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Posts from the ‘Old Testament’ Category

23
Jun

A cultural adventure: Maggi Dawn’s The Writing on the Wall

In early 2009, the then poet laureate, Andrew Motion gave an interview in the Guardian in which he lamented the pervasive ignorance about the Bible. He made it quite clear that he is not a believer; he is merely concerned about biblical illiteracy for cultural reasons. For such ignorance effectively closes the shutters on swathes of English literature, not to mention generations of western creativity. Consequently he calls on schools to teach the Bible with far greater rigour. That this is needed is not in doubt (as CODEC’s recent research in Durham demonstrates). Maggi Dawn’s new book, The Writing on the Wall, is one positive and timely response to this need, coming as it does in time for next year’s 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

Maggi is both an accomplished professional musician and theologian – and she’s now a Cambridge college chaplain. As a result, she is eminently qualified to write a book designed to introduce people to the biblical moorings and roots of western culture. As she says in the preface, it comes as the result of undergraduates knocking on her door to ask about various biblical allusions. Her aim is thus to offer an all-too-brief introduction to the bible’s impact. This is clearly ambitious! After all, how on earth do you justice in 240 pages (with nicely spaced text) to a complex and ancient anthology (with 1500 double-columned and densely spaced pages)? And that’s before you even begin to think about 2000 years of cultural influences and trends. But she makes a really good stab at it – readable, informative, and, occasionally very illuminating. She covers the ground succinctly, from Genesis to Revelation, focusing a few pages on each major development or biblical genre. Inevitably, it is uneven in its treatment and the decisions on what to focus on will have been relatively subjective.

Pearls before swine?!

But it is important to recognise that this is no one-volume commentary, nor a comprehensive history of interpretation. Nor is it a history of western art and culture. Instead, it is in the business of making connections and touching on allusions, in everything from medieval frescoes to Led Zeppelin, via Jonathan Swift and Wilfred Owen, Rembrandt and Banksy, Handel’s Messiah & Daniel Lanois, and The Shawshank Redemption and CS Lewis’ Narnia. If anything, it felt as if there was more high art than popular culture, not that this mattered particularly. It would be interesting to know, however, whether or not that was as much a reflection of Maggi’s interests as of a declining influence of the Bible.

Because it is aimed at biblical novice, it is excellent that the various scriptural passages are quoted in full, and sometimes at length. People do then actually read the texts themselves. And because the precise phrasing of early English versions (such as Tyndale’s, Coverdale’s or the King James) is what Shakespeare (for example) alludes to, she helpfully places them side by side relevant passages. So as a provocation for getting people to read the BIble for themselves, this book is a useful resource.

There were many pearls, too:

  • I’d no idea, for instance, about the suffragette origins of Hubert Parry’s setting of Blake’s Jerusalem (and remember singing it lustily, but obliviously, in the last chapel of every term at my straight-laced all-boys school!) (p238). The irony is rather delicious!
  • It was also very moving to read of John Coltrane’s appropriation of Nunc Dimittis (p163) and heart-breaking to reflect on the misappropriation of Mary Magdalene’s name in the so-called Magdalene laundries (p191).
  • It was good to find a fellow-enthusiast of van Gogh’s colours (p183) which I’ve raved about before,
  • and to discover the patristic origins of the common misconception of there being 3 kings visiting the infant Christ (rather than an unspecified number of astrologers) (p159).

So for all these and many other reasons, this is a very enjoyable book indeed.

Blurred distinctions?

Any quibbles, I suspect, derive from Maggi’s sheer ambition with the book. I felt that there were moments when the lines between literary context, textual interpretation, and subsequent artists’ creative licence got blurred. For instance, in a fascinating, extended section on Handel’s Messiah, one could be forgiven for concluding that the notion of Jesus’ royal identity was contrived by the librettist Charles Jennens to suit his controversial non-juror political views (p138). Of course, I’m sure that’s not what is intended – messianic expectation is consistent in the OT and Jesus’ Davidic credentials is a pervasive NT motif. Monarchy is not just Jennens’ preoccupation (intriguing though it was to learn about his views) but the Bible’s too. And one might expect an entire work called Messiah to have such a royal preoccupation!

Secondly, because the book is aimed at the uninitiated, I felt that there was a bit of an opportunity missed to offer a theological framework for the actual nature of the Bible. I know space, readability and trade descriptions are all issues here. But what is it that holds the controversial and difficult elements together with the more beloved and comforting aspects? Is there an overarching, binding narrative? And how does that affect the way the Bible itself treats previous texts? Furthermore, there is a tendency to accepting a more historically sceptical view, especially of the OT (although there were exceptions such as the sections on the Genesis flood (p39) and the fall of Jericho (p75)). Compounded with the sometimes anthropocentric handling of stories (I was mildly surprised to see the story of David & Bathsheba without mentioning God or the courageous intervention of Nathan (p96)), one could be forgiven for concluding that the Bible is merely a collection of stories and responses to the human search for the divine. For there is enough within the texts themselves that has caused believers for millennia to see that there is more to these writings than that. Such an approach is perhaps the reason for some of the hardest aspects of the Bible being avoided – the section on eschatology  at the end was notable for not having any bible texts quoted but dismissed as a result of the so-called “kinder theology” of F D Maurice (p233). This was a shame because the handling of the similarly tough Egyptian Plagues earlier was sensitive to their appropriation by victims of injustice like the African-American slaves (p70). Working as I do now with many who were, or are, victims of religious persecution, I’m not sure they would be as quick to define the dismissal of future justice as ‘kinder’.

A guide for further discoveries

Having said all this, though, these do not undermine the value of the book – especially because it is arguable that they go beyond its inevitably limited scope. I enjoyed and learned a great deal from The Writing on the Wall. I found myself regularly underlining and making notes of things to follow up. I guess for those who are familiar with the Bible, this will be a useful guide to extra-biblical paths not yet travelled. And for those familiar with western culture, vice versa! It was a huge shame (and perhaps frustration to Maggi herself) that it wasn’t lavishly illustrated (I guess copyright nightmares made that prohibitive) – and I didn’t always have the patience to look up things she discussed. But I have started working through a few of the pieces that I didn’t previously know. (For those interested in going even further, below are one or two other more specific sources that some might want to use). As a readable introduction, this is a really helpful addition to any bookshelf (and even more so when it comes out in paperback!). It takes us on a thrilling cultural adventure.

