I decided to take Hannah Hurnard off of My Inspirations on the sidebar of this blog. I was inspired by her popular book “Hind’s Feet on High Places.” But I came to discover today that later in life she fell into some very strange doctrines like reincarnation, etc.
I found this very helpful quote from Pope Benedict XVI here. He emphasizes interpreting Scripture as a unity, not just cherry-picking our favorite things or reading it as a random collection of books. Check it out:
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, stated: “I would very much like to see theologians learn to interpret and love Scripture as the Council desired, in accordance with Dei Verbum: may they experience the inner unity of Scripture—something that today is helped by ‘canonical exegesis’ (still to be found, of course, in its timid first stages)—and then make a spiritual interpretation of it that is not externally edifying but rather an inner immersion into the presence of the Word. It seems to me a very important task to do something in this regard, to contribute to providing an introduction to living Scripture as an up-to-date Word of God, beside, with and in historical-critical exegesis.”
I just linked to the blog Singing in the Reign, which is written by Brant Pitre and Michael Barber. I met both of them about a week and a half ago at the Society for Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA. I had met Dr. Pitre briefly about a year ago in Denver. Check out their blog if you get a chance!
I came across a curious comment in Moshe Greenburg’s Anchor Bible Ezekiel Commentary recently. He mentioned the fact that a full scroll of Ezekiel was found at Qumran, but it could not be opened. He referenced a particular article and left it at that. I thought “Yikes!” I mean if we found a whole scroll of Ezekiel, it seems like we ought to x-raying it and CAT-scanning it and whatver else we can do to recover its text. So, I’ve been hunting for the article. Here’s the reference: Brownlee, William H. “The Scroll of Ezekiel from the Eleventh Qumran Cave.” Revue de Qumran 13 (1963): 11-28.
Unfortunately, not very many libraries keep this journal and it’s not in any electronic databases I’ve used. But I did find this book: Brownlee, William H. The Meaning of the Qumran Scrolls for the Bible. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964. This book in general looks very helpful although I have not endeavored to read it. I searched for its comments on the Ezekiel scroll since it is by the same author as the article. He cites his own article in reference to the scroll but in the book he does state this: “An attempt to open this scroll was largely a failure, since the document had almost completely disintegrated into an unstratified mass of desiccated gelatin. A few small fragments (or scales) of text were recoverable from the outside and seem to indicate a general agreement with the familiar Masoretic text.”
So it appears this Qumran scroll is not as important as I initially thought, nor as recoverable. Undoubtedly more work has been done on it and as I find it, I’ll update this post. And if I do get my hands on the Brownlee article, I’ll tell you anything important it says.
As I have been working slowly through the Lectionary to write Lectio Divina meditations on it, I have noticed many times where the Lectionary omits verses right in the middle of a reading. This can be very distracting if you are trying to study the Bible based on the readings for the week or the day because you have to keep switching back and forth from your Bible to your missal. And sometimes, the verses omitted are vital to understand what is going on in the text.
After encountering this the umpteenth time, I resorted to some Googling to find an answer as to why these stray verses got omitted by the Lectionary. I found the official introduction to the Lectionary which explains the problem thus:
- 77. The omission of verses in readings from Scripture has at times been the tradition of many liturgies, including the Roman liturgy. Admittedly such omissions may not be made lightly, for fear of distorting the meaning of the text or the intent and style of Scripture. Yet on pastoral grounds it was decided to continue the traditional practice in the present Order of Readings, but at the same time to ensure that the essential meaning of the text remained intact. One reason for the decision is that otherwise some texts would have been unduly long. It would also have been necessary to omit completely certain readings of high spiritual value for the faithful because those readings include some verse that is pastorally less useful or that involves truly difficult questions. (see catholicliturgy.com)
I don’t quite understand how “pastoral grounds” apply all the time. I think the omission of certain verses is often quite jarring and unhelpful to someone trying to understand the text. For example, I’m working on the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C which has 2 Macc 7:1-2,9-14 for the First Reading. It the story of the seven sons getting executed before their mother by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. But by cutting out verses 3-8, the pronoun “he” in verse 9 is stripped of its antecedent which was the second brother. As the reading is presented it seems as though the first brother is being mentioned by “he” in verse 9. It also makes very little sense that there is a “third” brother since we never met the second one–although we do here his voice, it seems like the first is speaking because of the “he” problem. And it makes even less sense that he holds out his hands and says he disdains them because without vv. 3-7 we are not told that the first and second brothers got their hands and feet cut off.
I suppose that these particular things are minor points, but they illustrate a greater difficulty with omitting verses. And the main thing that I think was probably the “pastoral ground” for omitting the verses has to do with the graphic violence associated with the torture of these men (e.g. cutting off the hands and tongue, frying, etc.) Yet I think the violence is what makes their martyrdom such a powerful story, such an astounding witness, such a great example of courage.
