The King Who Kills

I completed my weekly reading of the Adult Bible Study Guide while listening to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s address at the United States Capitol. He spoke of justice. The lesson discussed judgment. As I sat in the warm glow of a family Christmas tree, peace lost its chance and human horror dominated my thoughts. 


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/12140

The Judaism of Jesus’s day assumed a lock on covenant privilege and priority based on ethnic heritage and religious pedigree. It is why John the Baptist in Mt. 3 said to the Jewish leaders who came to him not to say that they are Abraham’s children, as if that and participating in John’s baptism as a type of ceremonial mihkva was a shield from God’s judgement, but to bear fruit worthy of repentance. This is a theme throughout Matthew’s gospel. The lack of authentic response to God that he sought and called for through the prophets throughout Israel’s history, culminated in the rejection finally of the messiah and his call to Israel to authentically fulfill their vocation through joining up with Jesus’s kingdom movement…one that was characterized by justice, mercy, faithfulness, and even love for rather than vengeance upon their enemies.

The parable in Mt. 22:1-14 reflects the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans, as God’s judgment…a judgement about which Jesus is shown to be warning throughout Matthew’s gospel. It was a warning to give up their course of violent resistance and retaliation against the foreign occupiers that went unheeded and resulted in disaster. This went hand in hand with the gospel invitation by Jesus for them to join with him in his way of bringing God’s rule/kingdom, which was not by coercion, violence, force, or compromise and collusion…an invitation that was largely rejected.

The call to the good and the bad to fill up the wedding hall seems to allude to the call to the Gentiles in the midst and wake of large scale Jewish rejection of the invitation. The judgement of the inappropriately dressed man is along the same lines as the earlier judgement of Israel. One’s presence in the midst of the invited isn’t enough, just as being descended from Abraham wasn’t…the invitation needs to be taken seriously and responded to appropriately, something that the man without the proper garment failed to do. (Allegories about Christ’s covering righteousness are an eisegetical reading into the parable.)

Iow, being a part of the church or thinking that Gentile believers now had priority over Jews just because of membership in the church was misplaced, another form of human religious arrogance. This is what Paul was after in Romans, saying that Gentiles in the church needed to consider the kindness and sternness of God, that they would be open to judgement should they not continue in faith…authentic faith that bears real fruit that God was and is always after. This is a warning against arrogance over religious pedigree and playing fast and loose with God’s calling upon us…ethnic and religious background, pedigree, and tradition notwithstanding.

Frank

4 Likes

Paul’s claim that he understood and spoke for god through Jesus is as exactly as unverifiable as are the assertions of Moses, the pope, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, EGW, the guy who does The Jesus Call in Talk show in L.A. and countless others.

Obviously, this fact does not automatically render any of their claims false.

But it does mean that they cannot be accepted as necessarily true.

Thus, the assertions, if to be believed, must be taken on faith.

Which means that they can be gainsaid for no reason other than a lack of such faith.

Can a belief in these claims change people’s lives?

Of course it can.

Just as disbelief does.

BTW, and even though this is a tautology, the idea that any living person can or should read himself into any of Paul’s letters is as incredible as it is to think that The Screwtape Letters were really written to Satan.

And, good interpretation doesn’t do this. It seeks first to read and understand what Paul was saying to whom he was addressing, his primary audience. It then looks to understand the principles behind what he, or any NT writer was saying, and apply them if and when they are applicable. It assumes that it wasn’t written directly to us, and to read ourselves into what was written to ancient people is nothing short of eisegesis.

Unlike The Screwtape Letters, Paul was writing to specific audiences at specific times and locations, addressing their specific issues in real time. His letters weren’t generalized allegories like Lewis’s work. The genre and circumstantial differences render such a comparison iffy at best.

Frank

Okay.

And I agree that reading oneself into any text is a mistake.

But this is an aside.

How do you differentiate between Paul and countless others who claim to speak for Jesus?

And how can anyone know that Jesus spoke for our creator?

Isn’t it the case that while all of these people have had some unique and perhaps direct experiences with our maker, that none of those perspectives and relationships can serve as a substitute for another individual’s efforts to do so?