2
Jun

The Tabernacle… in rural Norfolk!

Staying with the folks in Norfolk again for half term. In a nearby village, a friend of theirs (Lorie Lain-Rogers – see below) is part of a group (Call2Prayer) that has set up a 1:1 scale reconstruction of the OT Tabernacle. I don’t know much about this group, but recreating the Tabernacle is a fascinating idea. It travels the country apparently – so I suppose you can book it if you want to.

They’ve tried to do everything as authentically and faithfully as possible (from the clear and explicit instructions in the Pentateuch) – though I’m not 100% clear about whether or not the original had provisions for parking

Most striking to me was its size – despite not being in a desert but enjoying glorious Norfolk sunshine in a fabulous garden, one could well imagine the tribal elders gathering in the space within the linen walls. Anyway, here are a few pics – click to get to the rest…

28
Apr

The agony of the constant present and the power of music

I’ve enjoyed Oliver Sacks’ books before (especially his best, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat) and have got much out of Musicophilia. I wouldn’t say it was as good as some of the reviews made out – rather too bitty and uneven – but it is rescued by occasional flashes of his characteristic compassion and the ability to make fascinating connections.

I was profoundly affected, however, by his chapter on Music and Amnesia. His focus was almost entirely on English musician Clive Wearing, who found himself, as the result of a brain infection, with a completely destroyed memory. Consequently, he had a memory span of only a few seconds. He was the subject of a BBC documentary by Jonathan Miller, Prisoner of Consciousness, and his wife Deborah wrote a book about their life together. She describes the affliction:

His ability to perceive what he saw and heard was unimpaired. But he did not seem to be able to retain any impression of anything for more than a blink. Indeed, if he did blink, his eyelids parted to reveal a new scene. The view before the blink was utterly forgotten. Each blink, each glance away and back, brought him an entirely new view. I tried to imagine how it was for him… Something akin to a film with bad continuity, the glass half empty, then full, the cigarette suddenly longer, the actor’s hair now tousled, now smooth. But this was real life, a room changing in ways that were physically impossible.

… It was as if every waking moment was the first waking moment. Clive was under the constant impression that he had just emerged from unconsciousness because he had no evidence in his own mind of ever being awake before… “I haven’t heard anything, seen anything, touched anything, smelled anything,” he would say. “It’s like being dead.” (pp 202-203)

As Sacks adds:

In addition to this inability to preserve new memories, Clive had a devastating retrograde amnesia, a deletion of virtually his entire past.

This can be seen in the devastating, eerie journal he kept (some of which is quoted on the Wiki entry on him). The reason that Sacks spends so much time reflecting on Clive’s tragic predicament is that the two things that made his life liveable were his wife and music. Somehow, he had a deep awareness (almost but not quite like a memory) of her and his dependence on her. He needed her. But music helped him too. He had been a conductor and expert on several composers, especially Lassus. And in fact when he performs or conducts, all his abilities and creative expression prove to be intact – and the music’s momentum will sustain him longer than his memory – for as longs as the piece lasts.

The momentum of the music carried Clive from bar to bar. Within the structure of the piece, he was held, as if the staves were tramlines and there was only one way to go. He knew exactly where he was becuause in every phase there is context implied, by rhythm, key, melody. It was marvellous to be free. When the music stopped Clive fell through to the lost place. But for those moments he was playing he seemed normal. (p 225)

Memory fascinates me. But the thought of not having it is truly haunting, unbearable even. Yet it strikes me that, as a culture, we have lost our memories. The causes are many and complex – shifts in hermeneutics and epistemology have had profound, debilitating effects as we no longer have any confidence that truth is knowable. As I’m fond of quoting in talks, Donald Drew of L’Abri once put it like this:

People today are dazzled by the last 24 hours, confused by the last 24 years, bemused by the last 24 centuries.

It strikes me, though, that we need to regroup. We need to regroup around the old music of the grandest story of them all. For we are all part of the greatest story – and this can give the momentum that an amnesiac desperately needs. It is no accident that as Moses speaks to Israel’s second generation on the verge of Canaan, in what would be his last will and testament (the Book of Deuteronomy), the little word Remember is repeated 16 times. Remember what came before you in the story – so that you can play your own part in the story.

If we don’t remember, we are condemned to be confused every time we blink.

7
Feb

In Memoriam Prof. Donald Wiseman (1918-2010)

Donald Wiseman died last week – and with his passing, a giant of archaeological and biblical scholarship has gone. But what a legacy! I only met him a handful of times when I was a very green curate in Sheffield (one of his daughters was a member of the congregation). I’ll never forget the first occasion…

I think I’d been recklessly pontificating in a sermon with blind authority on one of the paragraphs of Romans 1, explaining how Paul had been shaped by an Old Testament worldview and in particular the early chapters of Genesis, and how this could be seen in Romans. On the whole, it’s easy to pull the wool over people’s eyes when you do it with confidence (and such confidence comes easily to ministers in their twenties) – but I could only make such claims as a result of second, fourth and tenth hand research and learning. What did I know about such things… really? We all stand on the shoulders of giants – but few acknowledge it…

Then after the service, I was introduced to Professor Wiseman – OT scholar, archaeologist, and faithful gospel teacher. Most will have encountered him through his work as OT editor for the wonderfully accessible, useful but still scholarly Tyndale Commentaries or the various editions of IVP’s New Bible Dictionary. My mind raced at light speed through my talk – and then realised that I’d actually said some things based on his own writing (which is perhaps inevitable when one speaks on the OT). But as it was from quotes of quotes etc, I’d obviously not attributed it. However, he was graciousness personified, of course, and couldn’t have been friendlier or more encouraging.

Now, I realise that you can’t attribute all the time in talks because very often that will obscure the message – but my problem was that it had not even crossed my mind that I should where possible. I learned valuable lessons that morning – despite the fact that I still forget them.

Always attribute where you can and never claim as your own what others have discovered; never claim to know more than you do (whether by subtle hint or blatant assertion)!!

In case you’ve not come across this, here is a fuller obit and appreciation, all of which is quoted from a recent mailing from Tyndale House. For example, I’d certainly no idea about his wartime exploits. A remarkable man.