I was at the Library of Congress yesterday–a very impressive place to do research. As I was gazing around the main reading room in the Jefferson Building I noticed quotes on the walls. And it struck me that some of them were from the Bible. I scrawled down the few that I could see from my vantage point and thought I’d post them here for you. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ACLU sues the government to get rid of the quotes, but I sure hope they stay up there on the walls. It’s reassuring to me to know that previous generations of Americans were more in touch with God than ours is. Here’s the Bible quotes I saw:
“What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God.” -Micah 6:8 KJV
“The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” -Ps 19:1 KJV
“For, after all, every one who wishes to gain true knowledge must climb the Hill Difficulty alone and since there is no royal road to the summit, I must zigzag it in my own way. I slip back many times, I fall, I stand still, I run against the edge of hidden obstacles, I lose my temper and find it again and keep it better, I trudge on, I gain a little, I feel encouraged,I get more eager and climb higher and begin to see the widening horizon. Every struggle is a victory. One more effort and I reach the luminous cloud, the blue depths of the sky, the uplands of my desire.” see
“But how shall I speak of the glories I have since discovered in the Bible? For years I have read it with an ever broadening sense of joy and inspiration and I love it as I love no other book. see
Excerpted from The Story of My Life, by Helen Keller
I have thought about the spiritual life as a battle before. It’s God v. Satan and your soul is the battleground. It makes perfect sense.
But I never thought of the spiritual life as a hunt. (Ok, well, John of the Cross does talk about Christ as the stag that the soul keeps hunting for, but that’s not the same.) In Ezekiel I found this passage where the prophet is prophesying against people who make cultic objects for the worship of false gods and he mentions “the hunt for souls” (Ezek 13:18). Through Ezekiel, God asks these people, “Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive?” Then two verses later he accuses them “You hunt the souls like birds, and I will tear them from your arms, and I will let the souls whom you hunt go free, the souls like birds.”
There are a couple other biblical mentions of the hunting metaphor that I can think of. Ps 91:3 says, “He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and the deadly pestilence.” (ESV) A “fowler” for all of us without enormous vocabularies is a dude who hunts birds. In Ps 91, he’s hunting with traps. One last hunting reference is 1 Pet 5:8 ESV, “Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
In all of these biblical pictures of the hunt for souls, the “hunter” is always the enemy of God and of the soul. God is always rescuing the “quarry” from the clutches of the hunter. But these images remind me of the famous poem by Francis Thompson “The Hound of Heaven.” In the poem, God is hunter, chasing the soul “down the arches of the years.”
I guess the important thing to grasp from all of these hunting metaphors in the Bible is that we are being sought after. Human beings are being chased by the world, the flesh and the Devil AND we are being “chased” by God. It is a competitive hunt and we are the quarry. It’s like an ad-campaign for a specific demographic. We are the human demographic and our souls are being sought for good or for ill. As the quarry, we must flee from temptation and sin (1 Tim 6:11), and then we must run toward our loving “Hunter,” because he is the God who loves us.
Hey, I found this great website which has free public domain audiobooks. Yes, just when you thought you could never listen to another audiobook from the library because you don’t have a tape player anymore…LibriVox to the rescue! I happily stumbled across this site while I was looking for an audio version of Hellen Keller’s Story of My Life. And, well, I found it on LibriVox. I am very happy people are coming up with such wonderful projects to make the Internet a worthwhile endeavor. I hope you can take advantage of LibriVox as I have. I also downloaded Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Grey. Maybe I’ll even read a book for LibriVox at some point. Hmmm…maybe the New Testament in Greek. We’ll see. They do have a copy of the ASV Bible in audio. Hey, it’s better than nothing. Here’s the link to LibriVox.
Form critics and redaction critics often talk about “material” in the Old Testament. They mention the reordering of material, the change of material, the insertion of material and the deletion of material. Often a “later hand” is mentioned as having redacted, edited, rearranged and removed sections of the so-called “original” text of whatever author or prophet that is under discussion. While I think there are problems with this type of biblical criticism on presuppositional/philosophical grounds and on literary grounds in general, I have a very simple question for these critics: What mechanism would ancient scribes use to perform such re-arrangements?
If our scribes in question lived in the Ancient Near East and wrote on papyrus scrolls and often lived under threat of war, poverty and political unrest…then how could they make the removals, reorderings and other such things necessitated by redaction criticism? Papyrus was expensive, very expensive. I can’t imagine a scribe taking an old scroll and going through trying to copy down the material in a different order than was written on the old scroll. I can imagine pieces of papyri getting out order, but I can’t imagine an intentional rearrangement of a text for theological or hermeneutical purposes. Perhaps I need someone to explain how this process could work in the ancient world.
If I were a scribe, I can imagine making mistakes or even leaving things out that I didn’t like, but excising passages and inserting them elsewhere and then remembering that I had done that so I don’t repeat the passage later seems almost impossible. I would have to literally cut up the old scroll and arrange it like a jigsaw puzzle which would be unthinkable! Or I would have to keep a detailed list of passages that I was “rearranging” without the convenience of verse and chapter numbers. I just don’t get it. It seems a near impossible activity for an ancient scribe.
I can imagine doing such an activity on Microsoft Word. I could just highlight, cut and paste. But that’s a far cry from a beat up scroll, a limited amount of very expensive paper, a feather pen, an ink jar and a candle.