Thus, can it be said that the Bible is useful not as a means of communication with The Ineffable, or as a How to Live One’s Life Handbook, but rather as a testament to the fact that direct interaction with one’s creator and its power is a real possibility?

One can’t scientifically know. This is where faith and claims made by the content and community of faith come into play. Sure, direct interaction with God is possible, but Christianity claims that God has revealed himself and what he is like most clearly and specifically to humanity through Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified and risen messiah who is also called God with us. The Spirit testifies of this. The NT makes this point over and over.

One is free to accept or reject this. As with many other things in life…

Frank

I would qualify this by saying “…most of Christianity…” as historically there have been, and still are, other groups who call themselves Christians who do not agree.

And as you say, there is no way to know scientifically which view most accurately reflects Jesus’ opinion in the matter, to say nothing of god’s perspective.

Further, to say unequivocally that the HS testifies to this is not only an unsubstantiated opinion but implies that those others Christians who claim to have received different impressions from the HS are demonstrably wrong, or may even be demon possessed, which logically does not follow, as one’s personal relationship with god is not debatable nor a democratic process.

First: Let me point out that I don’t believe anyone will be saved or lost because they didn’t buy into the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment. This, in my view, is simply an understanding by some that worry about the passenger side windshield wiper not working and ignoring the fact that the brakes on the car don’t work. It’s covering for a failure to properly understand 1844. It, in my estimation, is not biblical. The one who conceived the concept is Joseph Bates who continued on to make all kinds of questionable prophetic predictions after 1844, and some of them were really out there. The most common name that has been applied to this date is “the great disappointment”. I would suggest that it should have been called “the great embarrassment”.

A number of later bible translations translate Daniel 8:14 as saying that the sanctuary is not “cleansed” but rather, it is “restored”. So what does that event truly mean? I believe that it is speaking of how in 1844, the disheartened believers who truly wanted to understand the significance of that date, began to study diligently to see where they went wrong. From that study came at least three major “restorative” concepts. They are the true Sabbath, righteousness by faith, and the abandonment of the concept of an immortal soul. To me, the last point is the most significant. Most Christian religions believe that the soul is immortal. It is why they reason that a person who is lost, must suffer eternally for their sin in a torturous hell fire. I can’t see how any reasonable person wouldn’t think this makes God into a tyrant. Even flawed humans believe in a proportional punishment. Human governments don’t even torture mass murders who are “humanely” put to death. We live an average of 70 to 80 years but even the worst of us, suffering an eternity for our behavior is simply outrageous. Eternal hell is easily disproved, because Jesus was in the tomb for less than 3 days, yet he paid for the sins of all the righteous. So, the RESTORATION spoken of would, in my mind, be the restoration of God’s character. That makes a lot more sense than 178 years of “pouring over the record books of the dead”. Even the lesson’s author admitted that God already knows who will be saved and lost. He doesn’t need to examine the books to determine this. Jesus is not pleading with the Father about who He died for and who He didn’t die for either.

I have looked as hard as I can to find, biblically, how this concept came about, and it is my conclusion that it simply isn’t in scripture. There is a judgment. There is little doubt that a judgment must take place. The only question should be when this happens and who are those being judged. The Sabbath School lesson of December 24, in discussing the “Investigative Judgment” insists that it began in 1844. They used several biblical texts to try and make their case. I, honestly, don’t find any credibility in their presentation. Further, as I study, not only the texts they presented, but what preceded and followed those texts, and in all cases, there were descriptions pointing to a time period other than 1844. Too often cherry picking a single text or two without the surrounding texts for context, can give you a false conclusion. Televangelists have been predicting dates for the end of the world for years, but few have made as dramatic an impact as 1844. All of these predicted dates have come and gone without any sign of the world ending.

The SS lesson used some texts which either don’t give any clue as to when this happens or if they do, the preceding and following texts give context to a different events than 1844.