______________________________________________________

It is with a real sense of loss that I bring to you news of the homecalling on Tuesday of Professor Donald Wiseman (1918-2010) OBE DLit FBA FKC FSA, who played a vital role in the early development of the Tyndale House and Tyndale Fellowship and made a massive contribution to our work, to biblical scholarship, and to the study of the ancient Near East. There will be a private funeral, but we anticipate that a public memorial service will be arranged later in the year. Below you will find a tribute by Professor Alan Millard, followed by some highlights I found in his autobiography. Professor Wiseman was predeceased by his dear wife Mary and is survived by three daughters Gillian, Mary and Jane. He will be much missed.

In Christ’s service,
Peter Williams
Warden, Tyndale House

(l to r) Donald Wiseman next to his good friend Agatha Christie, her husband Max Mallowan, and Neville Chittick, on a dig at Nimrud

Professor Donald Wiseman (1918-2010)

The passing of Donald Wiseman on 2nd February, 2010, marks the end of an era in the story of Tyndale House and the Tyndale Fellowship. After a year reading history at King’s College, London, W. J. Martin persuaded him that study of the biblical world and its languages would be more valuable to the church and biblical studies, so he turned to Hebrew and Assyriology. Martin had been the major stimulus in the creation of Tyndale House and Donald Wiseman saw its strategic potential. He gave much time and thought to the affairs of the House, serving as Chairman of the Biblical Research Committee, which had the initial responsibility and of the Tyndale House Council, which inherited it, from 1957 to 1986. As Chairman of that and other committees, he guided discussion with wisdom, patience and humour, ensuring sensible decisions were made. When there were doubts in UCCF (then IVF) circles about continuing financial support, he insisted that the House was providing a service which no other evangelical institution offered and had potential for much more. When problems of space for the Library arose, it was Donald who suggested the annexe which was built as The Hexagon in 1984.

He saw the priority for Tyndale House lay in biblical research, supplying positive information and arguments to oppose widely taught liberal views about Scripture. His vision was well expressed by John Stott in 1992, ‘We shall never capture the church for the truth of the gospel unless and until we can re-establish biblical scholarship, hold (and not lose) the best theological minds in every generation, and overthrow the enemies of the gospel by confronting them at their own level of scholarship’ (Quoted by Tom Noble, Tyndale House and Fellowship, 239).

Like Martin, Donald Wiseman was a great enthusiast and encourager of others, in Britain and abroad. He chaired the Tyndale Old Testament Study Group from 1951 to 1981, taking time and trouble to find young scholars whom he could introduce to the Group so that they would know there were others who could support them in their often lonely research. The Bible is a product of the ancient Near East, so he recognized that it should be read and assessed in the light of knowledge about that world. With that in mind, aware of the value of the archaeological contexts of ancient artefacts, he set up the Tyndale Biblical Archaeology Study Group in 1958, which, although not functioning regularly in recent years, brought together linguists and archaeologists to evaluate and apply new and old discoveries to biblical studies. On his initiative papers were brought together as Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel (1965) and Essays on the Patriarchal Narratives (1980) and he stimulated other publications by fellows of Tyndale House (e.g. David Tsumura, The Earth and the Waters in Genesis 1 and 2, 1989). A volume of essays by members of the Old Testament Study Group was dedicated to him in gratitude for his many years of devotion (R. S. Hess, G. J. Wenham. P. Satterthwaite, eds., He Swore an Oath (1994).

His experience and knowledge marked Donald as a major contributor to, and Editor of, the New Bible Dictionary (1962, 1982, 1996) and The Illustrated Bible Dictionary (1980). For many years he was Editor for Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries and gave his skills to a variety of other Christian publications.

Donald was always ready to help a cause he thought would be fruitful in the service of his Saviour, preaching and teaching and holding informal groups for Bible Study. The number who faced the claims of the Gospel through meeting him cannot be told, neither can the number whose lives and careers he has influenced or guided.

As one of the latter, I give thanks for his life, his service and his fellowship.

Alan Millard

Select gleanings from the privately published book Donald J. Wiseman, Life Above and Below: Memoirs (2003). Donald Wiseman led an extremely active and full life and it is not possible to summarize all of this. However, I thought that I would at least pick out a few of many highlights from his autobiography relating to his service in the Second World War:

  • PA to Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park, who was in charge of the Fighter Group responsible for the defence of S.E. Britain during the battle of Britain, and often finding himself on the phone to Winston Churchill
  • trusted to handle large amounts of information from the Ultra Secret source known as Enigma
  • chosen to carry maps and plans for first fighters to fly in to Algiers in Operation Torch
  • plane crash in Sicily in which he temporarily lost the use of both legs
  • recovery to play significant role enforcing German surrender in N. Italy

Here is the text of his citation for the USA Bronze Star Medal:

Donald J. Wiseman, O.B.E., Wing Commander, Royal Air Force, Headquarters Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Force, for meritorious achievement in connection with military operations in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations from 1 March 1943 to 22 June 1944. As Chief Intelligence Officer, Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Force, Wing Commander Wiseman displaying a rare analytical and organizational genius was responsible for the creation and development of an Intelligence Force headquarters in the Mediterranean Theater. Upon the Intelligence material gathered through his selfless and earnest work, this Headquarters was able to plan and launch the air operations which brought victory to the Allied Armies in Italy. His brilliancy in collecting and evaluating the necessary operational Intelligence data, his ability to work smoothly with an integrated American and British staff, and his unstinting fulfillment of duty reflect the highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the Allied Nations.

19
Jan

Turkmenbashi and the curse of Ozymandias

President Niyazov was mad, bad and dangerous to know – ruler of Turkmenistan from the fall of the Soviet Union until his death just before Christmas 2006 – and known as Turkmenbashi (= ‘Head of all Turkmens’). I posted about that event a bit as it happened.

But he’s reappeared on my radar this week for a couple of reasons.

