally understood these communities were the sources of those collections of scripture and other writings. They Believed in an ultimate battle between the Children of Light (them) and the Children of Darkness (the rest of the world). A heavenly Son of Man would come to restore all and lead them into victory. While we see some of their ideas in the New Testament, we don’t see them as characters. Because they’re hiding in the desert.

Sadducees - A line of Priests believed to be descended from the family Zadok (Sadducees is really more like ‘Zadok-ucees’), who considered themselves the true rightful heirs of the Temple and Priesthood. They positioned themselves into places of leadership and higher status over the rest of the Priests, and took practical control over the Temple and the Priesthood. They were a Priestly Aristocracy. A wealthy Family Circle.

Pharisees - Saw themselves as the last line of defense for the study and practice of Torah - the Law, the scriptures. They did their best to exert influence over the Hasmonean Kings and the individual priests, as well as your common Israelite. Because they could not influence the Temple itself, and knew it might be inevitable they would lose the Temple again (as they had in exile), strict observance of Torah was seen to be a practical equivalent TO the Temple. If you did not strictly observe Torah according to their interpretive traditions, they kind of saw you as a traitor to God and Israel, and putting a wrench in God’s redemptive work.

Through all of this, the Caesars of Rome became the new Boss in Town. The Hasmonean Dynasty ended, and Herod, a non-Jew, was set up as provincial King (he married a Hasmonean, Mariamne, as perhaps a token link to the earlier dynasty). He, a non-Jew, established a massive Temple Complex Building Program. You can understand how this would have made MANY uncomfortable.

So with all of this in mind, try to put yourself in the place of the common Jewish citizen. In addition to being encompassed by Greek and Roman culture, they were also Surrounded by competing strains of their own faith and tradition explaining how the End of the Story would happen. What should they do? Abandon Jerusalem as a lost cause like the Essenes? Just trust the Priests and the Aristocracy to influence Rome? Be strict and exact in the Pharisees Torah observance?

Here's a relevant paraphrase of something familiar:

Quote
My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Pharisees were most decided against the Sadducees  and Essenes, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Essenes and Sadducees in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others.

In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be alright, which is it, and how shall I know it?

It’s in this period of uncertainty where Anna and Simeon have been regularly and faithfully visiting and helping inside the Temple complex, hoping for new Light and Knowledge.

It’s in this period of uncertainty that Zachariah, an aging Priest brings the shared broken heart of himself and his wife to the Altar of Incense as he performs once-in-a-lifetime Temple Ordinance Work on behalf of Israel.

It’s in this period of uncertainty where a young man is about to find out his intended wife is pregnant …  and it’s not his.

It’s in this period of uncertainty where a young girl is about to be asked to accept a Divine request to be the living Temple for God’s Son.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2019, 11:47:21 am by Taalcon »
 
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Re: INSIGHTS: From the Weekly Reading Assignments
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2019, 05:58:59 pm »
Taalcon, thank you so much for your scholarly approach to our study each week.  I'll also contribute, but mine will be for a different audience. I serve as the Primary music leader, so if anyone here has children at home, these might offer something. Otherwise, they're pretty basic.

Today, in Primary music, we reviewed a story from this past week's study: Jesus, as a boy, taught in the temple. When Mary told him, "Your father has been worried," Jesus replied that he was doing his father's business. We sang "The Things I Do" (pg.170) and learned that even if we're not directly teaching with words, we can do our Heavenly Father's business. We can teach the Gospel by the things we do.

Next week, we'll focus on the message from John 1: "We have found the Messiah!" We'll learn about how Christ is the Light of the World and how we can also be lights to others. Here are some of the songs we'll sing:

"I Am a Child of God" pg 2
"I Lived in Heaven" pgs 4-5
"Jesus Once Was a Little Child" pg 55
"Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" pg 60
"A Child's Prayer" pgs 12-13
"Come Follow Me" Hymn 116

If you have children at home, sing Primary songs with them in your family study time this week!
 
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Taalcon

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Re: INSIGHTS: From the Weekly Reading Assignments
« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2019, 08:35:24 pm »
Thanks for all that, Roper! I love your Primary angle.
 
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Taalcon

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Re: INSIGHTS: From the Weekly Reading Assignments
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2019, 03:35:43 pm »
Brief note for out beginning of John 1.
In John 1:5, the KJV has "5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." - this gives the idea the darkness could not understand, or make sense of the light.

However, a more accurate rendering of the sense of the verse would be, "The light shines in darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it". - Just like how do can't defeat light by putting it into a dark place, but you CAN defeat darkness by simply adding light.

An important translation nuance that adds a little clarity to John's already enigmatic poetic opening!
 
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Taalcon

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Re: INSIGHTS: From the Weekly Reading Assignments
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2019, 04:10:36 pm »
Also, I'm going to go with Roper, and give a Primary-age thought, which I came up with as I was trying to figure out how to explain the ideas in John 1 about 'The Word' (greek logos) to my kids.

I'm going to ask my kids, "Picture in your mind something you love, that you want to be able to share with someone. Is that picture in your mind?"

And then I'll ask... without doing anything, can you just make us think of the same thing, and understand what you want us to know?

Then I'll give them a tennis ball. "Now, I want you to explain the picture in your mind with words. And this ball is going to represent those words, your idea. And as you describe your idea to me, I want you to hand me the ball."