Matt 22 This is a story of a king who gives no context at all to the timing of 1844. It only speaks of someone who was let in but didn’t have the proper garment. The poor soul was cast into darkness. Makes you wonder how he got in to begin with, if there truly was a pre-advent judgment.
Rev 11 This chapter doesn’t help either because it talks about the first second and third woes and a bottomless pit. These events have not yet taken place, so 1844 doesn’t apply.
II Cor 5: Speaks of a judgment…but absolutely not connection to when.
Rev 20 Doesn’t say when the righteous are judged but it does speak about the 2nd death, which is obviously not 1844 but after the millennium.
Heb 9 Not only does this tell of the judgment but vs. 26 makes it very clear that this takes place at the second coming. “at the end of the world”. So this really doesn’t help make the case for 1844.
Rev 14 This is probably the closest chapter that you might eek out some kind of investigative judgment…but far from being definitive. But it then speaks of Jesus on a cloud with a cycle in his hand. I think that pretty much ties it to the second coming as well.

They never mention the biggest problem. God the Father is seated on the mercy seat in the most holy place, or at least, that is the OT understanding. If Jesus does not go into the most holy place until 1844, then it completely ignores Heb 1:3, I Peter 3:22 and Acts 7:55, 56. They all speak of Jesus returning to be at the right hand of the Father. This happens when he left the disciples and ascended into heaven I don’t think we have any human understanding of the concept or structure of the sanctuary in heaven. I don’t think there is any sacrifices offered in heaven and no blood sprinkled on the veil between the holy and most holy compartments and nothing dies there.

Maybe, just maybe there is a reason that we are the only religion who holds this idea of “the investigative judgment”. It isn’t in the bible….and Ellen White; herself, said that scripture is the gold standard.

1 Like

I agree that the IJ commencing in 1844 is an interpretive mess. But, there is no evidence in the text of Daniel 8:14 that what is being restored is God’s character. That’s also an Adventist explanation for Rev. 14, as if God is on trial being judged. That’s neither the context of Daniel 8 or Rev.14.

Daniel 8 most clearly points to Antiochus IV and how the temple and its worship were restored after his expulsion from Jerusalem and the land by the Maccabees. This was the ancient context. Rev.14 in context speaks of the anti God powers being judged, Babylon and its colluders being condemned by God for their oppression, violence, and evil. God’s people in Christ are warned to not be seduced by or to join up with this power.

The principles behind these texts can be learned from and applied today. Specific end time events or scenarios shouldn’t be extrapolated from them.

Frank

2 Likes

I think that is what I meant when I said, “in my view”. I am just as intitled to pull things out of the air as Joseph Bates was. I do feel that the real interpretation of the text in Daniel should be “restored” not “cleansed”. And I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to suggest that much of what came out of the forming of the early Adventist Church, was restorative. And I am absolutely convinced that the entire concept of the soul being immortal is a disgusting concept of a God who would torture someone for ever for an infinitely small life lived on this earth. That is a position I am insistent upon.

Yes, I get where you’re coming from. But one person pulling meaning out of the air doesn’t justify the practice. And, while one may think the Adventist church has brought restoration to Christianity, why should we use the Bible out of context to support that view? That’s been the problem with Adventism all along…proof texting and reading itself into the Bible where it isn’t.

And, to push back on the restorative view of the denomination’s teachings, there was a book called The Five Gospels In Adventism…or something close. After reading it I realized years later that all the views were screwy. The denomination can’t even get the gospel right, and the gospel’s relationship to the law. The central aspect of Christianity. Additionally, the early Adventists believed a prophetic mess that they reconfigured into their own eschatology, and were semi Arian at best, not believing that Jesus is divine.

This sounds more confused than a restoration of the truth about God’s character.

Frank

2 Likes

Frank, I get that you’re big on trying to pull back the curtain of time in order to better understand the context of the Biblical setting as well as the mindset of its 1st, 2nd etc century listeners.

(It’s my understanding that most proto-Christians were probably illiterate and couldn’t have read the NT, even if it had been available to them.)

Further, I get that the danger of taking words out of context is a probably exceeded only by the eisigesis issue, or reading oneself into the material.

My only issue with all of that is this: if I have a thought in my head and type it out in letters and words on a computer screen, I have taken that thought out of its original context and put it in another. Then, if someone reads what I’ve written, the context has been changed again, hopefully reliably but not necessarily so.

So now, 2,000 years on, we have a book that has gone through countless contextual shifts; from mind to mind, from language to language and from to time to time to the point where trying to be sure that we’ve understood the Bible as it was intended by its authors seems as complicated as reconstructing Norte Dame Cathedral

And when that task is complete, people who understand the restoration process will know that even if the heap looks exactly as it once did on the outside, inside the structure of the edifice will be as different as night and day.