  • I have been preaching on early chapters of Daniel on Sunday evenings. Last Sunday we were in Daniel 3 and the famous burning fiery furnace. But the subject of the is not so much the 3 brave faithfuls, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego – but the despotic king, Nebuchadnezzar and the effect that these 3 had on him. And Niyazov is (if practically nothing else) a gift for preachers of Daniel 3. I used a number of pictures in the talk of some of the countless gold statues of himself around the country – of which this image is the most notorious: the Neutrality Arch, surmounted by a gold image of Niyazov that rotates every 24 hours in order to face the sun. Who says the OT is outdated and out of touch?
  • Then yesterday, as it happens, the BBC reported that Niyazov’s successor has ordered the removal of this particular statue/obscenity from the capital Ashgebat. So at least there’s a degree of sense prevailing – not that this means that the tyranny has ended, merely thawed a little. So something good there at least. (HT Derek L.)

Just as Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2 confirmed, empires rise and empires fall – ’twas ever thus and ever will be.

The curse of Ozymandias strikes again.

8
Jan

A stunning visualization of the Bible’s 63,779 cross-references

It’s weird – i could have sworn I’d posted this before as I’ve had it for ages – but clearly haven’t. So here goes…
Chris Harrison is a genius at creating novel ways to visualize data. A friend of his suggested taking the Bible as an interesting data set in itself, and this is what he came up with.

Here is his explanation:

This set of visualizations started as a collaboration between Christoph Römhild and myself. Christoph, a Lutheran Pastor, first emailed me in October of 2007. He described a data set he was putting together that defined textual cross references found in the Bible. He had already done considerable work visualizing the data before contacting me. Together, we struggled to find an elegant solution to render the data, more than 63,000 cross references in total. As work progressed, it became clear that an interactive visualization would be needed to properly explore the data, where users could zoom in and prune down the information to manageable levels. However, this was less interesting to us, as several Bible-exploration programs existed that offered similar functionality (and much more). Instead we set our sights on the other end of the spectrum –- something more beautiful than functional. At the same time, we wanted something that honored and revealed the complexity of the data at every level –- as one leans in, smaller details should become visible. This ultimately led us to the multi-colored arc diagram you see below.
The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc – the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect.

As well as being stunningly beautiful as an image (which is what they were aiming for), it wonderfully provides a sense of the bible’s internal integrity despite it’s palpable complexity. The 176 verses of Ps 119 stand at the centre point, as if it were a mirror creating a vast symmetry. What is especially striking is the number of lines that stretch all the way from Genesis to Revelation.

Look and wonder. I ordered the poster – it’s even more amazing close up…

1
Dec

Q marks the spot – Treasure Map 15 (December 2009)

Bit of a bumper Treasure Map this month – plenty to get chewing on…

Sacred Treasure

  • Vinoth Ramachandra offers a characteristically challenging and provocative reflection on some encounters he’s had in the USA.
  • An interesting article about Tim Keller in New York magazine: Why Tim Keller wants to save your yuppie soul.
  • Am grateful to The Simple Pastor for this critique of one church’s massive rebuild programme in Dallas. I couldn’t agree more – and looking at the church’s website videos, i have to say i found some of the assumptions about what church is almost chilling.
  • This is stunning – a graphic depiction of the Hebrew conception of the universe. Of course sceptics may have a field day with it, assuming that it fatally undermines the whole validity of such a conception. But that is to miss the point. It is all a question of perspective. This is the way the universe seems to those who live in within it – and is no less problematic than the convention of describing dawn and nightfall as sunrise and sunset. There clearly isn’t a physical 3-tier universe – but that is a far cry from suggesting that there is nothing more to the universe than the material or physical. Which is why countless cosmologists and physicists are increasingly accepting theism.
  • An enjoyable irony in the continuation of the atheist bus saga.

Topical Treasure

Quirky Treasure

  • The power of the human imagination and a history of invention – a stunning origami animation – shame it’s just an advert for a silly old insurance company…
  • How many secretaries does a President need!? Check this out… Just imagine the pride and sense of achievement on becoming the Principal Deputy to the Deputy Assistant Secretary (and the size of business card that would be needed to fit all that in).
  • Finally, The Ultimate Productivity Tool. Very useful…
27
Nov

Bible in 1 Hour from LA

Earlier this month, I was speaking at a Korean American church in Los Angeles. One or two of the chaps worked hard to put this video of it together, so here it is. If you can’t face the thought of actually having to look at me, then i completely understand.

Here is a pdf of the handout: Bible in Hour & Why It Matters

For those who’d prefer the text (infinitely preferable, in my view), here is the original article on which it was based (for CMF’s Nucleus magazine).

4
Sep

Hope in a Despairing World: The Whole Bible in 3000 words!

nucleus hopeA few months back, I was asked by the folks at NUCLEUS, the CMF student magazine, to write up an overview of the Bible for them, on the back of having done the Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Bible at this year’s New Word Alive.

So now the latest edition has come out, and if you’re interested, you can check it out here:

If you want the original talks free, you can get them from iTunes here.

2
Aug

Codex Sinaiticus – what’s all the fuss about?

I’ve blogged about this before, and the observant will have noticed that there’s been a link in my resources column to the Codex Sinaiticus ever since. But in case you don’t know what all the fuss is about, check out this great 5 min video from The British Library which has incredible images of the repairs and process involved in scanning each page. The delicacy of each page is terrifying. But what an opportunity now to check out the original text in its entirety. VERY EXCITING. [HT the marvellous Andrea Clarke]

As I’m working on an overview of the Book of Acts at the moment, thought I’d check out the first page. Here’s a screenshot. One of the things that staggers me is the beauty and consistency of the calligraphy. Awesome:

Codex - Acts1

8
Jul

William Cowper & Habakkuk

William CowperAfter spending time on the wonders of Habakkuk for the last time on Sunday, I just wanted to follow up some of the stuff on William Cowper (1731-1800). He was a remarkable poet but such a tragic figure. Plagued by years of doubt, depression and insanity, he was sustained by good friends and by his Christian faith (although it should be said that sometimes, his depression caused distortions of the faith which made the spiritual attacks infinitely worse – it is deeply unfair, as PoemHunter baselessly claims, to suggest that Newton the ‘gloomy Calvinist’ was responsible for this).

The story of how people like fellow hymn-writer John Newton and old friend (and one time fiancee) Mary Unwin cared for him over many years is itself a remarkable challenge to those who get tired of ministry that less is than instant. (If I can put it like this) how we all need to recapture a chronic vision of ministry (in the true sense of the word).

