Thursday, September 28, 2006

Why I have gotten the O.T. wrong... part III

This is one of my favorite "things I didn't know". The Garden of Eden was a "garden sanctuary" designed by God for Adam and Eve. It was a closed, protected place. In the Old Testament kings would build walls to surround their gardens also (see. 2 Kgs. 25:4; Jer. 39:4, 52:7; Is. 5:5). You see, kings in that time took great joy in walking around the gardens that they had built as a type of "pleasure park". This is why in Ancient Mesopotamia (where the Garden of Eden is assumed to have been), the word "gardener" meant "monarch"(The Israelites at the time of Moses would have known this). Kings were the gardeners. When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden He told him to "work and keep it", or "be the gardener". What He is saying is "you have the responsibility of a ruler of this land", which takes us back to the last discussion on what it means to be made in the image of God. So, Adam was the monarch, the gardener. That's the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) context; now here's the jaw dropper. The New Testament got this right. In John 21:14-15, after Mary had just found the tomb of Jesus empty it says, "...she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. (15) Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" [Mary,] Supposing him to be the gardener said to him..." The crazy thing is she was right! He was "The Gardener". He is the Monarch, the Ruler, the King of kings. Jesus is the Gardener! I don't know if that drops your jaw a little like it did mine, but I believe that every word of Scripture is the inspired word of God and I believe this "misunderstanding" on Mary's part is there for a reason. Until next time...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Why I have gotten the O.T. wrong... part II

In the words of C.J. Mahaney, "I've never had an original thought, don't intend on ever having an original thought, don't expect God to ever entrust me with an original thought because of the pervasiveness of my pride." Dr. Peter J. Gentry is my O.T. professor and I owe this entire series to him. If anything I say sounds odd, or unlikely, then that part is probably me and not Gentry. We've probably all read Genesis 1:27-28 before and either heard or asked the question, "What does it mean to be made in the image of God?" Well, the answer can be found in the literary structure of these two verses which is known as a Hebrew chiasm, or Chiastic parallelism.

(27) "So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

(28) And God blessed them. And God said to them,
"Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it
and have dominion over the fish of the sea
and over the birds of the heavens and over every living
thing that moves on the earth." Genesis 1:27-28

This Hebrew chiasm is structured in ABBA form where the first statement corresponds with the last and the middle two statements with each other. It's called a chiasm because symbolically it looks like an "X" which is the greek letter "chi". If you cut the X in half horizontally you have a top and bottom part that are mirror images of each other, therefore the top has an A-B statement that mirrors the bottom B'-A' statement. (I promise, this is important.)

In Gen. 1:27 the "A" is the first statement, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;" Where we err is when we try to match this with the next statement, "male and female he created them." This is what Karl Barth did and concluded that our sexuality must be what it means to be made in the image of God. But this is not how the Hebrews wrote this text. Because of the chiastic form the original intent of the author was to have his readers relate this to the last statement in verse 28, "... subdue it [the earth] and have dominion over... every living thing that moves on the earth." In a way, when we are told that God created man in his own image we are being prepared for the later statement that we are to have dominion over the rest of creation. Similarly, the second statement of v. 27, "male and female he created them" is meant to prepare us for the following proclamation, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth." So, the top and bottom "A" statements go together and the middle two "B" statements go together. I hope I have made this clear. Now for the context that blew me away. In the Ancient Near East kings and pharaohs were called, "the image of god". Now, when these kings would go out and conquer land they would put a statue, or image, of themselves in their new territory. What this told all of the inhabitants that saw this image of the king was that he was the ruler of this land. You see, God has made man in his image and placed us all over the earth and by so doing he is proclaiming to all of creation that he is the ruler of this earth. This is what it means to be made in the image of God. The Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) Hebrews would have understood this. It's harder for us to grasp this since we are living several millenia after the fact, but when we dig deep enough to understand the context that the Scriptures were written in we are able to see and understand things a little more clearly. I hope you are enjoying this series so far. More to come...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Why I have gotten the Old Testament wrong...