So I’m not saying what you’re doing is wrong, as I find it very interesting

But in the end, that’s all it is as no one other than the thinkers of the Bible’s thoughts is alive to verify that the words do justice to their ideas and morality.

Thus, what constitutes “true” Christianity is like trying to identify, once and for all, what it means to be a “true” Scotsman.

:wink:

Bruce,

Put it this way. Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nacht Musik played on 18th c. instruments with real attention to performance practice of the time (for which an incredible amount of research has been done over the past fifty years) although an inexact practice, is going to come way closer to what an 18th c. audience would have heard and experienced than a Trans Siberian orchestra rendition with Joel Hoekstra screaming out the melodic lines through a modified Strat and Marshall.

One may enjoy the second more than the first. But, it doesn’t come anywhere near how Mozart originally intended it to be performed and heard, even allowing for the vagaries of interpretation. The first, however, will definitely be in the ballpark.

Frank

Don’t you think Mozart would have enjoyed at least some of the many variations of his music available to people today?

Or would he have screamed, “NO, ALL YOU GUYS MAKE ME SOUND LIKE THAT HACK, SALIERI,”?

2 Likes

Yes. There are limitations to the analogy. Bach would have played jazz today!

All I’m saying is that with an ancient text like the Bible, pulling interpretation out of the air and reading ourselves into the text as Lynden was doing is not going to be in the ballpark of meaning as with careful attention to context, be it literary, linguistic, historical, or cultural. There has been tremendous research done on this over the past fifty years as well. While not an exact practice, it certainly gets a lot further into the ballpark than what the early Adventists were doing, and what many still do today with the Bible who pay no attention to such factors and the discipline around it.

Frank

Again, I understand that there are minor flaws with all analogies, but on thinking about this a little more, I think there is a more fundamental issue with comparing Mozart work with Jesus’ gospel.

In Amadeus‘ case, he undoubtedly had an idea-perhaps even a very precise one-for an etude, concerto, fugue, etc., in his head and transposed that information onto a piece of paper with the exact notes and manner in which he wanted them played.

With Jesus, we with have nothing of the sort.

This lack of evidence can be attributed to any number of reasons, all of which are speculative in the face of no explicit written documentation from Jesus himself.

However, one of the simplest explanations is that Jesus did not want anyone else to do so either, as he knew the Holy Spirit would always be present to “refresh people’s recollection” as they say on CourTV, in regards to what the living gospel is all about.

Admittedly, this process is fraught with any number of difficulties but given all the different denominations in the world each claiming to have a different but absolute take on the NT that Jesus didn’t write, I don’t see that one need put much, if any faith, in the hope that having a better understanding of scripture will necessarily lead to a more pure understanding of the gospel.

1 Like

Your initial statement only makes sense if you have no confidence in scripture and the history that it records. The book of acts tells of Paul been confronted and commissioned by Jesus himself to be his messenger. If one believes that, then there is no reason to create any kind of division between Jesus and Paul.

1 Like

Scripture doesn’t record actual history. It tells stories about the Hebrew God and his near-exclusive relationship with his chosen people over time.

Much of the historicity of scripture can be refuted by archeology, or at least can’t be supported by it. For example, the entire episode of Jericho cannot have happened as presented in the bible because Jericho was an abandoned city hundreds if not a thousand years or more before the events as recounted in the bible were supposed to have happened. Similarly, it is doubtful that millions of people could have spent 40 years in the area between Egypt and Israel, as recounted in the Exodus story - which only takes about 25 days to walk point to point - and not left a single trace.

3 Likes

So what about the conversion and commission of Paul by Christ as recorded in Acts?

Well, was the author of Luke-Acts there to witness it? I think not.

If Paul recounted the event (not sure if he did) I’d take that account more credulously. As it happens, the author of Acts disagrees with Paul on multiple occasions regarding Paul’s activities, when compared to Paul’s own writings. He says Paul did things that are precluded by Paul’s own writings. So it may be that much of what that author wrote was second-hand, written decades after the fact, and may contain more legend than facts.

2 Likes