But this post is a little plea for people to rediscover Cowper’s writing. He came up several times in commentaries on Habakkuk because he versified various moments in the prophet’s writing. But what struck me profoundly was how resonant his struggles and questions were with those of Habakkuk. There are differences of course – and in some ways, Cowper’s battles were much more private and mental, whereas Habakkuk felt like despairing of seeing God’s justice. But it was the questioning of God derived from faith that they had in common – which would find resolution in the promises he has made. That is why Habakkuk 3, the prophet’s own psalm of aching and longing faith meant so much to Cowper. He referenced it twice at least in his hymns.

The most explicit is his use of Hab 3:16-18 in the last verse of ‘Joy and Peace in Believing’ – I have a vague memory of singing this as a kid in school chapel – and not having a clue at all. Being a musical snob, I think I felt that the tune was quite naff, which made me think that the hymn itself was naff. How wrong could I be? It is profound.

Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord who rises
With healing on His wings;
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation
We sweetly then pursue
The theme of God’s salvation,
And find it ever new;
Set free from present sorrow,
We cheerfully can say,
E’en let the unknown to-morrow
Bring with it what it may!

It can bring with it nothing,
But He will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing,
Will clothe His people too;
Beneath the spreading heavens
No creature but is fed;
And He who feeds the ravens
Will give His children bread.

Though vine nor fig tree neither
Their wonted fruit shall bear,
Though all the field should wither,
Nor flocks nor herds be there:
Yet God the same abiding,
His praise shall tune my voice;
For, while in Him confiding,
I cannot but rejoice.

Cowpers memorial in Norfolk

Cowper's memorial in Norfolk

Then there is this famous one (given the nod by U2’s She Moves in Mysterious Ways). The first verse speaks of the Exodus it seems, which is precisely what Habakkuk points back to in his plea for God to renew the deeds performed in the past in his own time.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Cowper knew more than most what living through a ‘frowning providence’ was like. It breaks the heart. And yet how remarkable in the midst of it all to declare that behind that ‘frowning providence he hides a smiling face.’

For other poems and hymns, start here.

1
Jul

Q marks the spot – Treasure Map 10 (July 09)

Sacred Treasure

Topical Treasure

Quirky Treasure

  • Facebook/Twitter/Myspace addicts should check out this mental health advisory! (HT Visual Culture)

socialmediavenndiagram.jpg

29
Jun

Prophetic motorway signs – Habakkuk 2 in summary

M6 sign wordy Hard to read, isn’t it? If it was a real motorway sign, just think of the accidents it would cause as people tried to work out what it said.

But if you could get up close and personal, you’d see that this is in fact the entire response that God gives to Habakkuk’s second complaint against him.

The reason I photoshopped this, however, was to make a point in yesterday’s sermon on the next installment of our Habakkuk. Because at the start of his response, God says (in Hab 2:2):

Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.

But evocatively, the NRSV puts like this:

Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.

Which is what gave me the idea. And if Habakkuk had to put a summary of this chapter on a motorway sign, I have a hunch that it might have looked a bit like this:

M6 sign TRUST

16
Jun

More Habakkuk bits and bobs

Now that the talk on Hab 1:1-11 has been uploaded, here is the map I used. See yesterday’s post for the timeline.

Also, note that for various reasons, the film clip played can’t be included on the downloadable version. But if you want to follow that up, it’s taken from the 1991 film Grand Canyon (with Kevin Kline & Danny Glover et al).

Hab & Assyria

10
Jun

Another gem from the Stott archive: The Message of Job

JRWS - Innocent SufferStott - Why do Innocent Suffer (1956)Having had the chance to publish John Stott’s 1952 Parochial Evangelism online, back in January, here is another next instalment from the archives. I was sorting out my bookshelves (at last) and came across his little booklet called “Why Do The Innocent Suffer? The Message of Job” (from 1956). Once again Uncle John has given his permission to have this released in this way, so that we can see what he was up to over 50 years ago!

How this came about:

  • It started life as a talk given at the All Souls Doctors’ service (in 1955): because All Souls sits in the heart of London’s medical fraternity (Wigmore St & Harley St are in the parish), this service used to be a regular occurrence.
  • Then it was written up for the the Evangelical Alliance’s national magazine
  • Then it was published as a small booklet (for all of 6d!) and re-released several times

As with the 1952 booklet, all the hallmarks of Stott’s writing are already clearly evident:

  • a thorough, detailed grasp of the text in hand
  • a crystal clarity and succinctness
  • nice symmetry in the headings (but shock horror – 4 points here not 3!)
  • apt (if brief) pastoral applications

There are some brilliant moments. I was particularly struck by the beauty as well as the profound challenge of this paragraph on the 4th comforter, Elihu:

Do not the buds of Christlikeness break into their finest blossom during or after a period of trial? Do not the flowers of faith and fortitude grow best in a sickroom? Does not the Lord Jesus become more real and precious when we lie on our back and are forced to look up into His face? Does not our moral and spiritual perspective become adjusted when we are snatched from the fevered rush of life and are transferred into the seclusion and the tranquillity of illness? Do we not come to value our heavenly treasure more highly when we have lost our earthly health or possessions, relatives or friends? God’s purpose is to transform us into the beautiful image of His Son Jesus, and one of His methods is to allow us to suffer. Elihu has a real contribution to make in this debate. But his is not the last word.

Read the whole thing to see what the last word is!

2
Jun

Q marks the spot – Treasure Map 9 (June 09)

Sacred Treasure

Topical Treasure

Quirky Treasure

15
May

St Augustine on Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’? Read on…

Botticelli - St AugustineAlister McGrath is at his best (IMHO) when engaging with debates of science and religion. After all, he’s a scholar of both. And he’s got a really helpful and timely piece in this month’s CT on Augustine’s Origin of the Species. Augustine was of course one of the greatest thinkers in Christian history. Full stop. And he was an African. Which endears him to me even more. And in these days of militant scientific materialism and neo-Darwinist thinking, it is refreshing at least to find that someone from the ancient past who as something to contribute to contemporary debates.

Obviously, Augustine won’t help anyone engage with the specifics of  Charles Darwin’s arguments per se but as McGrath says in his conclusion, he does open up the possibility of a freedom within the interpretative bounds of handling Genesis well.