Never before has the O.T. opened up to me like it has the past few weeks. I am currently taking an Intro. to the O.T. class at Southern and have left many-a-class with a dropped jaw. My professor, Dr. Peter J. Gentry, may be the smartest man alive. This coupled with my Hermeneutics (the study of interpreting Scripture) class has helped me see the importance of the grammatical-historical method of interpretation. What this method does is attempt to put you in the original context of the author while keeping the whole of Scripture in mind. Dr. Gentry labors twice a week trying to get us to see what it would be like to be an Israelite in the Ancient Near East (ANE) and hear these words of the O.T. Scriptures for the first time. What has been most interesting to me personally is to look at the pagan culture that was surrounding Israel and notice the striking similarities. For instance, the tabernacle that God so precisely described to Moses for the Israelites to build was just like all of the other tabernacles and temples of that day except for a couple of small differences. But those small differences make all the difference in the world! The ancient Israelites would have not been surprised to hear Moses read to them the guidelines for building the temple... it would sound just like what they were used to. But when he got to the part about what was to be in the Holy of Holies they would have said, "Wait a minute... that's not right. Why are we doing it this way?" You see, all of the other pagan tabernacles and temples at that time had an outer court, an inner holy place, and an even more inner Holy of Holies... nothing new. But in pagan temples the priest would be met with a statue of their god upon entering the Holy of Holies. What's the difference? In the Israelite Holy of Holies the high priest was met with a box, not an image of God. What's God saying here? He's saying, "I am invisible! And there is no idol that you can use as a mediator to get to me." And what is inside the box? The Ten Commandments, or Words. What is God saying with this? "If you want to worship me, here's how you do it. I want you to obey me; I want your life." The differences speak volumes. I think I am going to do a small series on why I have gotten the O.T. wrong. Maybe some that are not given the opportunity to sit under Dr. Gentry will be blessed by it; I know I have been. For me, my error in how I have interpreted the O.T. can be summed up in failing to study the context that it was written in. Next time I'll talk about what I now believe it means to be made "in the image of God". Until then... peace.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Free Time

I heard a saying once that I think comes from the Philippines. It goes something like this, "The Westerners wear their gods on their wrists." Now, me being a Westerner should pause to think about this for a moment. Are they right? Well, their correctness probably depends on the person, but it seems to be at least somewhat true in my case. I am currently taking three classes from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a newly-wed, a Christian devoted to the weekly fellowship of believers, and a new employee of Chick-fil-A, which means in the near future I will probably add working out to my schedule. All of these things demand time, which seems to become more precious the busier my schedule gets; which leads me to the thought of "free" time. What is "free" time; and why don't I seem to have very much of it? Really, all time is "free" isn't it? It's just that some days we seem to have more of it than others. I think that in this age of technology time has become a precious commodity, but not just any kind of time; we long for "free" time; time that we can devote on us. As I write this I can't help but notice that the desire for this kind of time seems somewhat selfish, but it also seems necessary. I also cannot help but think that me adding a blog to my schedule is going to take, well, time. There are so many things that I want to do, so many books that I want to read, so many places that I want to see, but I just don't think that one lifetime, or life of time, is enough. After quite a bit of thought on this I have come to realize that it's okay if I don't see Rome, or read a library full of books. Maybe God has not given me enough time to do everything that I want to do for a reason. Maybe there is a reason that life seems so short in light of the endless amount of things that you could learn or experience. The problem is not our great desires; the problem is looking to fulfill those desires with this world, with things that are not infinite. We have an ocean of desires and try to fill it with teaspoons of water and it just seems overwhelming; sometimes discouraging. I confess that many times my horizon is far too low. I feel my longing for experience and I fail to raise my horizon to the only experiential Quencher. There is a purpose behind this never-ceasing wave of technology trying to drown us. It makes us long for more time; for "free" time. How am I going to spend it when I get it. Will the knowledge that life is short lead me to lift my horizon in search of a better way to spend my time? Will I use this precious time to join the work Christ, the Sovereign behind this situation, or will I continue to look at my surroundings and wish I had more time to cram it all in?