After playing with this for a while, I'd then ask the question:
"What are some ideas you think our Heavenly Father would want us to know?"

After getting ideas about God's love for us, and the things he wants for us, I'd explain, "In the beginning of John's book, he explains these ideas for us were with God from the very beginning, and everything he did he did to get those ideas across. And then he has made sure we understand what those ideas are, was by making His Son the messenger, that word, and causing him to be born as a human like the rest of us, and to be with us.

Jesus is the ball. And God gave Him to us, wrapped up in the stuff of this world, just like we were, so we could understand him, and to be able to make sense of it, and love him back. Jesus wasn't just the messenger - he was the message itself. God's Word.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2019, 08:11:07 pm by Taalcon »
 
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Re: INSIGHTS: From the Weekly Reading Assignments
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2019, 11:46:45 pm »
A bit off topic, but it goes with what you mentioned above, Taalcon:

Quote
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
  Quite appropriate for MLK Day, IMO. 
 
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Taalcon

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Re: INSIGHTS: From the Weekly Reading Assignments
« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2019, 09:20:33 am »
I love that! In fact, last night for FHE we watched a shot video about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. I loved one of the quotes, one of his last ones, that it ended on as well:

Quote
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live - a long life; longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

What are some hard and uncomfortable things WE can be willing to do to help make sure our children, our neighbor's children, the world's children, are more likely to get to live in a world that's a step closer to the Promised Land? And can we work in Hope, not despairing that we won't see all the results in our day, but believing that things will get better?

We can dispel a whole lot of darkness in our day. It won't be all of it, but it will leave the next generation with a lot less darkness to start out with.
 
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Re: INSIGHTS: From the Weekly Reading Assignments
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2019, 07:29:25 pm »
Quote
What are some hard and uncomfortable things WE can be willing to do to help make sure our children, our neighbor's children, the world's children, are more likely to get to live in a world that's a step closer to the Promised Land?

The amount of money spent on pornography would easily provide food, education, and medical care for the poorest of our world's children.  I'm happy to see that medical research is showing the negative changes which happen in a person's brain due to porn addiction. I'm happy to see more data from the mental health and counseling fields showing how porn destroys families and relationships. I'm happy to see increased political pressure to reduce the amount of trafficking and and sexual assault rooted in pornography. I'm hoping that we will begin to regulate pornography like we do tobacco--medical warnings and all. Although, with the way Netlix's original programming is heading, I'm still skeptical...

I remember hearing a speaker in General conference about a decade ago say, "In today's world, we can no longer expect our children to remain innocent. However, we can teach them to be valiant."
 
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Re: INSIGHTS: From the Weekly Reading Assignments
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2019, 08:23:45 am »
"I remember hearing a speaker in General conference about a decade ago say, "In today's world, we can no longer expect our children to remain innocent. However, we can teach them to be valiant."

Wow. That really struck me. We had our New Beginnings last night for Young Women. Our theme was "Ignite Your Light." This quote reminded me how important that our youth (actually, all of us) need to constantly work on our testimonies (ignite our lights) so that we can be valiant.
 
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Re: INSIGHTS: From the Weekly Reading Assignments
« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2019, 08:32:12 am »
I'm loving this thread. I'm finding myself "liking" or "saying thanks" for everything I read here. Thank you all.
 
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Taalcon

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Re: INSIGHTS: From the Weekly Reading Assignments
« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2019, 11:00:05 am »
In line with discussions on John's 'The Word' - when we refer to the 'Word of God', we should be thinking of message intended to be conveyed, and not just the vehicles. The letters W O R and D are all in W-O-R-D, but unless put together and used in a context, you don't get the idea of WORD. They're just letters not making up a meaningful symbol. The individual words, stories, and events in scripture are just individual letters trying to get the message across.

And if you use W O R D to get an idea across to someone who only understands Spanish, you won't get the same idea across. You'd need to use the letters V-E-R-B-O, or perhaps P-A-L-A-B-R-A.

The letters aren't the message. The help bring the message, but they aren't the message.

Jesus was unique because he was the messenger AND and message. But scriptures aren't the message themselves. They are words talking about the Word.

If the Iron Rod represents the Word of God - it's not asking us to hold onto the scriptures, or specific words or examples that individuals may say, it's asking us to hold onto Christ, and the will of God.

There's a commonly misquoted or misunderstood scripture. When Jesus is talking to some critics, "Search the scriptures. In them ye THINK ye have eternal life. And they are that which testify of me."

I've seen even Church manuals use an ellipses to make it read, "Search the scriptures. In them ... ye have eternal life." - as a prooftext to show scripture study leads to Eternal life! And that is absolutely NOT what Jesus was saying!

The scriptures are only useful as much as they are tools to direct you to Him. If they are not properly conveying The Word, they are not helpful in and of themselves.

In Jesus Christ, and what he represents, is Life. Everything else should just be a vehicle to getting you there. Connecting you to the Source of Living Waters.

The Word of God is more than just the sum of the words that have been written about God. Sometimes we put a little too much focus on parsing the specific way the letter' 'W' is drawn that we miss out on the full message, the full WORD.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2019, 11:11:10 am by Taalcon »
 
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