So does Augustine’s The Literal Meaning of Genesis help us engage with the great questions raised by Darwin? Let’s be clear that Augustine does not answer these questions for us. But he does help us see that the real issue here is not the authority of the Bible, but its right interpretation. In addition, he offers us a classic way of thinking about the Creation that might illuminate some contemporary debates.

On this issue, Augustine is neither liberal nor accommodationist, but deeply biblical, both in substance and intention. While his approach hardly represents the last word, it needs to be on the table.

We need patient, generous, and gracious reflection on these big issues. Augustine of Hippo can help us get started.

What is important is the possibility Augustine gives us in how to handle Genesis 1-2 in particular, without either being enslaved to the scientific worldviews of the day, or ignoring them as inevitably irrelevant. Too many interpreters fall into one or other of these 2 traps. And in McGrath’s words, Augustine was simply concerned ‘to let Scripture speak for itself’. Can’t say fairer than that.

Image: Botticelli’s wonderful take on St Augustine

6
May

When a Zen master gets it, but many Christians don’t!

At last got round to watching Charlie Wilson’s War the other night, having had it on my list for ages. A mixed film – wasn’t 100% convinced that Tom Hanks could be a hard drinking, womanising southern politician on a supposedly moral crusade – but the script was sparkling. Well, one would expect nothing less from its writer, the master of political dialogue himself, Aaron Sorkin. There was lots in there to relish. But this little exchange was a brilliant gem amongst many.

Charlie Wilson is a Democrat congressman from Texas who in the 80s champions the cause of the Afghanistan Mujahideen in their war against Soviet invasion. Avrakotos is his man on the inside of the CIA (brilliantly realised by Seymour Hoffman).

Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman): There’s a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse… and everybody in the village says, “How wonderful! The boy got a horse.” And the Zen master says, “We’ll see.” Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, “How terrible!” And the Zen master says, “We’ll see.” Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight… except the boy can’t cause his leg’s all messed up. And everybody in the village says, “How wonderful!” 
Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks): Now the Zen master says, “We’ll see.”

There is a great patience about history in Eastern worldviews, even in the more secular, modernist ones. There is a legend about the Chinese Premier under Mao, Zhou Enlai, who was asked in the 1950s about the impact of the French Revolution (back in 1789). He supposedly replied with the classic response:

It’s too early to tell.

Well, even if it isn’t true, it both fits with him, his culture and reality. And if that is the case for human life and history in general, how much more for the cosmos in which God is at work? For God, 1000 years are like a day & 1 day is like 1000 years (2Pet 3:8) SO… no wonder:

  • Abraham had to wait till he was about 75 before God lured him away from Ur (Gen 11:31-12:1)
  • Joseph spent many years first as Potiphar’s slave and then in prison (incl 2 years after helping the chief cup-bearer – Gen 41:1)
  • Moses spent 40 years as a shepherd before the time was right to lead God’s people (Exod 2:23-25, 7:7)
  • The Period of Judges (i.e. from Joshua to Samuel) lasted ca 400 years before God was ‘ready’ to raise up a king.
  • In Exile, Jeremiah tells the people that they should build homes and plant gardens in Babylon because they’re going to be there a while – a whole generation in fact (Jer 29:5ff) – in fact, they were to pray for the prosperity, not of Jerusalem, but BABYLON! (Jer 29:7-8) Patience was the order of the day.
  • After Nehemiah, it would be another 450 years or so before John the Baptist hit the religion scene!

We may think that 2000 years is a long time. But then of course, the period between us and Jesus is almost identical to the period it took God to prepare the world for Jesus from first announcing his covenant promises to Abraham.

Amidst our instant gratification obsessions, our culture has a LOT to learn about patience (and I’m referring to our Christian culture there). And, of course, I speak entirely for myself in that…

27
Apr

New Word Alive talks now online

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The chaps at New Word Alive Media have been slaving away to get all the talks and seminars from both New Word Alive weeks available online. At only £1 per mp3 download they are certainly more reasonable than some pay per download sites. 

They even have 2 downloads for free, which are not to be missed:  Q&A with Don Carson from week 1, and Richard Cunningham’s Bible Reading from the start of week 2. Hopefully the Carson Q&A will be available at some point in the future.

Wasn’t at week 1, so don’t know the highlights. But from week 2, by all accounts, check out:

Plus lots lots more (you might even find a bible overview by yours truly, if you look hard enough – but then it has been free on iTunes for a while).

13
Mar

‘New Israel’ – replacement theology by the back door?

I preached a couple of weeks ago on Malachi 2:17-3:6 which is the most astonishing passage – it got me really fired up. In the course of it, I referred a number of times to the ‘New Israel’. Some friends in the church who are Messianic Jews were very concerned about this, for very understandable reasons. For they felt that I was advocating Replacement Theology. My understanding is limited on this – but from what I do get, i would certainly not be an advocate. The Jewish people have suffered intolerably at the hands of Christians, and one cause is this sort of thinking – appalling persecution has often been justified on the basis that God has wiped his hands of the Jews altogether and therefore anything goes. That is obviously terrible and utterly heretical. Although to be fair, the concerns in my friends’ minds was brought about by my use of the word ‘replace’ a couple of times in the course of the talk. So after much pondering, this is roughly how I replied. I’m conscious it’s a huge area. Thoughts or comments welcome?

___________________

A “New” Israel?

This is a sensitive subject! I think that it is nonetheless involved, and inevitably the Bible presents a more complex picture than one passage alone might suggest. Romans 9-11 is of huge importance to this question, but it is by no means the only one. So let me touch on a few points which I think are pertinent, and then perhaps these can feed further discussion. I don’t pretend for a moment that this will answer everything, nor that it will necessary do justice to your concerns. But here goes!

As far as the sermon itself is concerned, this is more or less what i said (although it usually comes out a little different in the heat of the moment!):

So the Judah of Jesus’ day wasn’t vastly different from the Judah of Malachi’s day. The Temple was still a mess. And when Jesus came, he effectively replaced the entire Jewish leadership structure in God’s people – the old Israel would be replaced with the new Israel.

  • Why else did he replace the twelve tribes of Israel with 12 disciples?
  • Why else did he echo God’s revelation on Sinai Mountain by preaching his radical application of the law in his own sermon on the mountain?
  • Why else did feed a crowd of 5000+ in the desert, if not to echo what God had done by feeding Israel in the wilderness?

All in all, to use another of Jesus’ images, he is throwing out the old wineskins, the structures of old Israel, and pouring the new wine of the kingdom covenant into new wineskins. His new Israel; the Church. And for most of us here from a Gentile background, we have the privilege of being ingrafted into that – to be welcomed in through Jesus. And because of what Jesus would do in his people, well all can make offerings that would at last be acceptable. And what are our sacrifices and offerings? well, the apostle Paul makes it clear that while we don’t need a temple any more, we respond to Christ’s love through offering our whole lives as holy sacrifices.

Now I do fully acknowledge that the word ‘replacement’ is provocative. And I concede that I was not nearly as careful or sensitive with it as I should have been. i certainly do not agree with the primary strands of so-called ‘replacement theology’ (as far as I understand them). I do NOT think that the old covenant is dead, nor that the church has simply expunged the Jewish people as if they were no longer relevant. Far from it – why else would Paul go to the Jews first, Gentiles second (Rom 1:16-17)? The question, as I see it, is how the Abrahamic covenant in particular is fulfilled (hence its importance in Romans & Galatians). But to read the prophets onwards, it is clear that there are distinctions within the physical nation of Israel. One of the tricky and sometimes painful issues is what we are to make of the modern nation of Israel. A flat application of Biblical passages here is fraught – for even within the OT, the word Israel has a number of meanings.At the very least:  

  • it can refer to the whole of the people descended from Abraham
  • it can refer to the northern kingdom with capital Samaria
  • then it can even be Judah after the destruction of the northern kingdom
  • and then you have the issue of those who are nationals, but not members of the ‘remnant’ – 

So even the existence of these 4 different (though clearly related) connotations is enough to cause us to pause when reading Isaiah, for example.

What, if anything, gets replaced?

Perhaps the issue then is exactly what, if anything, gets replaced. And this gets to the heart of the question. The point I think I was trying to make was that Jesus was fulfilling Malachi’s prophecy of what God would have to do in his covenant people if his covenant promises were to be fulfilled. Ostensibly, by appointing 12 disciples, Jesus was rejecting the leadership of the Israel of his day, essentially because they had rejected him. He replaces them with his 12, and of course they are all (Jesus and the disciples) STILL JEWISH! This is one of a number of pointers to both the radical continuity AND radical discontinuity that exists within the new covenant. I entirely agree that the Bible never uses the phrase ‘new Israel’ as such – but does that necessarily mean there is nothing new within the new covenant? 

So here are few random thoughts on some relevant verses and questions – this is i know probably very muddled – but any discussion needs to touch on these…      

  1. Jeremiah 31:31-34 – What’s old: covenant with the house of Israel/Judah (interesting because Israel n. kingdom no longer existed at this point). The Same LORD is making the promise, with the same purpose: I will be their God and they will be my people. What’s new: (v32) NOT like old covenant because they broke it…. So instead law written in hearts – and everyone will know LORD (a hint at the removal of the priesthood). And at last sins will be finally and irrevocably dealt with (v34).
  2. Where does the theology of the remnant fit? Clearly the prophets constantly draw a distinction between the faithful and the unfaithful within the covenant people. It is the existence of the remnant that enables God to claim covenant faithfulness – something that would have been hard to defend after the Babylonian Exile. Hence the promises are kept only because of a remnant (e.g. Isaiah 10-11).
  3. It strikes me that those who are meant to be the shepherds of God’s people (cf. Ezekiel 34) get replaced because they were the ones who caused the exile itself by leading the people away from God. And they get replaced by God the shepherd himself – Ezek 34:10, 11 AND surprisingly by David the shepherd – Ezek 34:23-24. Obviously, here we are building up the picture of who Jesus will be: BOTH YHWH the shepherd AND David the shepherd – the God-Man king.

To cut a long story, this points to the sense that Jesus is the fulfilment both of the true Israel and the shepherds of the people Israel:

  • he is one greater than Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon (e.g. throughout Gospels)
  • and what’s more he is the true people: why else does Matthew play on Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15 if not to say that he is now the personification of Israel?

What of the Nation of Israel?

This, at the very least, therefore indicates to me that you can’t draw a straight line from ‘Israel’ the people of God in the OT all the way through to the modern nation state of Israel. Incidentally, my position is that i think there are profound legal, moral and geopolitical reasons for the nation of Israel to exist – but i don’t quite see how it is the exact fulfilment of prophetic promise or expectation. There are a number of pointers in my mind to this, littered through the NT:

  1. Why else does Mark imply that the Babylonian exile hasn’t begun to end until John the Baptist preaches in preparation of Jesus – Mark 1:1-3? Quoting Isaiah 40 clearly puts us into the framework of Babylon (Isaiah 39 ends with a prophecy of the exile’s start, while Is 40 opens with a prophecy of its end). By coupling that with Malachi 3, Mark implies that the physical return from Babylon after Cyrus’ decree wasn’t entirely the big picture. Something more was required (presumably that is why those who could remember the former temple wept when the restored temple was rebuilt in Ezra 3:10-13). And remember, Malachi is preaching into this post-Exile situation.
  2. Why else does Jesus say his kingdom is not of this world (in John 18:33-39) unless he sees his new kingdom as something not so much other-worldly as extending from and far beyond the world? No longer is it in any sense restricted to the promised land per se, or even any particular land.
  3. Why else are we told in Hebrews that Abraham was looking forward to a heavenly city of Jerusalem, not an earthly one (Heb 11:9-10)? The writer seems to be downplaying the significance of the land throughout this section, implying that it is just a passing stage in God’s purposes en route to the new heavenly city (the city which will come down (!) to the new heavens and earth in Rev 21).

So it seems to me that the concept of the nation of Israel itself is radicalised and revolutionised in the New Covenant.

What of the Covenant Promises?

Romans 9-11 is rightly seen as an integral passage and any discussion of this needs to do justice to what Paul is saying in these tricky verses. Indeed, I would argue that the whole of Romans is a discussion of the relationship between Jewish Christian believers and Gentile Christian believers, presumably because the church in Rome was suffering divisions and problems over the issue (not unlike the Galatians churches, which is why there is some significant overlap and dovetailing between Romans & Galatians).

I do think, though, that we have to take great care in Romans over how to understand different words. This is not being tricksy for the sake of it – it is well understood amongst commentators that Paul uses the Greek word ‘nomos’ (law) in a number of different ways even within this one letter (interestingly, Paul’s varied usages correspond a bit to the way English uses the word ‘law’ as well – we can talk about a law of physics (a statement of fact based on observation), the judicial law (rules with sanctions), the divine law or Torah (an authoritative command with a relationship context) or even the laws of society (i.e. the customs of that society)).

The same can be said for Paul’s use Romans of the word ‘Israel’ itself.

  • Take for instance the appearance of a contradiction between Rom 9:6 and 11:26 – that in itself sends up warning signs about what is being referred to.
  • Even more radical is how he defines a Jew – cf. Rom 2:28-29 – I’m pretty sure that many of his former Pharisee colleagues would have balked at that!
  • Faith in Christ is the key – which is why he then makes the argument about Abraham in Rom 4. And he’s saying that effectively it has always been like that. When all Israel will be saved, it is presumably all the remnant that will be saved – not all those who are genetically Israelite – because Paul has been at great pains in Rom 1-3 to say that both Jew and Gentile face a guilty verdict for sin – and both Jew and Gentile alike are saved by faith in God which then leads (like Abraham) to being credited with righteousness. Membership of Israel is now defined by faith in Christ, who himself is the true Israel. And that is what we are seeing, as you rightly say, in this generation where Jewish people are trusting in their Messiah like never before.

What of the Church?

What then is the church? Well, I think i would argue that it is the remnant Israel, into which Gentiles are ingrafted – that seems to be the implication of Romans 11. And that is the ground on which Paul can insist that there is huge continuity with and faithfulness to the old covenants – but also radical discontinuity. There are senses in which you could say that it is even new. Isn’t that presumably why Jesus uses the language of ‘new’ wineskins – they are needed to hold the new wine of the kingdom because the old wineskins (of the structures and hierarchies of the nation Israel) are no longer able to hold the wine. Luke 5:37-38 (cf. Mk 2:22 & Mt 9:17).

  1. 1 Peter 2:4-12 is an incredible passage, esp vv9-10 – for here Peter explicitly and clearly applies Exodus/Israel language to the church in the most provocative and daring way. In fact, he argues that the experience of the enslaved Jews being freed by God and then constituted into a new nation at Sinai is exactly mirrored by the creation of the church – in even more widespread and applicable ways. For what else do we all have in common except the Lord Jesus Christ? cf. Exodus 19:6 and Deut 7:6 & 10:15. Surely Peter wants us now to see the church as the rightful inheritors of these promises and privileges – a church which of course is Jewish and into which Gentiles are ingrafted. 
  2. Now I suspect one of the problems behind this debate is that replacement theology proponents imply that the church is a Gentile community that has replaced a Jewish community. That is nonsense and Paul clearly contradicts it, both theologically and in the practice of his ministry. But if the church is the Israel remnant fulfilment, that would perhaps make more sense? And that is why you find the ex-Pharisee and true Hebrew of Hebrews (Phil3) saying now that in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for you are all one in Christ. If you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:28-29. That is a staggering statement – in no sense should it diminish or demean our differences (for becoming Christian doesn’t stop one being either male nor female); we can rejoice in our cultural diversity, whether Jew or Gentile, European, African or Asian or anything else (which is one of the wonderful things about All Souls, is it not?!). But it surely means that our national, genetic, cultural or social identity is now less significant than our identity in Christ.

One final blast! Luke 18-20 is a fascinating sequence, describing some of the last days of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem – and like the other gospel writers, Luke weaves profound theology through the narrative. There is so much here, in terms of thematic development and theological application that we could go on for days – but here are a few pertinent moments in it:

  • 18:9-14 – Pharisee is not the righteous one but the tax collector IS – all because of his falling on God’s mercy
  • 18:18-30 – rich ruler – again the one you would expect to be righteous goes away sad – he has broken the 1st commandment by idolising his wealth. Interesting reaction from disciples who realise no one is safe – but again the key is trusting God to do the impossible – for which there are great compensations…
  • 18:35-43 – a blind man sees… that Jesus is the true king of Israel (shouting out Son of David)
  • 19:1-10 – Zacchaeus – another tax collector! He has a Jewish name – but is a collaborator with the enemy, Rome. But notice in v10 how salvation comes to his house, because Jesus has come – and that is what enables Jesus to say that he too is a Son of Abraham. There is a profound link between who is truly Jewish (picking up a key prophetic theology of the remnant) and who comes to Jesus.
  • 19:11-27 – Parable of Ten Minas – king is presumably meant to be God – his servants are told to be good stewards. Those who aren’t lose out. But notice how the king responds to his ‘enemies’ in v27. They are rejected.
  • 19:29ff – Jesus enters Jerusalem – which since Luke 9:27 has been Jesus’ supreme goal as it is the locus of the Temple (NB what Malachi 3 said would happen when God appeared) – but it is also the centre for opposition to him – so that throughout Luke’s gospel it is a very double-edged connotations. And the opposition really hots up as he enters the lion’s den.
  • 20:1-8 – Jesus is quizzed on his authority by the Jewish leaders. He is their true Davidic king but they don’t/won’t accept that. The key is that Jesus DOES actually answer their questions in the next parable.
  • 20:9-19 – Parable of Tenants – this is clearly a parable of Israel – and Jesus deliberately picks up Isaiah 5. That is the interpretative key to what Jesus is doing, and he is clearly updating Isaiah’s imagery and applying it to himself. The prophets are obviously the servants the owner sent, and he is the son. Jesus’ crowd is drawn into the story. But notice their reaction in 20:16-19. He is the rejected capstone – and by rights and justice, we would expect the tenants to be thrown out. How could they not? And you would think it fair for the owner to find new tenants. v16 when the owner says he will give the vineyard “to others”, the crowd is shocked and appalled. and Luke tells us that this is because the Pharisees knew they were in Jesus’ sights – 20:19. To my mind, that does look like a replacement of sorts.

So there it is. Lots of random, and jumbly incoherent thoughts. Any contributions…?